First things first: Check out Allen Iverson: The Answer Documentary (Full)
After Michael Jordan retired, Allen Iverson was the next NBA superstar to revolutionized the NBA (Sorry Kobe but Allen qualifies a little more for this category and here’s a video to go along with my claim Allen Iverson vs Michael Jordan: Who Impacted NBA Players More?). Iverson finished what the “Fab Five” started back in the early 90’s with college basketball: solidify the hip hop culture in the league. Everywhere you looked, Iverson’s influence was magnified. Kids in the neighborhood parks wore cornrows, oversized t-shirts, baggy shorts or jeans, and had Allen Iverson branded Reebok’s on their feet playing ball. Everyone tried to imitate his signature crossover that’s known worldwide. Before the NBA changed their dress code, Iverson would show up to games with baggy jeans, a throwback NBA jersey, a durag, and a headband. He would dress just like anybody you would see in the inner city. I didn’t get new shoes too often growing up, but I did own a pair of Iverson’s.
A.I. never backed down to anybody or anything no matter how big or tough the opponent or obstacle. He has played through every injury you could possibly play through and has probably hit the floor more than anybody else to ever play the game (including floppers now and days). People, including LeBron James, have called him “pound for pound” the greatest player of all-time. What separated Iverson from the rest and made him so special was his heart and his determination. He grew up in an unhealthy environment, something I can relate to. An area that’s filled negative energy, hatred, limited resources, and crime, Iverson barely made it out. Even though the was the star quarterback (also played running back, defensive back, and kick returner) for his high school as well as a basketball prodigy, trouble did follow. Him and some of his friends were arrested for fight that broke out in a bowling alley. Iverson, allegedly, threw a chair in hit a young lady in the back of her head. He claimed he had already left the altercation when it first happened. Even though he was 17, he was tired as an adult and spent 4 months in prison. He was facing double-digit years, but the case was dismissed. Iverson was allowed to finish his senior year at an alternative high school (no sports). Fortunately, Georgetown University’s coach John Thompson offered him a full scholarship to play basketball. Iverson won Big East Rookie of the Year and took the Hoyas to the elite 8 in his sophomore season. He’s has the all time leading scoring average for Georgetown at 22.9 points per game.
Allen Iverson was selected by the Philadelphia 76’ers as the number one overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft Class. Iverson exploded in the scene, winning rookie of the year in arguably the deepest draft class of all time (Bryant, Nash, Allen, Marbury, Camby). He averaged 23.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, and 2.1 spg. The 76’ers only won 22 games that season, but they continued to grow along with Iverson. Iverson made his first playoff appearance as the 6th seed in the 1998-99 shortened season again Orlando. They were put out in the second round by Indiana. His most prominent season came in 2000-01 where his team was the best in the conference, he won the league MVP, scoring title (31.1 ppg), steals title (2.5 spg), and went to the NBA Finals.
Allen Iverson had one the most prolific NBA Finals performances in game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. He dropped 48 points in an overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the only loss the Lakers suffered that post season. He also displayed the infamous step-over on Tyronn Lue. If you need a refresher or just want to enjoy the highlights of game on, here it is below:
Allen Iverson’s performances matched his heart and courage. He defied the odds and made everybody a believer. Iverson also stayed true to himself, even in front of the media. He always spoke what was on his mind and never backed down to anybody discouraging him. Do you remember how Iverson was portrayed for his practice rant? The NBA never liked the way he represented the league. He wasn’t as charismatic as Magic Johnson, wasn’t as clean as Michael, and was on the other side of the world compared to Larry Bird. The NBA was known for keeping their brand “clean”, but Iverson was far from that image with his tattoos and demeanor… and the NBA was stuck with him for the majority of his career.
Allen Iverson was basically “blackballed” out the league by the media and the NBA executives. Granted they made a lot of money off of Iverson’s image to the public eye. From 2000 to about 2007, other athletes, entertainers, and fans would wear baggy clothes, tall t-shirts, jerseys, and anything that attached itself to the NBA. They were waiting for the day that Iverson would slip up to bury him. After being traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006, his label of being the “poster child” for the NBA started to deteriorate. Eventually, he would bounce around from team to team (Detroit, back to Philly, Memphis). In 2010, Allen Iverson signed with Beşiktaş, a team in the Turkish Basketball League. He only played 10 games, but he was beloved in Turkey. No teams in the NBA wanted to sign Iverson because he was “cancerous”, “not a team player”, “wouldn’t come off the bench”, or “wasn’t coachable”. Those were the images that the media created of Iverson. We all know that Iverson had some issues off the court, and he did say at one point that he said he shouldn’t come off the bench. Eventually, he retracted that statement and matured. Iverson was willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship, and no NBA was going to give him an opportunity. How you could you say that a 11-time all-star, who won a league MVP, 4 scoring titles, 3-time steals leader, and played courageous his whole career can’t be an asset to a team making a run for an NBA title?
A few days ago, the NBA announced that Allen Iverson would be eligible for the Hall Of Fame in 2016. In many people’s eyes, he is a no question first ballot hall of famer. His numbers and legacy speak for itself. The only thing that worries me is the members of the media will feel the same way… the ones that has the power to vote him in. The same people that pushed him out the league are the same ones who has the power to neglect him from something he should achieve with no problem. This could be the final obstacle to torment Iverson if they choose to do so. A.I. deserves this honor as a first ballot hall of famer with Larry Brown introducing him. I’m proud to have grown up in an era that showcased a player that never backed down from a challenge… and stayed true to himself. The media may remember him as someone who is all about Iverson. I’ll always remember him for someone who knocked down every obstacle that was in his way… to every problem… there was “The Answer”.