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April 04, 2019

Allen Iverson somehow once lost a pickup basketball game to piano rocker Bruce Hornsby

The man who sang 'The Way It Is' and the future Hall of Famer met during Iverson's legal troubles in the early 1990s

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Allen Iverson Courtside Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

NBA Hall of Fame member and former Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson cheers on with fans in game two of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center.

I don’t need to tell you that former Sixers point guard Allen Iverson was very good at basketball. I don’t even need to show you the numbers to prove it; everyone knows Iverson was good at basketball.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that and Bruce Hornsby – the same '80s piano rocker Bruce Hornsby who had hits performing with band The Range – once beat a teenage Iverson in a game of pickup basketball.


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You might know Hornsby from “The Way It Is”, an extremely good song which basically encapsulates his style and also was covered-and-sampled by Tupac Shakur:

That guy beat Allen Iverson in basketball!

And this wasn’t when Iverson was, like, 4. It happened when Hornsby was in his late 30s and Iverson was about to play basketball for John Thompson at Georgetown, which makes it fairly insane.

Here’s what Hornsby had to say about the legendary interaction, during his interview with UPROXX:

“I don’t talk about that very much, because it seems completely ludicrous, and it is. But look: He was convicted of brawling in a bowling alley, and sent to jail his senior year of high school. I thought it was a serious miscarriage of justice, and I was lobbying the governor of the time, because we had elected the first black governor, I would say, in America, Doug Wilder. This was 1992 or 1993 when this happened, and I started working with Spike. I told him about Allen Iverson before anyone knew about him, because he was a high school phenom around here.

"A couple months after this happened, I got a call from his high school coach at Bethel High School, Mike Bailey, saying, ‘Hey, Allen knows what you did, and would love to meet you and blah blah blah.’ So I said, ‘Hey, why don’t ya’ll come up so we can play some basketball?’ So he said, yeah, he’d love that. And I don’t know what happened. I had one of those days where I couldn’t miss. And in front of lots of witnesses, this happened.

"Like I said, I feel a little idiotic talking about it, because it seems not believable. But that’s the story, as quickly as I can sum it up."

That’s pretty neat!

Now, apparently Hornsby played varsity basketball at James Blair High School in Williamsburg, so we’re not talking about a totally random occurrence where a never-even-really-played type of guy beats a future Hall of Fame basketball player.

Still, it’s very wild. Maybe Iverson should’ve challenged Hornsby to some sort of piano-off to see if the karmic balance of the universe would bless him with magical fingers for a few minutes.

Hornsby is doing media rounds ahead of his new album, “Absolute Zero”, which comes out this year. Iverson, meanwhile, just signed a deal for his Allen Iverson Roundball Classic to stream on SlingTV and is going to throw out the first pitch at the Phillies game on Saturday. Sounds like both guys are doing well.


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