Although some might say it’s a bit unfair, basketball really is a sport for grown-ups, especially in a highly competitive league like the NBA. However, there are those who may have been small in stature but could still dominate their rivals despite the lags. And whenever we talk about these guys, we always add Allen Iverson’s name into the conversation.
An unconventional superstar
In the NBA, you have to be exceptionally good if you’ve managed to stand out and even dominate the game as a 6-footer. And that’s what Iverson was like in his early years in the league.
His unique scoring arsenal, comprised of an array of killer cross moves, has given backcourts with a first-score mentality a new platform. It was as if he was serving as the commander of a revolutionary movement with a battle cry that chanted height isn’t always the key. And it was fitting that he earned the nickname “The Answer.”
Iverson’s career peaked in 2001 when he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals without the help of another perennial All-Star. The phenomenal run made him the legitimate MVP of this season.
By then, AI wasn’t just an NBA superstar, as the fan adulation didn’t stop on the court. Many considered Iverson a cultural icon and in many ways a trendsetter: compliments he never intended to earn because, as far as AI was concerned, he was just real. But of course, not everyone was happy with the superstar athlete’s unconventional personality, including the NBA itself.
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“I was the first to do all this, and I got pissed off for it”, Iverson told Bleacher Report in 2015. “Tattoos, cornrows, headbands, hip-hop. I never intended to set trends. I got my ass kicked, but if that meant the guys who came after me could be themselves, so it was worth it.”
Over time, the name Iverson has had a strong connotation which usually implies that a tattooed, cornrowed, ghettoish hoop took over the league. Stereotyped, criticized, discriminated against, call it what you will, for Iverson he was misunderstood, and most of the things he said and did were taken out of context. Among the most notable was his infamous “Practical” rant.
Having lived by the quote tattooed on his shoulders, “Only the strong survive,” AI managed to endure the pain. However, like any other human being, “The Answer” was also injured. But somehow he was able to deal with it by “blocking everything”.
“Before, I used to say: ‘Nothing bothers me'” admitted the four-time NBA champion. “But that’s not true. When I read something negative, it hurts. Look, I’m human… I’m a real person. I’m human, man. My feelings can get hurt too. I’m tired of being hurt… I’m not sitting on the internet looking for good stories about me I can’t be happy with the good ones if I’m going to be mad at the bad ones Oh they have Wrote a good A story about me? Well, that’s not great. But hey, so what about the shit they just wrote? You can’t win, so I’m blocking everything.
Obviously, the media played a huge role in Iverson’s highs and certainly his lows as well. Renowned sports analyst Stephen A. Smith likes to believe he was one of the culprits in the Iverson defamation.
Just recently, Smith admitted that without Iverson and what he did, there is no Stephen A. And it was bittersweet to have found success in his work at the expense of AI, a player he adores.
“It’s hard to admit this as an objective observer, but I love Allen Iverson,” Smith said on a recent episode of “The Old Man & The Three” podcast. “I don’t believe I would be sitting here in this position today if it wasn’t for Allen Iverson.”
“When he was a star in this league, the only person more popular than him that you could easily challenge was Michael Jordan,” He continued. “He didn’t always do the right things, and sometimes it was hard to write, and a whole bunch of things that I didn’t say, and I didn’t write, but sometimes he wouldn’t let you the choice.”
With just one look, we can already tell that there is a wide range of current NBA players who are influenced by Iverson. But we can’t blame them, because who wouldn’t want to be compared to an MVP, 11-time All-Star and NBA Hall of Famer? And of course, more and more Iverson-infused players will enter the league, and some of them might even rise to the top in the same way the real AI did at one point. However, nothing replaces the real and there will always be only one Allen Iverson.