Allen Iverson tells Stephen A. Smith he's 'being lied on' in book's drunken news conference claim

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Friday, June 5, 2015

In a conversation with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that he relayed on "First Take," Allen Iverson denied being drunk during his 2002 "practice" rant.

"This is a flat-out lie," Smith said Friday on "First Take." "Allen Iverson was not drunk the day he had that press conference about practice."

Smith said he spoke to the former Philadelphia 76ers star for 45 minutes Friday morning, and Smith said Iverson rebutted the claim that he was drunk during the news conference in which repeated the phrase "we're talking about practice" 22 times.

The allegation comes from a new book about Iverson that was published this week. Journalist Kent Babb, author of "Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson," interviewed former team officials and reporters who were present for the news conference. In the book, Babb wrote, "Some were entertained, and others watched the train wreck unfold -- knowing from experience that Iverson was drunk."

According to Smith, Iverson said he was "being lied on" and was firm in his denial of Babb's claim.

Iverson expressed concern that some of the information came from members of Iverson's inner circle, Smith said. Iverson also said he is not surprised by the book because people have been saying a lot of things about him.

Smith covered Iverson during his years with the Sixers and said he has known Iverson for 19 years.

More than a decade after the news conference, when Iverson retired, he offered a glimpse into what was going on during that now infamous rant.

"Practice, what it was really about," Iverson said in October 2013. "It wasn't just about that I didn't like practice. If I could go back, I would have never done the interview.

"As far as how I expressed 'practice, practice, practice' over and over again, I wouldn't take that back. Obviously, that sound bite, it's great for the media. The fans, they love that.

"They had no idea my best friend had just got killed. The press conference wasn't about practice. It was about me being [possibly] traded from Philadelphia. Nobody ever talked about that, never heard why I was upset or what the conference was about."

Seven months before the 2002 news conference, Iverson's friend Rahsaan Langford was shot to death in Virginia.

According to the book, then-Sixers GM Billy King suggested that Iverson speak to reporters four days after the Boston Celticseliminated the Sixers in the first round of the 2002 Eastern Conference playoffs. The news conference came on the heels of Iverson showing up late for a meeting with coach Larry Brown and then arguing with Brown about the player's future in the parking lot of the team facility. According to the book, Iverson asked Brown -- who days earlier had said any Sixer could be traded -- if the star was on the block. Brown said no.

After his talk with Brown, Iverson left with a friend and returned later for the news conference. "I assumed he went and fooled around somewhere," Brown said, tipping his hand up like a bottle, the author wrote in the book.

Before the news conference, King said he could tell that something was off about Iverson, but "if we thought that he was drinking or whatever, we'd have never done it."

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