For some who are reading this, you might be a little too young to remember watching A.I. Maybe and just maybe, you remember him as “Bubba Chuck” or ” The Answer.” I remember him as A.I. more so than the other tag names he got for being such a dominating force in high school, college, and the NBA. At a young age, Allen Iverson became my favorite player regardless of sport. The reason for that commitment to the small guy in the world of giants is because he made me believe that anything is possible.
Because of Allen Iverson, I was able to watch the little guy on the court win. He showed that a person is as big as he or she feels. Allen Iverson not only played big, but he made an everlasting imprint on the NBA that is still being felt today.
A.I. was different from what the NBA was used to. The face of the league was Michael Jordan when Iverson came in. A 6’6 guard, who dominated on the court, was loved by the media, and looked the part off the court. Jordan was more old school NBA, suit and tie and not a lot of flash. Iverson was different.
Iverson came into the league with a low cut, but soon after he would change to his most iconic look, the corn rolls or braids. A.I. wore baggy clothes that matched the style of the rap artist of the time and was tatted up. For most of his career, the NBA and the media seemed to hate how Iverson presented himself, but for the youth watching him, Iverson was an icon.
While the NBA wanted the next Michael Jordan, they got almost the complete opposite. The next generation of ball players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and a slew of other players wanted to be like A.I. and not so much like Mike. Iverson played with a heart that was unmatched.
Although small, Iverson led the league in scoring four times and in steals three times. He would also go on to win the league MVP award all while being portrayed by the media as a thug. Also did I forget, Iverson led the 2001 Philidelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals against the 2001 Lakers. Some consider it to be the best Laker team from top to bottom.
One of Iversons greatest moments came when he faced Kobe Bryant in 1999. the late great Kobe Bryant referenced that game in a couple of interviews. He said it was the game that made him push himself to become a better defensive player. Saying to A.I. ” You don’t realize how much you pushed me.” In that 1999 match-up, Iverson would score 41 points on Kobe.
Kobe’s teammate, Shaq, spoke about Iverson as well ” He’s probably the only player who takes a beating like I do and don’t complain.” Iverson’s toughness most likely comes from his high school background. At one point in time, Iverson was the number 1 football and basketball player in America. He led his high school football and basketball teams to victory in the Virginia State Championship games only 3 months a part.
Iverson would also inspire another great but polarizing figure out of the same area he grew up in, NFL quarterback legend, Michael Vick.
Because of Iverson, the NBA and its players have been more open-minded about the different personalities that come into the League. Player’s come to the arena now as they are. Swagged out and more connected to the fans that watch them. That’s the modern-day impact of Iverson’s style off the court, but on the court his imprint is everywhere.
Most guards that enter the league have handles like Iverson’s legendary crossover that forced the league to create the Carrying violation. But even with that rule added to the game, basketball players all over the world have become so good at the crossover that it is hard to tell if it’s a violation or not.
One of the best ball handlers in the NBA today is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. Irving has arguably the best ball handling skills since Iverson. Even in the clip below, you can see the handles plus the arm sleeve Iverson made popular from his playing days.
Although Iverson was hated by the executives of the NBA, Iversons impact on the league and the sport worldwide will forever be etched into NBA greatness.