Iverson loved the nightlife
It's not a mystery that Allen Iverson was never big on practicing hard and loved the nightlife and going out despite being a professional athlete. None of the coaches ever actually minded his lifestyle because they knew he always gave 100 percent on the basketball court and his competitive spirit was almost unmatched in the entire league.
In his book, 'Furious George, former NBA head coach George Karl shares his experience coaching Allen Iverson when he was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Denver Nuggets. He also recalls how everyone on the Nuggets was aware Iverson was not a hard worker and, at that time, was known as someone that enjoyed the nightlife even during the regular season, which isn't the most professional thing you can do while in the NBA. However, they were happy they had one of the best scorers in the NBA on their squad, hoping that is what they needed to win a championship.
"None of us were surprised that our new guard didn't like to practice—that was common knowledge—and that he liked to drink expensive champagne. But we didn't know what a nocturnal being Allen was. Sometimes he started a night out at 2 am."
Interestingly enough, Karl observed that Iverson was already at the end of his prime in 2006 when he became a member of the Nuggets. Iverson's body took an immense tool from all the physical contact he had to endure because of how he played the game. Karl was convinced Iverson would have had an even longer and more successful career if he had taken more care of his body and was able to reinvent himself as a player. His playing style involved a lot of physical contact and driving to the basket, getting hit by much bigger and stronger players, and you can take so much punishment over the years before the body breaks down.
"The practice thing didn't bother me that much; a lot of players hate to practice. But I didn't think we got all of Allen, his true personality. He'd been Defensive Player of the Year at Georgetown, but with us, he didn't commit to D. I think he'd aged more than we thought. Ten years of driving to the rim and taking hits on his little body—Allen weighed just 165 pounds—took a toll. The hits and his habits aged him. By "habits" I mean his night owl thing."
Iverson torched the Clippers after a wild night out
In a specific game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Karl witnessed firsthand that even though Iverson led a lifestyle not suited for a professional athlete, it didn't bother him from torching teams with 30 points. Karl remembers Iverson would go out to party at odd hours, and before that specific game, he stayed out until 6 am when Karl saw him come back to the hotel.
"We were in L.A. that April to play the Clippers, a game we needed to win to improve our playoff position. In the morning our spy—the brother of our scout, Mark Warkentien—reported that our new, high-priced guard had left the Ritz Carlton at 2 am and returned to our hotel at about six thirty. He and his friends couldn't find anyone to pour any more Cristal. Our shootaround—NBA-ese for the light practice the day of a game—began at their arena, the Staples Center, at ten thirty, so Allen didn't have much time to sleep. Maybe he got a nap that afternoon. We won the game."
If you look at the stats from that specific regular-season game, you would see that Iverson really didn't mind being out until early in the morning. He scored a game-high 34 points, and just like Karl recalls, the Nuggets won the game. Of course, some athletes can function and perform at a high level even if they lead a lifestyle that involves a lot of partying and late nights. Iverson even admitted he was never committed to his craft as someone like Kobe Bryant, and we can only take a wild guess how better Iverson would be with the same type of dedication as some other players.
Karl's story also proves there was a sense of respect everyone had for Iverson and his talent because they tolerated his lifestyle since they knew they would come ready to play and compete in every single game.