Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd talks about the events of September 11, being misunderstood, being a role model and more on NBC’s „Meet The Press“.
MR. RUSSERT: Tonight, in Philadelphia, the 51st annual NBA All-Star Game. Yesterday I sat down with basketball greats Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd.High school, college, NBA, always called sport’s hero. Along came September 11, and we redefine heroes in our country. Allen Iverson, I read that on that morning you were watching it with your wife, and you felt empty. How did September 11 affect you?
MR. ALLEN IVERSON: It just hurt, you know, knowing that something like that could happen at the drop of a dime, you know, innocent people. Those brothers, sisters in there, mothers, fathers, it was just a bad feeling. It didn’t sit well with me. It just made me cherish life a lot more, you know? It was just a sad day for America.
MR. RUSSERT: Jason Kidd, you play for the New Jersey Nets. You play at the Meadowlands Arena.
On the way driving in there, you used to be able look up and you see the World Trade Center, the twin towers. They’re now gone. How did that day affect you?
MR. JASON KIDD: Well, I think again, like Iverson said, you know, helpless. You know, people who really didn’t have a chance, you know, for something like this to happen, you know, here on our homeland and not being able to help, our heroes were redefined and, you know, for those people who tried to save, you know, people in the incident. You know, but the big thing is, you understand life a little bit better. You understand what’s more important. You know, the game of basketball is just a game, but there’s so many other things that are important in life, and I think that helped me understand, you know, family and friends, and you got to, you know, support them, but at same time, give them as much love, because you’re never guaranteed tomorrow.
MR. RUSSERT: It all so fragile.
MR. KIDD: It’s very fragile.
MR. RUSSERT: The Winter Olympics are going on in Salt Lake City. Go back to 2000 Summer Olympics. You win the gold medal. What is it like, as an American athlete, standing on a riser, having a gold medal put around your neck and listening to the national anthem?
MR. KIDD: It’s, you know, the greatest thing. You know, I haven’t been able to win a world championship, so to be able to represent your country I think is the biggest thing that an athlete can do, because you’re going against the best in the world and to be able to hear the national anthem, you’re sitting there on top, and it’s just—you can reflect, because you’re representing not just New Jersey or Philly, you’re representing the United States, and that’s the greatest feeling for any athlete.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think September 11 and the days and weeks and months afterwards, Allen Iverson, brought us together as a country more than we had been?
MR. IVERSON: I think so. You can feel it even in the arenas, you know, when they sing the national anthem. I think so. Gave us a better appreciation for police officers, firemen, doctors. You know, just look at them in a totally different way, in a way that we should have always looked at them. But I think it brought us together. You know? More people are a lot closer.
MR. RUSSERT: Thousands of fans cheer you guys every night as superstars in the NBA, but both have overcome adversity as well. Eight years ago, you spent four months in prison, the charge was later overturned. But it was a tough, tough experience for you. How did you grow from that? What did you learn from that, and how did you turn your life around?
MR. IVERSON: I think I had a lot of help from my wife, my mother, you know, my family and friends, my teammates, you know, coaches that I had, you know, just helping me out. You know, I was never bitter over it, you know. I never kept asking why, you know. I just tried to overcome it, and you know, do whatever it take, you know, to get to this point that I’m at right now. And you know, people go through obstacles in their life, you know, but you find out a lot about their person, when you overcome them. And like I said, I just had good people around me just helping me deal with it. I couldn’t do it by myself. I used my family and my friends.
MR. RUSSERT: Jason Kidd, a year ago, you bottomed out, got arrested for hitting your wife. You’re back together, strong. Just had baby twins.
MR. KIDD: Yep.
MR. RUSSERT: What did you learn from that? How did you turn your life around?
MR. KIDD: Well, I think that the biggest thing is that, again, what’s more important, you know, you sometimes in your job, you kind of get lost in your job, and you kind of put job before family. And I think my priorities were kind of, you know, confused, and the situation that happened, I just used that to, you know, make myself a better man on the court and off the court, and not—you know, people are going to be faced with challenges and you really find out who are your true friends, and you learn more about life, and what’s more important in life as you go on. You know, you’re going to make mistakes because we’re young and, you know, we’re maturing and we’re getting, you know, better at it, but, you know, the big thing is, the world doesn’t stop. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on.
MR. RUSSERT: It changed your life forever.
MR. KIDD: Oh, forever. Now, that, you know, I have two beautiful girls and also I have a three-year- old. And my wife is my best friend. And, you know, we give each other a hard time, but at same time, we’re there to support one another.
MR. RUSSERT: Allen Iverson, when we talked last year, before our interview, people said, “Allen Iverson?” The answer, “Why is he on MEET THE PRESS?” All those tattoos and that hair. What’s the—and then they listened to you and they learned a lot about the way you feel about your family and the way you teach the young kids all across the country that if you make a mistake, don’t stay down.
You can turn yourself around. How important is that to you?
MR. IVERSON: It’s important. Because, you know, I just felt I was, you know, misunderstood, you know, in a lot of ways. And, you know, it’s a growing process. You know, people look at our life and just put us in a fishbowl, you know. A mistake that an ordinary guy would make, you know, is no big deal, but if one of us do it, you know, it’s a big deal. So it’s as important for us to understand that, you know, that’s the life we live, you know, that’s the life we wanted and just try to, you know, make the most of it. You know, if one thing I say can help one kid, I don’t—millions of kids, that’s enough. I feel like I did something, you know, in my life. You know, everybody make mistakes, it’s just as important for you to learn from your mistakes and not try to make that mistake twice.
MR. RUSSERT: I told you last year that former Secretary of State George Shultz had a Princeton Tiger tattoo on a place that I won’t describe right now. You have 21 tattoos. Tell us why. What do they represent to you?
MR. IVERSON: I mean, I have strength, loyalty, prayer hands, everything that means something. My mother, my kids, my wife, you know. That was the toughest part of having my tattoos airbrushed on that media guy because, you know, my tattoos mean things, you know. You know, it’s my life, in a nutshell.
MR. RUSSERT: And when you won the NBA Most Valuable Player last year, you said, “I did this my way.” It was an important statement for you, an important message, wasn’t it?
MR. IVERSON: Definitely. Because I didn’t change, you know. I got older, you know, and I got wiser. And everybody get better as time go on. But I did it my way. You know, I didn’t start wearing suits and cutting my hair off and all of that. I just—you know, I wanted people to accept me for who I was. You know, you don’t have to wear a suit to be considered a good guy or have a nice clean cut.
You can have corn rows and have tattoos and wear baggy clothes and be considered a good father, a good husband, a good son, good brother.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s what’s in your heart and in your head.
MR. IVERSON: That’s right.
MR. RUSSERT: Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan back at the NBA, 38 years old. Next Sunday, he’ll be 39 years old. What has his comeback meant to the NBA?
MR. KIDD: Well, I think it’s, you know, brought the fans out because, you know, you’re talking about the greatest player to ever play this game. And why shouldn’t he come back? I mean, if he loves to play the game, he’s well-deserved because he plays at a high level. And also, I think, for the younger guys, because now when you play against Michael Jordan, you’re going to bring your best game. And so in that fact, you know, he’s going to bring people to the stadiums, and at same time, you’re going against the best in the world. And so you can’t come with not your best game. So, you know, this is a great opportunity to go against the best.
MR. RUSSERT: I saw the 76ers play the Wizards a few weeks back. Michael reached in and touched you. The referee blew the whistle, and you, who had just been fouled, turned to the ref and you said, “Come on, man. Let us play.” You wanted to play one-on-one with Jordan?
MR. IVERSON: Yeah. I mean, I just don’t like when referees determine the outcome of games. You know, I think it’s important for them to let us play and let the players decide we’re going on the court.
But that was just something. I wasn’t looked forward to it, but at the moment, you know, it was just fun.
MR. RUSSERT: When you first came in the league, there was a lot of discussion about Allen Iverson, does he respect the older players like Michael Jordan enough? Do you?
MR. IVERSON: Definitely. I mean, without Michael Jordan, you know, there wouldn’t be an Allen Iverson; you know, without Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, you know, Larry Bird.
Without those guys, there wouldn’t be us. We wouldn’t be able to come in with our own identity, our own personalities. And, you know, they set the standard for us, you know, and, you know, they made it possible for us to be who we are.
MR. RUSSERT: The game tonight will be seen in 210 countries in 41 languages, truly an international game. The commissioner of the NBA is now talking about having franchises in cities outside of the United States or Canada. Would you look forward to that?
MR. KIDD: That would probably make our trips a little bit longer, but I think when you look at the All- Star Game, at the rookie game, and also the game, I think when you look at it, you’ve got so many European players now or Canadians playing, and I think it’s great for the game to be global. And I think, you know, it shows that, you know, in the United States, we have to get better, because now they’re not scared of us when we play them in the Olympics or the Goodwill Games or the world championships, because they play with us all the time now, so I think it’s great for the game of basketball.
MR. RUSSERT: A lot of young people will see this show and tapes of it. What would your message be to young people, boys and girls across the country who look up to you? What’s your message to them?
MR. IVERSON: Whatever you want to be, whatever you want to do in your life, you know, you can do it. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t, whatever you want to be. And it doesn’t have to be a basketball player, a football or baseball player, you can be a lawyer, a doctor, police officer, you know, fireman. Anything you want to be, you can be it, you know, and when you go through obstacles, just try to overcome them. You know, like Jason said, the world don’t stop once something happens. It keeps going, you know. And as long as it’s going to keep going, you keep going.
MR. RUSSERT: Jason Kidd.
MR. KIDD: Dream. Dreams do come true, you know, and, you know, you’ve got to work hard. And if you get knocked down, get right back up and try even harder and, you know, believe that you can do something, and when you do it, do it to the fullest.
MR. RUSSERT: And before we go, Allen Iverson, this is a 76ers jersey, Number 6, worn by Dr. J, Julius Erving. The NBA All-Star NBA game tonight, what are you going to wear?
MR. IVERSON: Number 6.
MR. RUSSERT: You want to wear it?
MR. IVERSON: That’s right. Thanks, man.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’ll be right back here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Thank you, Ken Schander, at NBC Sports. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.