Former NBA superstar Allen Iverson had a no good, really bad, just plain awful time during his promotional tour of China last month, which was highlighted less by basketball and more by an incredible range of shenanigans employed by two dishonest Chinese agents. Because of the insane experience, Iverson has vowed to never return to China.
Iverson’s agent Muhammed Abdur-Rahim set up the 12-day tour of China, from May 19 to May 31, during which time Iverson would make his amateur coaching debut, leading a group of American basketball players against local Chinese squads, while also interacting with his adoring Chinese fans along the way. Despite retiring from the NBA, The Answer remains one of the most popular basketball stars in China. The tour was suggested to Abdur-Rahim by Chinese sports agents Li Dong of Tianjin Qi Di Culture Co. and David Lee of Beijing Landmark Advertisement Co., Ltd. Sounds like lots of fun, right!?
Sure! If you happen to think lies, cheating, hostage taking and suicide threats are fun. On Saturday, Nick Bedard of Basketball Buddha published a very detailed exposé of what went wrong on the Iverson’s China Tour—those of you who’ve done business in China may find some of the problems that Iverson encountered familiar.
Things went wrong from the start with the Chinese agents not taking care of the visas as they had promised. No biggie. Abdur-Rahim flew to Washington D.C. to get them processed himself. The delay caused them to have to reschedule their first stop for later on the tour. And it’s all downhill from here folks.
The morning after Iverson coached his team to victory at their first stop in Harbin, he found himself trapped in his hotel lobby by an angry local promoter who wanted Iverson to record an apology. The promoter had been promised—and subsequently promised fans—that the 11-time NBA All-Star would actually play in the game, despite the fact that Iverson’s contract with Li Dong clearly stated that he would only coach. Needless to say there were a lot of fans that showed up to see AI’s killer crossover and left bitterly disappointed.
The local promoter was instructing all taxis to not take Iverson anywhere although Iverson had a plane to catch to his next stop on the tour. In order to escape, one of the greatest basketball players of his generation recorded a quick video saying, “To all of my Harbin fans, I’m sorry and I’ll see you soon.” He was finally allowed to leave, but missed the flight to Xi’an and had to take a later one, arriving in the city way behind schedule. Things somehow still manage to get worse from here.
After his first night in Xi’an, Iverson and his agent were woken up by a member of the local government at their door who directly asked Abdur-Rahim if his client was going to play two minutes in that night’s game as ticket holders had been promised by the promoters. Abdur-Rahim said of course not and the Xi’an government subsequently canceled the game.
For the next city, Li Dong knew he had to try a different tactic to get Iverson to play. He offered the NBA legend $10,000 per minute to play in the next game. Iverson, who has denied reports of his financial woes and his dropping $40k at strip clubs per night, declined the offer. Li Dong persisted and then raised the stakes a bit:
Li Dong continued to insist on a new deal, and Abdur-Rahim continued denying him. Iverson joins Abdur-Rahim and Li Dong in the meeting. Now things are about to get serious because in this room is Li Dong, Abdur-Rahim, Iverson, and Tawanna. Now Li Dong is desperate, and throws a ridiculous number at Iverson. Li Dong offers Iverson $1 million for a combined 10 minutes of playing time for the remaining four games of the tour. That’s $1 million for two-and-half minutes per game. Iverson’s eyes light up, and he says… no. “My intent when I came to China wasn’t to play. I’m not going to mislead my fans and give them a bad show. I gave you my word that I’m going to coach and I’m sticking to the word I gave. There’s no amount of money that’s going to make me play,” says Iverson.
“That’s when Li Dong played me as a fool,” says Abdur-Rahim.
“He played me using emotions. As soon as Iverson rejected the “final offer” of $1.5 million to play two minutes per game in four-games, Li Dong said, ‘if Iverson doesn’t take the deal and play, David Lee will go to jail for misleading the public. And before David Lee goes to jail, he’s going to commit suicide by jumping off the hotel building’.”
Threatening suicide as a negotiation tactic worked flawlessly. Justifiably not wanting a man’s life on his conscious, Iverson accepted the $1.5 million offer. Of course, Abdur-Rahim didn’t quite trust the agents by this point in time, so he asked for money up front. After some squirming, Li Dong said they could front $1 million and pay the rest in August.
Next three cities, Jinjiang, Hefei & Daqing. Can't wait for a good show & game for my fans. #AIChinaTour
— Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) May 24, 2015
Iverson went on to fulfill his end of the bargain and played for a few minutes in the next game in Jinjiang. Surprisingly though, the money still hadn’t been actually transferred to Iverson’s account. By the time Iverson arrived in Hefei for the next game of the tour he was fed up and said he wouldn’t play another minute. Li Dong and David Lee called an emergency meeting, apparently thinking that suicide threats would no longer be effective, they admitted to sending out fraudulent wire transfers to keep the tour rolling along.
Unfortunately, the Hefei government sided with the two slippery agents. The staff at Iverson’s hotel told him that the local government wanted Iverson to play in the game and weren’t going to provide him any assistance from Li Dong and David Lee. The phone lines to Iverson’s room were cut. Iverson was a hostage for the second time in a week.
Even through all this bullshit, Iverson continued to be a professional good dude and showed up to the event in Hefei coaching his team to another win. During a break in the action, Abdur-Rahim made a public announcement apologizing to fans for the misunderstanding and blaming Li Dong and David Lee.
Iverson’s last stop on his tour was Daqing. The city’s mayor canceled the exhibition game ahead of time. Li Dong tried to get Iverson to breach the contract by getting him to cancel the tour. But Iverson only breaks ankles not contracts. Not wanting to disappoint his fans, he went out and attended all the publicity events.
— Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) May 21, 2015
After this tour from hell, Iverson told Basketball Buddha that while he still loves his Chinese fans, “I will never come back to China because of David Lee and Li Dong.” Hard to blame him. Sounds like it could have even been worse than practice.
But seriously, this isn’t even half of the crap the agents tried to pull. Read Basketball Buddha’s 60,000-word opus for more details. Also, check out this pass.
by Alex Linder
[Images via OSports, Xinhua & Basketball Buddha]