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Only the Strong Survive: the Odyssey of Allen Iverson [Hardcover]

Larry Platt

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (1 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060097736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060097738
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,441,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A portrait of the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2001 describes his childhood marked by violence and drugs, his early talents on the playground, his entry into the NBA in 1996, and the personal choices that caused him to be vilified by the press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behold Iverson, the human being. 15 Dec 2003
By J. C. Russell - Published on
As a young Caucasian man, I would never claim to understand Allen Iverson's meteoric rise from a dilapidated home in Newport News to the sparkling arenas of the NBA. Surely Iverson, his unique talent notwithstanding, has faced and cleared obstacles I cannot even fathom, obstacles to which so many have succumb. No, it is only those dominated by arrogance and pride who write off Allen Iverson as a thug, a threat, a disaster, a "them." Having read this book, though, I am content to trade whatever pride and arrogance I have for a new vision of Allen Iverson that transcends the "worst days" his critics are so quick to cite.
This book is looking for Iverson's core, digging deeper than Sportscenter highlight reels and police blotters. A careful reading reveals that there is more to Allen Iverson than cornrows, tattoos, snarls, and jumpers, even while each of these points to the man behind them. Indeed, if one wants to know anything of Allen Iverson, this book leaves you with one thought: no one loves like this man.
Iverson loves the game others claim he is destroying. Only love could score 20 points with a broken hand. More than that, Iverson loves his friends and family. So many have denigrated his "posse" as a distraction or a poor influence. This book, though, tells of a shared concern and loyalty between Iverson and his friends that existed long before the NBA millions and will surely survive his withdrawal from the spotlight. The importance of this love to Iverson's life cannot be overstated, but that's not the story you'll read in any newspaper.
You will find that passion in the pages of Larry Platt's book, and it is a passion with which everyone can sympathize. I do not know Allen Iverson. I know only what I could pull out of this book. Still, I know enough to declare that there are shades of Iverson we all could do well to find within ourselves. Far from painting Iverson as a model citizen, Platt's book does the next best thing: it paints him as a human being. For that reason, it is a worthy read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid biography, but has a few shortcomings 31 Dec 2005
By Judd Vance - Published on
One of the things I look for in a basketball biography is a person with an interesting story. Allen Iverson certainly qualifies.

This biography is written by Larry Platt, the unofficial hip-hop hoops biographer and author of Keepin' It Real. Platt tells Iverson's story, starting with his mother's upbringing through Iverson's - starting with his life in the rough Newport News, Virginia ghetto, through his 2-year college stint at Georgetown and through first six seasons in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The best part about the book is that it goes into detail on many of the controversial events of Iverson's life: the bowling alley incident in high school, his "practice" rant to the media, his arrest for allegedly throwing his naked wife out of his house, his rap album, his "disrespect" of Michael Jordan, and his relationship with Larry Brown. The media worked overtime to paint him as a 1-dimensional thug, but it never seemed to add up when you saw him dote over his children in interviews: this doesn't jibe for a guy who wants to be a thug at all costs. I mean, seriously, a warm spot for kids? Platt paints a more complete picture of Iverson, adding depth to the media characture. He exposes where the media screwed up by not correcting their own mistakes, and on occasion why they would hold a grudge. He explains Iverson's problems with Larry Brown (as well as Brown's with Iverson, which was mentioned numerously by the press). He also explains Iverson's close relationships with his friends and mentors.

Platt is one of the best authors at explaining the hip hop generation. His writing is quick, easy, and entertaining. He goes into detail about the problems white middle class America has with embracing a hip hop superstar. However, his weakness is, just as it was with Keepin' it Real , is that he goes overboard in rationalizing his subject material. He adds depth to their character, but never paints a complete 3-dimensional picture. It appears he is too attached to his subjects to be objective. Once again, true to form, you find him reaching for straws at points - working a little too hard at canonizing Iverson. He mentions, but doesn't dwell on Iverson's unreliability to meet commitments, such as the aforementioned practice, or his skipping school, tutoring sessions, or even Magic Johnson's charity game. One of the worst sidestepping jobs dealt with Iverson's rap album. One of the excerpts from the song 40 Bars was "Come to me with faggot tendencies, you be sleeping where the maggots be." Platt does explain that rappers tell stories about life in the hood as 3rd person accounts as fictionalized characters and shouldn't be taken any more seriously than an author telling a story. Platt goes on to explain that Iverson was upset to think he offended people by his use of the word "faggot" which he says was a hip-hop synonym for "weak" without regard to sex, and he leaves it at that. I told this to a gay friend I know who likes hip hop and basketball and she said it is offense and if she used the "N" word and told Iverson, "Don't be offended by it. I use it to mean a stupid person, without regard to race" it would be equally as absurd, as Iverson's stereotype-based slurs supposedly surprised him. I believe Platt should have looked at the the gripes people had with the record, rather than just telling Iverson's rationalization and leaving it at that. This type of one-sided reporting pops up on more than one occasion.

The strength of book is Platt explaining how Iverson's rough and hard background shaped him into the player that he became in the NBA. The other strength is his explanation of Iverson's marketing appeal. Since Jordan had broke into the league, the sponsors had been looking for the next Jordan: polite, non-threatening, and photogenic - the kind of African-American athlete who transcends race and makes middle class white America feel comfortable. The search had turned up empty, as Anfernee Hardaway, Grant Hill, and Shaquille O'Neal were unable to completely fill the Jordan mold. Iverson refused to go along with this. He viewed the Nike-type opinion-less and harmless character like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods to be phony people who read what was handed to them and pretended to be somebody else in order to make money. Iverson insisted on "keeping it real." He was who he was and if you didn't like him, he didn't care, because making you happy isn't his priority. Reebok (his shoe sponsor) respected his wishes, and rather than find the next Jordan/Dr. J who would bridge the middle-class white America gap, they burned the bridge, but created a bigger bridge: to the youth of America, who liked the Anti-hero and could relate to Iverson, as their parents and authority figures didn't approve of their friends and their haircuts and/or tattoos. Reebok had done the unthinkable: they threw out the conventional wisdom of sports marketing and re-wrote the laws, and created the next big thing.

If you are a fan of Iverson, definitely read it. If you aren't a big fan of his, but find him interesting or intriguing, and would like to learn more about him - because believe me, everything you thought you knew was wrong - then read it. If you have made up your mind that he is a hooligan and represents all that is wrong in basketball and nothing is going to change your mind, then don't waste your time. I'm not saying you have to think the guy is a pure saint, because he isn't, but there is more to him than meets the eye.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but biased 18 Dec 2002
By "bnichols43" - Published on
Platt's biography is a compelling read. It's not something that you want to put down. Nevertheless, it paints and incomplete and too favorable picture of Allen Iverson. While Iverson is a tremendous player, all of his coaches and teammates have acknowledged that he has made some mistakes, particularly with his spotty attendance of practice and shootarounds. Nevertheless, Platt seems to make excuses for all of AI's screwups. Whenever he mentions that Iverson doesn't attend practice, makes a foolish financial decision, disrespects his coach, undermines his teammates, etc., he writes it off as a product of Iverson's tough upbringing or desire to "keep it real." While Iverson's difficult childhood certainly created some incredible obstacles, Platt goes out of his way to explain away the star's mistakes. The book gives a great inside look, but it almost seems as if Platt wants to become one of Iverson's inner circle and this novel sucks up to the superstar way too much. It's worth reading, but if you're a knowledgeable sports fan, you'll easily recognize that Pratt is way too generous.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He shoots........he scores........... 7 Oct 2005
A Kid's Review - Published on
Only the Strong Survive: The Odyssey of Allen Iverson by Larry Platt

Allen Iverson grew up a poor child in the streets of Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. Although this was a place of many hardships for him, it was also the place where his talent that would eventually make him rich started. The young Iverson loved to play football, often going against much bigger kids as if it was nothing. He possessed a great toughness that allowed him to be hit over and over again and still come back as if nothing had happened. However, one day coming back from playing football, Allen's mother told him to get ready for basketball practice. He seemed outraged; "Basketball is for sissy's" he told Ann, but she forced him to go anyway. Allen cried the whole way to practice; little did he know it was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to him.

Allen Iverson was a great athlete as a kid and still is today. His talent in sports is definitely his claim to fame. Without it he might still be on poor on the streets now like he was as a kid. His life changed completely the day after he decided to enter the NBA Draft and leave Georgetown University behind. Taken as the first pick of the 76ers in 1996, Iverson instantly became one of the top players in the league. However, even though he was one of the most respected players on the court, he was the least off it. Many people disapproved of his gangster looks and the way he carried himself outside the gym. Nevertheless, fans of the NBA eventually fell in love with not only Iverson's play, but also the person himself. Although he is an incredible player, Iverson has yet to win a championship; his closest chance came in the NBA Finals of 2001 when the 76ers lost to the Lakers in 5 games of a best-of-7 series. He's still playing strong in the NBA today and living a wealthy and happy life.

This book was very elaborate. The author used a lot of memories as examples from Iverson's life as if they were his own. He also used various statistics from Iverson sports career to describe the way he played, telling you that he really did his research. In addition, the book was very dramatic seeing as Iverson had a very dramatic life story. The only thing that brought down the overall enjoyment of reading the book was the author repeatedly playing the race card. It seemed like almost every time Iverson had some sort of problem Platt would write something like, "they were against him because of the color of his skin", or something similar. Nonetheless, Only the Strong Survive should still be an interesting read for anyone of any race, especially basketball fans. I'd recommend it to anyone who hasn't had the chance to pick it up yet.

There can never be a great biography without great amounts of detail and it's easy to say that this was a great one. The author used a lot of Allen's major life occurrences in order to let the reader truly get to know his background. For example, the author wrote about the time when Ann Iverson chose to pay for Allen's shoes during an upcoming AAU tournament instead of paying the electric bill. He also used quotes from Allen and other people, even ones in private. Another way the book was elaborate was because of the statistics shown for Iverson's sports performances. For a reader who was a sports fan but unfamiliar with Iverson (not likely), the stats would let them know exactly just how dominant a player he was and still is. Implementing this intense level of description truly made the book easy to read and understand.

Of course with so much drama in Iverson's life, the book had a very dramatic feel. He was a poor boy living against the odds of death and failure surrounding him in the ghetto. His father left their family, so his mother struggles to support them even after acquiring the help of another man, Allen's step-dad. Playing sports was the only way to make the situation better, but he wasn't a very good student. Then when he finally glimpses success it's always pulled away from him by some kind of legal trouble. How more dramatic can you get? Furthermore, the drama wasn't only represented through his social experiences either; many of them came from the suspense and action of playing basketball. This was shown when the author would write about the ending of a close game where the outcome would be dependent on a last second play by Iverson. With so much drama in Only the Strong Survive it's easy to say readers attention will be kept at all times.

The only downfall of the book is Platt's choice to constantly comment on the effect of Iverson's skin color to events in his life. For example, when writing about how Allen was on trial after being arrested for a bowling alley brawl he stated that the jury was comprised of all old white men who were against him in some way. Then again when talking about how Iverson always violated his team's dress codes and never dressed as appropriately as other players he would say that the people telling him what to do couldn't really relate to him because he was young and African-American. As you read more and more it seems that this is brought up a little too much and it makes the book feel repetitive and boring. It may just be the author's opinion, but it didn't have to be restated so many times.

Larry Platt's display of exquisite description and drama worked together to make the book a very entertaining read. However, the overuse of Iverson's ethnicity and how it factored in his life could have been shortened. Although it seemed repetitive, at least the author wasn't afraid to speak his true opinion and not sugarcoat it. In general, Only the Strong Survive is a great book with many elements all readers will enjoy.

-C. Duncan
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book About Inspiration 4 July 2003
By Freedom - Published on
Here I was walking up and down the aisle in the book store looking for an interesting book to read and then my eyes fell on this Allen Iverson book. Since I'm a fan of Allen I decided to get it knowing I wasnt gonna to read it cause I believed I knew everything there was to know about him. So that night I was bored, grabbed the book, and started to read. And I was amazed at what I read.
This book is not just about Allen Iverson and his trials and tribulations its about inspiration. If you only believe you can achieve. Not only is Allen an amazing athlete he is an amazing person at that. This book is about believing in yourself and to never give up for when you fall just pick yourself up, dust your self off, and try again. This book is not just about Allen Iverson and his trials and tribulastions its about inspiration.
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