He's the reason why I started to watch basketball and became interested in the sport. He's the reason why at an undersized height of 5'8, I thought I had a chance at organized basketball, at least in my thoughts. The generations before mine grew up watching greats like Jerry West, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
I had Allen Iverson.
I still remember the day I purchased his #3 Jersey, the home all white Jersey representing the Philadelphia 76ers logo and uniforms from 1997-2009.
On Saturday night March 1, 2014, the 76ers organization during a home game hosting the Washington Wizards, honored its former franchise player by retiring his jersey during halftime.
His Jersey was hoisted up to the rafters joining the likes of other retired numbers of #6 Julius Erving, #34 Charles Barkley, and #13 Wilt Chamberlain. It was a heart-warming ceremony in which past 76ers greats and some of Iverson's teammates, including Dikembe Mutumbo and Julius Erving among others, were in attendance on the floor to celebrate with him.
It's actually not ludicrous to mention his name among those greats. He was that good.
Iverson received an MVP award in 200. He made 11 All-Star appearances (2000-2010); he's a 2-time All-Star game MVP awards winner (2001-2005), a 4-time scoring champ (1999, 2001-2001, 2005) and a 3-time All-NBA First team member (1999, 2001, 2005). But, wait, there's more!! Iverson was All-NBA Second Team for three years (2000, 2002-2003); an All-NBA Third Team member (2006); the NBA Rookie of the Year for 1997; All-Rookie NBA First Team also in 1997, and a 3-Time NBA Steals leader three years in a row from 2000-2003.
An Olympian, Iverson was selected to be a part of Team USA for the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament which was held in Puerto Rico. Iverson averaged 14.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while helping the USA Team finish with a perfect 10-0 record.
Other than never taking a night off from stepping foot on the hardwood, Iverson's retirement resonates with me because of the cultural and revolutionary impact he has made as a professional athlete. The NBA's dress code from dress-down to casual and formal is a result of Allen Iverson.
The cross-over dribble becoming as popular as it is today, was a torch passed down from Pearl Washington to Tim Hardaway and then to Iverson who modernized it and elevated its variations to his own style. He incorporated the moves of the pickup games of the playgrounds into NBA arenas which made him box office. His clothing choices off the court prompted the general public to question his character which in result compelled Iverson to attach the famed metaphorical phrase to himself of "don't judge a book by its cover".
He was also a trend-setter, making the cornrows hairstyle a global necessity as everyone had to have it. A hairstyle mostly sported by criminals became accepted by the general public as Iverson stated in one of the best interviews conducted by sports journalist Stephen A. Smith of ESPN once upon a time on his show, "Quite Frankly," "I made it Alright." Iverson inspired a generation of people, specifically targeting the children, to not just play basketball, but to be themselves.
In a post-retirement interview, Iverson, regarding his on court attire and gear which included a headband and an arm sleeve throughout the better part of his playing days, stated that I wanted to look like a superhero. Sporting the arm sleeve began during the 2000-01 regular season. Iverson wore the right arm sleeve recovering from an injury that affected his right elbow. If that's the case who's to say that same attire and compilation of on-court gear hasn't inspired the likes of Miami Heat F Lebron James and New York Knicks F Carmelo Anthony, two players known for sporting the headband and arm sleeve combo. He tried his crossover on a Hall-Of-Famer in Michael Jordan successful in his attempt as Jordan bit on Iverson's change of direction as he drifted to his right off the hesitation crossover pulling up for a jump-shot which was all net.
One of my favorite Iverson moves was a sequence of events where Iverson was draped all over by then Kings Forward Peja Stojakovic at the corner of the three point line in which Peja's defense was so compressing, that Iverson dribbled the ball from his right hand to the other behind Peja's back to free himself off the corner.
It was plays like that one that drew me to Iverson as a player. I marveled at the fact that someone of such a small stature could dominate a game single-handedly to his advantage causing numerous problems for the opposing team's defensive alignments and strategies. I remember how tough Iverson was, relentless in attacking the basket despite the punishment he received in return resulting in several injuries occurring throughout his career. It didn't matter who suited up for the other team assigned to protect the rim, Iverson penetrated and more times than not, you can count two in. Fans root for their teams with all their energy, but when Iverson came to town, it was hard to send negative resentment in the form of boos his way because we all knew we were in attendance to see what he would do next.
There was no answer for "The Answer", a name given to Iverson by Shaquille O'Neal, an All-Time great as a center acknowledging Iverson's greatness.
Iverson has totaled a career of 79, 40-point games for the regular season, behind Wilt Chamberlains 271, Michael Jordan's 173, Kobe Bryant's 117, and Elgin Baylor's 88. Iverson also had 11, 50-point games following Wilts 118, Jordan's 31, Bryant's 24, Baylor's 14 and Rick Barry's 13.
Sounds like pretty good company to me.
Although Iverson's career has featured incredible highs, trouble was not too far behind as Iverson experienced his share of public controversy and legal problems.
Iverson made national headlines for feuding with coaches he has played for because he disagreed with their principles and methods. A disappointing season due to the team's overall success in the mid-2000s called for an ugly divorce, as management and A.I. had a falling out which led to Iverson's departure from the Sixers.
This then started an NBA tour as Iverson made short stints with the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies from 2006-2010. Iverson played three games with the Grizzlies until his contract was terminated as both parties, Iverson and the Grizzlies management, came to an agreement to part ways.
With Iverson facing thoughts of retirement, an opportunity for one last stand to validate his value in the latter stages of his career arrived with the 76ers who offered Iverson a one-year deal for the duration of the 2009-10 NBA regular season on December 2.
Complications to his daughter's health halted Iverson's progress from completing the season as he attended to his daughters aid.
After a brief stint in the Turkish Basketball League and declining an offer to play in the NBA's development league, Iverson's officially called it quits, retiring from professional basketball entirely on October 30, 2013.
The final chapters of an excellent career had finally closed which led us to the celebration of Iverson's career with his Jersey retirement ceremony on March 1.
Fans, basketball enthusiasts, and sports analysts would all agree that maybe if Iverson accepted a lesser role towards the tail end of his career, he could have achieved the most coveted award of being granted a chance at an NBA title.
But he didn't. He believed he was too great to come off the bench, a role that would hurt his pride in admitting along with the general public that he no longer was the player he once was. He had other ideas.
Because that alternate ending was not a reality let's just reflect on what was and is a Hall-of-Fame career.
Allen Iverson is one of the best little "big" men to ever play the game.
An all-time great.
".. I still feel in my heart and everything I believe that I'm the best Basketball Player in the World and the Best Basketball Player to Eva play this Game" , Iverson once expressed.
Long live the Legend of "The Answer", Allen Iverson.
Latest from Gregory Alcala
- Brooklyn Nets Beat Milwaukee Bucks 129-127 in Triple Overtime
- NFL’s Buffalo Bills Striking First, Readying for 2015-16 Season
- Chasing Playoff Spot, Brooklyn Nets Making Moves
- NBA All-Star Saturday Night: Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
- NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT: The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Rises Again