May 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia 76ers former guard Allen Iverson before the start of game six against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Though he has been gone from the NBA since 2010, Allen Iverson will officially announce his retirement later this week. As someone who grew up in the 1990’s, I don’t know that I will ever be witness to a player as paradoxical and interesting as AI was on and off the court. Being a lifelong Georgetown Hoyas fan, I do hold Iverson in high regard and always had a soft spot for him even as he fell on hard times.
It was impossible not to have an opinion on AI. You either loved him because of his authenticity, skill set and how he left everything on the floor or you hated him because of his brash attitude and being unapologetic for his ways.
Allen Iverson’s prominence signified a culture change in the NBA, with AI’s era we bid adieu to the short shorts and knee high socks and hello to cornrows, basketball sleeves and tattoos. It is fair to say AI is the chain that linked basketball and hip hop. He even tried his hand at rapping.
Allen was the ultimate “take me as I am” personality and for that reason he could easily be misunderstood. As open as the 2001 NBA’s Most Valuable Player was with the media, we certainly got a glimpse of him at some of his less than glorious moments.
Hearing his rant about practice is counter intuitive for any young kid aspiring to become a basketball player in addition to being a prime example of “when keeping it real goes wrong”. I am just thankful that this hilarious mashup was created as a result.
Despite Iverson’s reservations about practicing, the relentless effort he played with during games was inspiring to say the least. His passion for the game is a big part of why the city of Philadelphia as well as NBA fans all over the world embraced him. The relationship AI has with Philadelphia is special and his approach to the game embodied the blue collar spirit of the city.
Watching him take the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001 was nothing short of heroic as he took a team of role players within three games of winning a championship. Though the Los Angeles Lakers would prove to be too much to handle, AI’s stomping over Laker guard Tyronn Lue after a made basket in Game 1 of the finals will always be a defining image of his greatness.
His game spoke for itself, Allen Iverson is a former MVP, 11-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA First team member and is one of the most prolific scorers to ever play the game. AI was a four-time NBA scoring champion and his 26.7 points per game average is sixth highest in league history. As impressive as his accolades are, the thing I admired most about AI is his authenticity and honesty.
Iverson always spoke his mind and despite the rough edges is an articulate man. These traits are on display on a very candid interview AI did on Stephen A. Smith’s Quite Frankly back in 2006. Too many times we as fans complain that our athletes don’t show enough emotion and are tough to relate to. For Iverson have such a honest moment for millions of viewers to see was a touching experience.
To many, AI is considered the best little man to ever play the game. In his playing days Iverson was listed at 6 foot but after seeing in him person he is likely shorter. Part of what made AI so endearing to fans is how despite his size he played like someone a foot taller.
The way he attacked the paint and threw his body around was not indicative of someone who on many nights was the smallest man on the court. His toughness could never be questioned as he played through numerous injuries over his 14-year career.
After Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson was the man fans paid to see and he did not let us down. Whether it was crossing up Air Jordan in his rookie season, or scoring 48 points and dealing the heavily favored Lakers their only loss of the 2001 playoffs he was always worth the price of admission.
As a fan of the game, I am truly thankful to have had the opportunity to follow AI’s career and I wish him the best in life after basketball.