Remembering Allen Iverson’s career
4. Allen Iverson as pitchman
Iverson’s individual brand was so hot from the start that he signed a 10-year, $50 million endorsement deal with Reebok as a rookie. In 2001, the deal was extended to a lifetime contract. His Reebok “Question” sneakers were a monster hit.
5. Allen Iverson as cover boy
The 11-time All-Star graced plenty of magazine covers throughout his career (including Sports Illustrated), but none struck a chord quite like the March 1999 issue of SLAM Magazine, which featured Iverson with his hair blown out, decked out in jewelry, wearing a throwback Sixers jersey and holding an ABA basketball. The look on his face said, simply, “What?” SLAM later convened a panel to discuss the iconic cover.
Que Gaskins, Reebok: It had all the right cultural codes for what was cool, what was authentic, what was relevant. Nobody else could pull it off.
Scoop Jackson, Slam Magazine: He was holding down everything that Michael Jordan wasn’t.
Andre Iguodala: I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I’d never heard of SLAM until that one—AI with his hair blown out. One kid had it, and it ended up getting to the whole basketball team by the end of the day. It was that crazy. We switched it after every class, like, “Oh, you gotta check this out.” It was real, and it brought the hip-hop edge to it, too.
6. Allen Iverson as Finals hero
Want to boil down Iverson’s game to one play? Look no further than this sequence from Game 1 of the 2001 Finals between Iverson’s Sixers and the Lakers. Driving past Tyronn Lue to the right, Iverson effortlessly slammed on the brakes with a crossover before smoothly stepping into a jumper. Lue wound up stumbling to the court in front of the Lakers’ bench, and Iverson seized the opportunity to declare his superiority, purposefully stepping over Lue on his way back down the court. Quickness, skill, confidence and defiance, all in six seconds. If ever there was a “poster” long two-point shot, this was it.
Iverson finished with 48 points in a 107-101 overtime victory, and he played all 52 minutes. (The Lakers came back to win the next four games and the title.)
7. Allen Iverson as villain
For Iverson’s detractors, his infamous 2002 “practice” rant embodied everything that was wrong with his “My way or the highway” approach. Called out by coach Larry Brown for his practice habits, Iverson went on, and on, and on in response.
Here’s a transcript of his full rant, for posterity.
“I’m supposed to be the franchise player and we’re in here talking about practice. Listen, we talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game, we’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? We’re talking about practice.
“I know I’m supposed to be there, I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that. I’m not shoving it aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important. I do. I honestly do. But we’re talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man. We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man.
“When you come to the arena and you see me play, you see me play, don’t you? You see me give everything I’ve got, right? We’re talking about practice right now. We’re talking about practice. It’s funny to me too. It’s strange to me too. But we’re talking about practice, man. We’re not even talking about the game, the actual game, when it matters. We’re talking about practice.
“How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?”
What kind of leader, some wondered, would marginalize the importance of training? What kind of role model — not to mention millionaire — would lose his cool and express such public disdain for a part of his job? And, the worst (rhetorical) question of all: Would Michael Jordan have ever done something like this? The rant led many — at the news conference and in the years since — to laugh at Iverson’s obvious frustration, but the exchange left a stain and fueled criticism.