Without a doubt, my favorite basketball player of all time is Allen Iverson. I love looking up highlights of him on YouTube and being in awe of the passes and crossovers he did on a regular basis. With Iverson being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last night, I thought it was fitting to share my admiration of him and why he was so unique.
If you haven’t watched the documentary about Iverson, I highly recommend you do. It’s simply titled “Iverson” and it goes in great detail about his childhood and his time in the NBA. To the average fan, Iverson was a thug. He had the tattoos, the cornrows, and a rap album that was never released. Most media outlets focused on these aspects of Iverson’s life and not the true person he actually was. I always admired Iverson’s game, but I had these negative thoughts in the back of my head and it hurt how I viewed him as a person. This documentary helped me completely change my view on him.
The documentary revealed many things about Iverson’s character that I was not aware of. First of all, as a child, Iverson protected his best friend, a white boy in a predominantly black project. The white kid’s name was Jamie Rodgers and he recalled stories of his youth and how Iverson protected him. Iverson loved to teach Rodgers sports tricks. This included throwing a football, catching a football, shooting a basketball, and spinning a basketball on one finger.
After failing the eighth grade, Iverson moved out of the projects and into the suburbs to live with his football coach. When his coach, Gary “Mo” Moore, found out Iverson missed 69 days of school, Moore grabbed Iverson and threw him on top of a car. “I wasn’t going to allow him to fail,” Moore said. This gave Iverson a huge wake up call, as Iverson never failed a class after that encounter.
A huge event in Iverson’s life that I was not aware of was that Iverson was wrongly convicted of a crime that he did not commit. After a 1993 fight started in a bowling alley between a group of white people and Iverson’s friends, Iverson was identified as the main assailant. But cameras in the bowling alley clearly showed him leaving the scene.
Iverson was still put to trial as an adult even though he was 17. Iverson was a national recruit in not only basketball, but football as well. He faced up to 60 years in prison. He was sentenced to 15 years, but 10 were suspended so he was going to spend five years in prison. People wanted to make an example of him and fans almost lost one of the most exciting players the game of basketball has ever seen because of it.
Eventually, Iverson was granted conditional pardon by the governor of Virginia and he was free from prison. Iverson’s time in prison scared away a lot of colleges and Iverson had a tough path ahead of him. In fact, Georgetown didn’t actually recruit him; Iverson’s mother convinced coach John Thompson to let him join the team. Thompson was hesitant at first but would eventually allow Iverson to join the team as a walk on. Iverson would light up the college stage and get drafted number one overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
I could go on and on about different moments in Iverson’s career. Whether it was stepping over Tyronn Lue or crossing up Michael Jordan, Iverson left a legacy that will never be forgotten. It seems like every NBA player today has the headband, an arm sleeve, and many colors and shapes of tattoos running across their bodies. This all started with Allen Iverson.
Iverson never played with fear, which was something I always admired about him. He was a little warrior that played among giants. He was only six feet tall and 160 pounds soaking wet. Despite this, Iverson balled every night and broke many ankles in the process.
Say what you want about him, but like it or not there will never be another player like Allen Iverson.