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NBA 75 Series: #29 Allen Iverson

Updated: May 12, 2022

Coming in at #29 on my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is a trendsetter, a man who had the illest crossover of all time, played every game like it was his last, and is the epitome of heart over height, and that man is Allen Ezail Iverson! Iverson was born on June 7th, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia, to a single 15-year-old mother, Ann Iverson, and was named Allen after his father, who left them behind.

As a youngster, Iverson was given the nickname “Bubba Chuck”, and he dealt with a lot of adversity of a kid, from failing the eighth grade due to having too many absences, or his father like figure in Michael Freeman being arrested right in front of Iverson at the age of 13 for selling drugs.

Iverson would see plenty of athletic success and controversy during his high school years at Bethel High. He was a starting quarterback for the school, running back, kick returner, and defensive back at just six feet tall. Iverson’s athletic feats not only stop there, but he was also the starting point guard for his school where he would help lead them to two Virginia state championships.

He would also be named the Associated Press High School Player of the Year in both football and basketball, showing his amazing versatility as a dual sport athlete. Iverson would also play for the legendary Boo Williams AAU team in 1992 to help them win the U17 championship. It all looked great for Iverson, as it seemed like he was going to be named a McDonald's All-American in basketball, and had a host of college offers for both sports.

However, controversy struck and forever changed Iverson’s life on February 14th, 1993, when he and several of his friends were arrested for a brawl at a bowling alley in his hometown. Iverson was allegedly accused of striking a woman in the face with a chair that he was claimed to have thrown. At just 17 years of age, Iverson was convicted as an adult of a felony charge, and had to spend four months at Newport News City Farm’s correctional facility.

He was given clemency by Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder in 1995 due to insufficient surveillance of Iverson starting the fight. Iverson reflected on his time in prison when he stated, "I had to use the whole jail situation as something positive. Going to jail, someone sees something weak in you, they'll exploit it. I never showed any weakness. I just kept going strong until I came out."

And stronger is what Iverson would become, as he would go on to play his first season of college basketball in 1994-95 with the Georgetown Hoyas for legendary coach, John Thompson, a man whom Iverson credits for saving his life. He would display to the world his blazing speed, electrifying crossover, and elite finishing ability despite his small size. He would win the Big East Rookie of the Year, and be named to the All Rookie Tournament First Team. Iverson would lead the Hoyas to the Sweet 16, eventually losing to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

From averaging 20.5 points and three steals per game his freshman season, Iverson would increase his production to 25 points and 3.4 steals per game, being a menace on both ends of the court, while also becoming, arguably, the best player in college basketball at the time. The Hoyas would win the Big East Championship, and make it all the way to the Elite Eight, eventually losing to UMass.

Iverson would end his college career with the highest all-time scoring average in Hoya’s history, finishing with 23 points per game. He would be named a first-team All-American in 1996, and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in both his seasons at Georgetown.

Following his sophomore year, Iverson would enter the 1996 NBA Draft, which is in my opinion the best draft class ever. He would go on to be selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of other future NBA legends in his class such as Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash. Iverson would go on to have one of the best rookie seasons ever, averaging 23.5 points per game, 7.5 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game for the season, which ended in him winning the 1997 ROTY award. He’s the second youngest to ever score 50 points in a game, which he did in his historic rookie season and also is the only rookie to ever score 40+ points in five straight games.

He would earn the nicknames “The Answer” or “AI”, and changed the whole culture of the NBA game from the dress code, to wearing tattoos, earrings, headbands, arm sleeves, cornrows, and so on. He brought a hip-hop culture to the game, taking the hits and bumps from the media to allow players to express themselves in what they wear, as we see today with stars such as Russell Westbrook and many others.

Iverson was a mere 6-feet tall but played like a giant, finishing through contact and always getting back up. He had the most devastating crossover of all time, leaving numerous defenders in quicksand with his turbo speed throughout his illustrious career, including Michael Jordan, who he crossed in his rookie season.

Iverson would put it all together in 2001 by winning the league MVP and leading the Sixers to the NBA Finals, where they fell in five games to the Shaq & Kobe Lakers. In that Game 1 he gave us a historic 51 point performance where he stepped over Tyronn Lue, one of the most iconic moments in NBA history. He sadly never won a championship, but still became an 11-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA Selection, two-time All-Star Game MVP, led the league in steals three times, and somehow, at his miniature 6-foot frame, led the league in scoring four times!

He gave us the infamous “we ain’t talking about practice” and helped inspire generations after him, such as LeBron James, Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, and others due to his swag and the way he carried himself. He was the ultimate competitor and is arguably the greatest “little man” to ever play the game. If you have a problem, call “The Answer.”

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