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By Allan Iverson and Al Harrington

 

Al Harrington and Allen Iverson have a new cannabis business. And pretty soon, A.I. will be dropping his very own strain. Here, they get candid about how the culture around marijuana is changing in the NBA, everything it took to get here, and more.

Al Harrington
Man, I remember the first time that I smoked … it was crazy. I was with Stephen Jackson, Matt, and Baron, and they gave me something that was so strong that my paranoia went through the roof.

I went and sat in my room, and I thought I was hearing sirens and all kinda stuff. I’ll never forget. I was thinking like, Why would they smoke if this is how it makes them feel? Hahah.

So I’m gonna ask you: The first time you ever smoked, what was that experience like for you?

Allen Iverson
The first time, I didn’t have a really bad experience. I was just sittin’ in the house. But I did have this one bad experience when I was like 21.

Harrington 
Hahahah.

A.I. 
See, I knew you was gonna try and get this out of me.

Harrington 
Yeah, what happened?

A.I. 
Nah, but see, I never had a problem with cannabis. I had a problem because I thought I was smoking it, and I was really smoking hash, but I didn’t know. You know what I’m saying?

Harrington
That’s crazy.

A.I. 
Man this a true story. I was with Biggie Smalls and Lil’ Cease in the studio.

So, I’m sitting beside Biggie, and I’m telling him he the greatest rapper. He talking about my basketball skills and this, that and the third. And I’m just smoking with him.

I just remember going to the bathroom man … remember that Janet Jackson shirt? That had Janet Jackson’s face on it, and it had the man…? It was from the cover of a magazine.

Harrington 
Holding the boobs.

A.I.
Right. Well I had on that shirt. And man, I’m looking in the mirror at the shirt, and I notice that the shirt did not have her face …  it had an ALIEN face on her body.

Harrington 
Hahahah.

I’m looking in the mirror at the shirt, and I notice that the shirt did not have her face …  it had an ALIEN face on her body.

– Allen Iverson

A.I. 
Nah, that’s how the shirt was made! It was going off the cover of that magazine, but I’m looking in the mirror and I’m trippin’. I’m wiping the shirt off and everything. I’m thinking like that’s supposed to be her, but it’s this alien cartoon character.

So, I turn around and I walk back to the studio.

I end up right at the desk where you walk in, and I ask the lady where the studio is. She tells me to go back, go down there, and take a left and whatever.

I went down, opened the door … and all of a sudden, I’m back in the bathroom again. I do this like two or three times, and the last time I was like, Yo. I know she gon’ think I’m trippin’ if I ask her again. ’Cause every time I go back and end up in the bathroom!

And man, a lady was walking by, and as I was walking by her I was just stomping ’cause I couldn’t feel my feet. And she was like, “Uh, A.I., you alright?”

And I was like, “Yeah, I’m cool. Can you show me where the studio at?”

And she directed me to the joint. So I went in there, and Big or Cease, one of ’em was like, “You smoking again?” And I was like yeah. And he was like, “What you want, the hash or the chronic?” And I was like, “HASH??” You know what I mean! And they was like “Yeah, that’s what you were smoking last time.”

And I’m like, Oh my God. You know what I’m saying? Like, That’s why I’m trippin. And I had to be at the Rucker the next day! Man, I told my homeboys like, Yo man, we outta here. I gotta get outta here.

I went back to my hotel room — room was spinning or whatever. And that was like the weirdest experience that I had.

Al Harrington | Allen Iverson | NBA | The Players' Tribune

Sam Maller/The Players’ Tribune

Harrington 
Yeah, what I learned is that with the artists and stuff like that, you don’t just take anything and smoke it from them, bro. Because they live by a different set of rules than we do.

But I actually thought … didn’t I read something that said you met John Thompson for the first time when you were high??

A.I. 
Bro. No! I wasn’t high then. It was like the first time I had come on campus.

I remember going to this girl who’s my homegirl now — like I rock with her hard, like all this many years later she’s still my homegirl. And I went to her house and I was smoking over at her crib.

Man, somebody knocked on the door and said, “Coach up the hill.”

So I ran out the joint. I’m thinking in my mind, This man done gave me an opportunity…. You know what I mean? I just came here, and I’m getting ready to get sent back already.

I went and washed up or whatever, and I remember going to the car, and Coach is like, “Come here, boy.” And I walked close to the car, but I didn’t walk all the way up, because I didn’t want him to know that I was high. But he just said he came up there to check on me, make sure I was alright, and that was all he wanted.

I mean, in my mind I was like, I blew it, though. I was paranoid, I’m talking about terrible. Couldn’t go to sleep. ’Cause I just thought I had thrown it all away, just like that, you know what I mean? For him to do what he did for me, and then the first day I come there, I’m getting ready to get sent back home.

Harrington 
When I think about the fact that you are an icon, and everything that you did to transcend the game … you know, you gave everybody the courage to be who they are. And when I think about what we’re doing in cannabis, it’s the same thing. We’re like stepping out there, for the people that are a little afraid, and giving them a glimpse of what it would look like if they did it, too.

So, when you were actually living that in the moment, did you really fully understand everything that you were doing at that time?

A.I. 
I understood it, but only because of the backlash from it, you know what I mean?

And I was so aware of it because, you know, I heard, in the beginning, all the talk about my “posse” and the way we dressed … my hair, tattoos and all that. They were basically like saying, “This guy is a thug.” But I was just being myself.

I was being the guy I was in college, and growing up. You know what I mean? And it’s like you on the biggest platform in the world, as far as the NBA, and now you wanna get to this point and turn into somebody else. You wanna change and try to be somebody else. But who are you doing it for? I always felt like, What’s wrong with being me?

If I’m not doing anything wrong, and I’m not harming nobody, getting in nobody else’s way, what difference do it make how I wear my hair? I only even grew my hair out ’cause I was tired of barbers on the road always messing my hair up.

Al Harrington | Allen Iverson | NBA | The Players’ Tribune

Rusty Kennedy/AP Photo

Harrington 
Hahahah.

A.I.
I say all the time I took the ass whuppin’ for it. Like I took the beatin’ for it, but it’s bittersweet to me, because when you fast-forward this many years later, 25 years later, you see guys expressing themselves, as far as their fashion, the way they want to. You know what I mean?

You not gon’ choose what’s gonna be in somebody else’s closet.

I took an ass whuppin’ for that.

And it was worth every bit of it.

I had to deal with being on the cover of magazines, and they wanted me on the cover because of my talent and being the face of the NBA, but they’d airbrush my tattoos off. So, you want some of me. But you don’t want all of me.

So, I wanted to be that guy that people could look at and say, “Aye man, it’s alright,” and let the world get comfortable with us being who we are, as opposed to letting somebody change us because we’re on a certain stage.

If we were breaking laws or hurting people, that’s totally different. But the guys that came in and started to dress like me, and had no problem letting the world recognize that, I’m like this. Like, I’m like this, and I’m cool with it, and I’m satisfied, and I’m comfortable with it.

I just felt like me being the catalyst of that was good.

I wanted to be that guy that people could look at and say, “Aye man, it’s alright,” and let the world get comfortable with us being who we are.

– Allen Iverson

It had people looking at me like I would always want them to. Like somebody that you look up to. A trailblazer. Somebody that would take them chances. Somebody that was comfortable in their own skin. And I think it helped a lot of people in our culture.

Because we are the culture. Everyone wanna be like us.

Harrington 
Yeah, definitely. I hear that. And to be honest, being that you were able to put that out there for all of us to see definitely … I think LeBron gets a lot of credit for fighting the whole “Shut up and dribble” thing, but that all started kinda with you. You know what I’m saying?

A.I.
Right.

Harrington
And even for me going into the cannabis space, it was the same thing. It was like, Do I wanna step out and own it? Or do I wanna be who they think I should be. You know, I wanna be able to go to soccer games without parents looking at me some type of way. But since I stand on it, and I own it, now look at what it’s propelled me to become.

A.I.
Right.

Harrington
For me now, not that I was a Hall of Famer or All-Star and all of that, but I get stopped now more for weed and what I’m doing in the cannabis space, than what I did with basketball. I’m rewriting the book.

A.I.
They be like, “Where Al at, where Al at? Al got that shit don’t he?” I’m like go ’head, man! Hahah.

Harrington 
Ahhhhahah. Forreal, bro! It took courage for that though.

A.I.
Yeah, it did.

Al Harrington | Allen Iverson | NBA | The Players’ Tribune

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Harrington
Yup. And you know what’s good, too, is like, we’re seeing all the professional leagues now starting to change their stance. And, obviously, just in our league, last year with the guys going into the bubble, it was the first year they decided that they were no longer going to test for cannabis. So that was, to me, them saying like, Alright guys, we understand that you guys are going to be in a highly stressful environment….

A.I. 
We’ll give you something! Here’s something for ya. Haha

Harrington
Yeah, This is what we want you guys to be able to do.

And what’s good about it bro — the positive to me that came out of it — with being in the bubble, and this year as well, was that the quality of basketball continued to stay high, right? We didn’t have any issues with the players. That was my thing that I was always preaching, is that we’re professionals. We’re professionals for a reason. We all know that there’s a time and a place for everything. We have access to liquor, but we don’t get drunk before the game. I’m not gon’ take two or three shots before I gotta go guard A.I.! Like why would I do that?

A.I. 
Hahaha, right.

We’re professionals for a reason. We all know that there’s a time and a place for everything.

– Al Harrington

Harrington 
You know what I’m saying? So I definitely want to take my hat off to the players, in regards to the guys still playing at this high level. All the stigma that has been attached to cannabis, we’re debunking all of that stuff right now, in real time.

So, we’re creating this strain for you. We dropping it October 2, in California first. But when I think about the strain that we made, in your mind, how do you want people to feel when they smoke your strain for the first time?

A.I. 
I just want it to be special, man. I want it to be legendary. I want it to be the same thing as all the other positive stuff I try to involve myself in. I want it to be on that level.

Harrington 
To me, I think it’s gonna represent everything you about. Iconic, game-changing MFer.

A.I. 
For you to put me down with something that you been so passionate about and dedicated to for the last 10 years, I think that’s special. I think that’s dope.

Harrington
Nah, for sure, bro. And that’s what it is for me. That’s why it was so easy for me to pick you to be the person I wanted to do this with, because, like I said, I always viewed you as a game-changer. We still laugh about it all the time, bro, like every time we played yall we couldn’t wait to pull down in the bus to see what you was driving.

A.I.
Hahaha.

Harrington
You was always gon’ have something new and exotic that nobody else had!

So I think that being able to work with you, and all that you’ve actually done for the culture … that’s what’s important to me throughout this whole thing, is being very authentic to our people. And I’m just excited that you said yes, bro.

And just know I’m going as hard as you seen when we used to compete against each other, like you know what I’m saying? Hahah. Like this is my new basketball court. And I’m trying to be the best.

I’m trying to get my Hall of Fame jacket in this life. In this industry. And you’re gonna help me get there. So I really appreciate that, and I thank you. I love you for that, brother.

A.I.
Love you, too. My man.