Posted October 30, 2013

Remembering Allen Iverson’s career

Allen Iverson, Ben Golliver, Besiktas, Philadelphia 76ers
Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson poses during a Sports Illustrated cover shoot in 2001. (Gerard Rancinan/SI)

Allen Iverson will announce his retirement in Philadelphia on Wednesday to coincide with the Sixers’ season opener against the Heat. When SlamOnline.com reported in August that Iverson’s official retirement was expected soon, the news was met by guffaws in some corners, mostly because he hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in more than three years. That was unfortunate, because there was true genius to what Iverson did well. And, really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s taken years for the 38-year-old guard to process his separation from a game that he helped shape on the court and a generation of players he helped shape off it.

Statisticians will look back on Iverson’s numerical product with wide eyes. Even with a famously slight frame, Iverson led the league in minutes per game seven times in a 10-year span, and he averaged an outrageous 45.1 minutes during his eight postseason runs. The four-time scoring champion will go down as a man who gobbled up possessions unlike any player before or since. Only one player in Basketball-Reference’s database has posted a usage rate higher than 35 percent while shooting less than 40 percent (in at least 200 minutes in a season). That player is Iverson, and he managed the feat twice. To put that into perspective, notorious chucker Monta Ellis has never had a season in which he had either a usage rate higher than 30 percent or a field-goal percentage less than 41.

Still, Iverson carried the Sixers to the playoffs year after year; averaged more than 30 points three times; earned the 2001 MVP award; made seven All-NBA teams; and came within three wins of winning a title, in 2001.

Some might argue that his pure brashness eclipsed those basketball heights, an unbending personality that reflected a hip-hop culture he proudly helped carry to mainstream America. The baggy clothes, sneakers, throwback jerseys, tattoos, headbands, jewelry, cornrows and even the shooting sleeve were all new, at least for a player with his talent and profile. They were also incredibly polarizing: An entire generation of guards cite him as the singular role model, while commissioner David Stern instituted a dress code to squash a developing image of NBA players that, then and now, is largely associated with Iverson. This stuff might come first in the “legacy” discussion.

Paying tribute to Iverson’s career requires photographs and video: He was as photogenic off the court as he was smooth on it. With that in mind, here are 10 scenes by which to remember Iverson’s time as a basketball icon, which began nearly 20 years ago.


1. Allen Iverson as flash point

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson is pictured in 1993, the same year he was sent to prison for three felony convictions. (Bill Frakes/SI)

It was clear early that Iverson was destined for a career of headlines. More than three years before Iverson made his NBA debut, he was the subject of an unforgettable Oct. 25, 1993, Sports Illustrated article that chronicled a racially charged bowling alley fight. An 18-year-old Iverson was convicted of maiming by mob and sentenced to five years in prison. The NAACP and the SCLC came to his defense, and the justice system’s treatment of Iverson sparked civil rights protests in Virginia. Here’s a passage from Ned Zeman’s story:

Last Saturday 150 protesters marched through Hampton, chanting, “Free the Hampton Four” and “No justice, no peace,” and singing Which Side Are You On? All the police ringing the demonstration were white; only one protester was white.

Around Hampton and nearby Newport News these days, blacks are wearing FREE IVERSON T-shirts; graffiti on buildings reads JUSTICE FOR BUBBACHUCK. Members of the Bethel High football team have refused to talk to reporters, and some black leaders have contemplated an economic boycott against local merchants and the media.


2. Allen Iverson as phenom

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson averaged 23 points in two seasons with Georgetown. (Manny Millan/SI)

Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder eventually granted Iverson a conditional clemency after four months in prison. The electrifying guard went on to make an immediate impression at Georgetown, where he led the Hoyas to the NCAA tournament twice and averaged 25 points as a sophomore on his way to All-America honors. His national reputation as an unstoppable force off the dribble and instinctual scorer blossomed. So, too, did his role as a fashion trend-setter, as the combination of Georgetown’s gray jerseys and the iconic Jordan XIs holds up to this day, and will for decades.

As Jack McCallum noted in a Dec. 5, 1994, Sports Illustrated article, the force of Iverson’s brash personality was present at the beginning of his freshman season.

All speculation about whether John Thompson would turn the reins of his usually conservative sleigh over to quicksilver freshman point guard Allen Iverson ended when Iverson pushed the ball upcourt after both makes and misses, took three-point jumpers whenever and from wherever he damn well pleased, scolded his teammates when they screwed up, and in general conducted himself like the second coming of Isiah Thomas. Which he is. Never mind the ugly numbers that Iverson put up on Sunday—5-for-18 shooting (19 points) and more turnovers (eight) than assists (two). He is one of the most exciting guards to come along in years, and Thompson should be praised, not buried, for giving Iverson a lot of rope. If his young supporting cast (Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bull teammates never liked that phrase, either, but there it is) can keep up with Iverson, the Hoyas will be a factor come tournament time.

And how about this incredible one-liner from a January 1996 SLAM Magazine story by Scoop Jackson.

How nice IS Ive? Right about now, Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson says, “I’ve been to three calf shows, nine horse ropings and seen Elvis once. But I ain’t never seen anything like it in my life.”


3. Allen Iverson as Jordan-crosser

Few highlights stand the test of time as well as this one: Iverson, closing in on the 1997 Rookie of the Year award after being the first pick in the 1996 draft, unleashed a vicious double crossover on Michael Jordan, who was on his way to his fifth title. The play endures because it combines Iverson’s signature dribble move with his trademark fearlessness. Here’s Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News setting the stage.

On March 12, 1997, as his rookie season was reaching the finish line, Iverson and the Sixers were facing the NBA champion Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Iverson lit up the Bulls, tying a then-career high with 37 points, although the Sixers, despite a solid showing, bowed to the Bulls, 108-104. But what defined this game was one move, Iverson’s signature, the crossover.

He rocked Jordan once with a small crossover and then dropped the big one, moving to his right and swishing a 20-foot jumper just ahead of the flailing Jordan. The crowd at the CoreStates Center, anticipating what was about to occur, rose and erupted in joy. Our guy went one-on-one with the greatest player ever and our guy won, they were thinking. At that moment, Philly fell in love with Allen Iverson. He was ours. He was our David to the NBA’s Goliath. We had a star, too.

Here’s how Iverson recalls it: “I used to always tell my friends that when I get on that stage, I’m going to try my move on the best. I’ll never forget the play. I’ll never forget coming off the screen and him switching and [Bulls coach] Phil Jackson hollering his name, telling him to switch out on me. I gave him the first little one, and I see that he’s biting on it. And I hit him with the second one and I made the shot. But the craziest thing about it is I hit him with my best move and he still almost blocked it. That lets you know how great of a defensive player that he was.”

Video via YouTube user loklin88.

65 comments
lionoah
lionoah

Iverson's claim to fame in the first place was his game...he was one of the greatest ever.

The back story rebel and hip-hop icon stuff only mattered because he had game. He could only put out bad music because he had game. The tattoos, the press conferences, the 'attitude' and the conSTERNation it caused was only because he was a GREAT player with a tremendous heart playing basketball...

He was not a particularly interesting person though. His forebear was not Dennis Rodman as JohnOliverBooker asserts; we are talking about Tupac Shakur. Tupac championed the 'I don't give a f**k' attitude Iverson glamorized in the NBA. Tupac was an entertainment money-making machine and essentially said I will not conform, which Iverson merely parroted.

What did he ever say or do that was original? Ultimately, he never grew up because had he grown he would have known that at some point you MUST 'give a f**k', you must compromise that youthful invincibility/immaturity. He grew up after he landed in Turkey though it was too late.

As a basketball player, he was an all-time great. Outside of the basketball realm, he is a cautionary tale to our youth. The message is simply that nothing lasts forever.

JohnOliverBooker
JohnOliverBooker

Iverson was not a rebel until was safe to be so. Anybody remember Dennis Rodman? Iverson didn't have tats until Rodman took all the slings and arrows to make it safe to have them. In fact, who had tats before Rodman? Anybody in here born before 1998? Iverson was no damn rebel unless you were born 2 years before Michael died. This generation is afflicted with the shortest memory spans. Iverson was a food stamp ghetto thug who didn't know how to play his position. The standard is, and always will be, Isaiah Thomas--anybody remember him? He made his teammates better bypassing the ball. Please, are there any posters over 19 here? These are the same morons who compare Lebron to Jordan, who was a better defensive player than he was at offense. And, unlike, "King James," Jordan didn't have to move from a crappy team to win a championship--Lebron did! Sorry for digressing but I couldn't help it.

acash626
acash626

A.I. played hard every single game.He left it all on the court. That said, I was not an A.I. fan. I did enjoy his play in All - Star games because there he was more a team player. In fairness to A.I. his style of play may have been dictated by the team around him.

rodtoke
rodtoke

Don't judge him by him looks or thug image.  A.I. was amazing on and off the court.  One of the nicest players I've ever met...

The "76ers" should have gave him one more shot, cause he isn't ready to retire.

B84
B84

I love this guy. He put a middle finger up to all the stuck up white people that always say "stay classy" (think Peter King and most of you d bags on here). A lot of the stuff he pulled I wouldn't do personally and don't condone it. But with that being said he changed the NBA forever. Thanks AI.

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

i'm going to troll the hell out of this thread.  sorry in advance.

Ryan1
Ryan1

Over-rated

He was 5-10, playing SG when he should have been a penetration point guard. He didn't run the offense, rather he shot constantly and wasn't much of a passer or much of a smart player. He was entertaining and the guy had heart and toughness, no doubt about that and I respect that, but his will and desire to really want to win seemed limited. 

People may say he didn't have much around him, but the reality is that no one wanted to play with him. Jerry Stackhouse, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, etc - the Sixers didn't draft particularly well but the reality was that no top free agent swing man or top flight PF or center is going to want to play with a guy who doesn't want to give them the ball - and you aren't going to win a title with a 5-10 shooting guard as your top threat. 

As for him being a top ten player - he isn't even in that discussion. 

Jordan, Wilt, Russell, Oscar, West, Magic, Bird, Isiah, Kobe, Shaq, Lebron, KG, Hakeem, Duncan, and the list goes on - all guys who had better careers and won titles. 

DEJ1948
DEJ1948

The first tatted-up, gang-banging punk in the NBA.  I'm not saying that this wouldn't have happened without Allen Iverson, but he was the first one out of the gate.  This is a guy who had zero respect for anyone...including himself.  He makes Rasheed Wallace look like a choirboy.  Sorry, I don't care how good a basketball player he was.  As a person, he was and is a complete loser. 

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Iverson helped usher in the Ghetto era to the NBA, turning long time fans away from the game for good.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

He was a loser on and off the court.

LazareJeanBernardHatzakorzian
LazareJeanBernardHatzakorzian

Been loving "ball" for over 50 years, seen a lot of the greats. Grew up in Philly, saw Chamberlain vs. Russel, saw Jabbar, Dr., and M.J. .A.I. is in my top 10!

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

That's some photo at the top, Geri.  A title: "My Salad Days" ("When I was green in judgment, cold in blood (Ed de Vere (Shakespeare), A&C)."

Daniel62
Daniel62

Iverson, there were many better than you, but no one has ever done it like you.  His game was pure art and bravery forged from the hardships of newport news, where they just do it better.  Vick was another one.  They try to hold your type down.  There are many like you we will never hear of because the world can't handle truth.  But Iverson was the truth.  Brave.  Pure bravery.  They tried to throw you in jail before you even got to George town.  We almost missed you Iverson.  We almost didn't find you.  Thankyou Iverson.  There has never been a player like him.  Many players have been better than him.  Bird, Jordan, Lebron.  None of those guys could have single handedlly taken that crappy sixers team to the finals.  Not even Jordan. 

Robert85
Robert85

Everyone who wants to attack Allen Iverson is claiming he has never learned from his mistakes and will continue to be a violent person who does drugs and drinks.

I don't think this is the way the Allen Iverson story will end. I think he has figured it out and won't squander the rest of his life.

OK
OK

Why are you honoring a wife-beating drunk whose urinated away hundreds of millions of dollars and never won a ring on the floor?

You think a wife-beating drunk without a financial pot to urinate in and a ring on his finger is worthy of anything other than a 24-hour enema for the rest of his worthless life?

AustinZehr
AustinZehr

@JohnOliverBooker because jordan wasn' t on a crappy team. he had an all star and perhaps the best head coach the NBA has ever seen

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@B84 he changed nothing.  he simply magnified a trend.  and, it's not a racial thing that people dislike the guy.  he's just selfish, arrogant, and uninteresting.  colin montgomerie strikes me as the same sort of guy... and he never won anything either.  

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@Ryan1 

Not even in the top 50 in my book, and he loses points for thuggery and all the black eyes he gave the game. Celebrate him.........no way. Good riddance.

KurtSteiner
KurtSteiner

@SukeMadiq    He took that crappy Sixers team to the finals practically by himself.   Tough to call him a loser on the court.

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@LazareJeanBernardHatzakorzian ok.  look:  i'd argue that iverson doesn't even crack the top 10 GUARDS of all time... i mean, if it's ONLY point guards, he can maybe make the list...

michael

kobe

lebron

d-wade

isaiah

magic

oscar roberston

jason kidd

tony parker

derrick rose (yes, it's less absurd than your comment)

steve nash


i could go on.  you're up.

Ryan1
Ryan1

@LazareJeanBernardHatzakorzian 

A guy who didn't win a title and thought he was a SG - really - he is at best the 3rd best player in his draft class behind Kobe and Nash. Kobe has an mvp and titles and Nash has more mvps and made his team better. Guys wanted to play with Nash.


Wilt, Russell, Dr J, MJ , Kareem, all are better than AI, and so is Tim Duncan, Hakeem, Shaq, Isiah Thomas, Magic, Bird, West, Oscar, Moses - even in his era, among contemporaries, Iverson lags behind more accomplished guys like Kobe, KG, Shaq, Nash, Duncan, and Dirk in terms of what he actually accomplished. A lot of heart but he wasn't among the truly great players. As someone from Philadelphia, guys like Wilt, Dr J, Moses, and Barkley were better players

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@Daniel62 

Funny, really. Must be a misprint. Did you actually mean to say the "...the hardships of Newport News...?" You're kidding right? Iverson had three felony convictions and THAT'S why they put him in jail. They didn't try, they DID it. Given his near continuous problems since then, does anyone really doubt the validity of the first convictions? I have to wonder if Gov. Wilder has any regrets about letting him out of prison after only four months. And let me guess, you think Micheal Vick was framed, right?! And finally, Jordan, Bird, Lebron,... any of those guys could have taken the Sixers to the finals - AND WON IT! 

Ryan1
Ryan1

the 76ers coulnd't attract anyone to play with Iverson because he was a ball and shot hog and a 5-10 sg shooting 30 times a game isn't a selling point for a star swingman who is a real SG or SF, or a PF or Center who wants someone who will get them the ball.

And the eastern conf that year came to Philly and Toronto, the conference was terrible - beating Vince Carter and the Raptors didn't and shouldn't have inspired any confidence against the Lakers or the elite teams that were in the west then. 

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@Daniel62 it's interesting that you mention mike vick.  do you know who mike vick spent his first day out of prison with?... you're right, allen iverson....AND AI's (at the time) wife...at a strip club.  

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@Robert85 

Hope you're right but if he couldn't cut it WITH millions in the bank, I don't think he has a chance with only PENNIES in his pocket. IMO the things he blew his fortune on are suggestive of deep insecurities and self-loathing, with a convenient wall of ego to hide behind.

Dustin9
Dustin9

@OK he won rookie of the year, made the playoffs year after year and was an all star year after year... You like Kobe??? He raped somebody.. Birdman??? Child pornography.. Jason Kidd?? Hall of famer but was charged with spousal abuse and was caught with multiple drunk driving charges... Keep talkin about stuff you dont know.


Zebede
Zebede

@OK A.I is being honored for what he did on basketball court, not off court.

OK
OK

P.S. Golliver, sometime in the next 3-5 years, when the cops find Iverson's lifeless carcass and a crack pipe or 15 in an alley or cheap motel room somewhere, call me so I can laugh in your face.

KurtSteiner
KurtSteiner

AI may be a lot of things, but uninteresting is not one of them.

Ryan1
Ryan1

@ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI @Ryan1 

he is top 50 and he had a lot of heart, I don't knock his game for the off the court stuff, on the court he is a great player. There are lots of great players though and he was great in his era, he isn't a GOAT level player. 

Maybe the best scoring small man in the NBA, but against Isiah, Stockton, Nash and the point guards from earlier eras who played not to score but to win and against guys now like CP3 or Rose - Iverson to me doesn't have that will to win like they do. He played for himself, not the team.

Ryan1
Ryan1

@HerschelAnderton @LazareJeanBernardHatzakorzian

Magic

Stockton

Jason Kidd

isaiah

Nash

Walt Frazier

Cousy

oscar roberston

Jerry West

tony parker

This is just more accomplished PG

Wade - if you consider him a PG - he is better. I would put Iverson in like with guys like Tim Hardaway or Gary Payton - all the other guys above were champs or had better total careers

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@Dustin9 @OK 

Who likes Kobe? What exactly are you trying to say? Personally I think they all should have been fired for striking. But  "Keep talking about stuff you don't know." What does that mean? Did you mean "don't know about?" "Don't hoe about" fits better. For both AI and KB.

Wait a minute, me thinks me saw a Sixer fan.

OK
OK

@Dustin9

Kobe be known as Da Alleged Rapist.

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@Zebede @OK let's honor oj simpson while we're at it.  his greatness on the field has really been over-shadowed by some poor off the field choices.  do you not agree?

Daniel62
Daniel62

@OK But Kobe Bryants probably just chill dude in your eyes right?  Not a rapist or anything.  

ITATTRACTS
ITATTRACTS

@OK Anyone who wishes ill will on someone is equally as bad as the person they are trying to clown. You're a piece of sh_t too, congrats. 

KurtSteiner
KurtSteiner

Right.   So replying to me seems a bit pointless, eh?    Glad we agree.

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@KurtSteiner he replied to your post by saying that he agreed with my post (...obviously not yours.)  listening/reading some shakespeare might do you some good.

KurtSteiner
KurtSteiner

Hmm.   In order to agree with me, that would mean that I said the same thing, which I didn't.   Now THAT is interesting.

I am neither a thug nor hooligan, and I found him quite interesting.   I didn't watch him to hear him recite Shakespeare.   I like to watch him play basketball.   Tough dude.   Underdog in a big man's game.   I enjoyed watching him.

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@KurtSteiner 

I agree that he's not interesting. Maybe to thugs and hooligans, but; I'm not sure he can string more than three intelligent sentences together. Maybe that's why he's so brash. He's a great ball handler, but he's also a great ball hog and I just have a problem with that.

KurtSteiner
KurtSteiner

Go back and look at that Sixers roster.   Who was he going to share the ball with?    Nobody else could score.

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@Daniel62 @OK 

I really don't think that Kobe raped anyone. He did cheat on his wife though. But personally, he seems a bit of a whining preeming dong to me. Not a Kobe Bryant fan at all.

OK
OK

@Daniel62

The Laker's Punk is, first and foremost, Da Alleged Rapist.

ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI
ThomasWilliamEdgertonVI

@ITATTRACTS @OK 

He's just easy to loath. Come on, this is a wife beating thug. I won't go as far as wishing him ill will, but I will say that I can understand why so many people HATE him.