Latest News, NBA / Jun 7, 2011 / 3:00 pm

The Final Answer: A Tribute To The Legacy Of Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson

How quickly we forget. 36 years ago to the day, the legend of Allen Iverson was born. Only two years ago, the name Allen Iverson was relevant to the basketball world. Only five years ago, he was the icon, the NBA’s ultimate non-conformist. If the Fab Five began the transformation, Iverson was its eventual monarch. But now he’s a mere memory, swallowed by the unfamiliar anonymity of European basketball.

In Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, Allen Iverson emphatically stepped over Tyronn Lue after nailing a baseline J. That was Allen Iverson: 50% breathtaking, 50% swag. To the unenlightened eye, his brash and intrusive style was tasteless. The game of basketball was about making baskets, not celebrating them. It wasn’t about baggy shorts or impressive, AND 1 dribbling. It was about passing, moving off the ball and selflessness. Allen Iverson embodied none of these things. He was his own, distinct breed.

When he first reached the NBA, we welcomed his greatness but resisted his style. He was a severely undersized 6-0 shooting guard. He was selfish for refusing to succumb to the position his height dictated. He didn’t live on the outside as guards should, but instead recklessly slashed through the paint and finished around, over, underneath and between everybody and anybody. But he wasn’t selfish. He wasn’t trying to rewrite the script. He wasn’t trying to infuriate David Stern with his numerous tattoos or unprofessional game day attire. His cornrows weren’t a statement. Shaq may have dubbed Paul Pierce “The Truth,” but that was A.I. He was real, he was genuine.

The media says that it wants the truth, but it wants their truth. A figurehead of basketball idolatry. Someone to represent the ideals that no one can live up to. If David Robinson pioneered this movement, then Allen Iverson was its antithesis. Yet he was authentic. He was change on basketball’s biggest stage. He was a symbol, but not the actual revolution. And this was why Iverson was just as frustrating as he was entertaining. We wanted to blame him for the new, selfish, one-on-one NBA that slowly crept into the game, but he wasn’t marketing a brand. Allen Iverson played the game the way he knew and wasn’t willing to change. When coaches and GMs tried to bring order and structure to his game and off-the-court personality, they couldn’t because he was disorder. There was only one principle guiding Iverson’s career. Play hard, play my way. He didn’t turn his medical arm sleeve into a fashion because others thought it was cool. He thought it was cool. Iverson was just the first superstar unwilling to mold himself to the overarching and stagnant NBA culture.

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  • http://Approaching-perfection.com Loso_atl30

    Revenge for how stern forced him out the league. Dope article tho.

  • what_if?

    “Kobe may always be perpetually chasing Jordan, but Iverson is an explorer, unique and never-to-be repeated.”

    true on all accounts… and maybe it’s also the reason AI won’t retire the same way others before him did… coz he ain’t like the others…

  • http://www.versacourt.com/ Basketball Courts

    Happy Birthday Allen, I have been a fan of yours for at least 8 years and I don’t think you will ever be forgotten!

  • kdthunderup

    it’s too true – AI is one of a kind. nice piece overall. writing style itself mimics iverson’s own daring and slashing ways.

  • Kudabeen

    Hopefully he will find his way back into NBA arenas so he can showcase the parts of his game that are severely understated in his passing and ability to edify his teammates to enhance their confidence. He is still an icon to many of today’s NBA player. I don’t see how he doesn’t help a Thunder team or a Clipper team, or a more gritty team with athletes like Portland or Houston.

    It is funny that he had his best years as complete player and floor leader in his last few years with the sixers and with denver, then he was just tossed a side and deemed a backup for the same reasons why the bias toward him begin even after John Thompson showed us all his value as a Lead Guard who scored…his size didn’t allow less innovative minds to imagine him being on the floor playing big. Even though he did that his whole career.

    His attitude dictated much of where he landed, but Detroit and Memphis designating him as a bench player without an opportunity or respect to allow him to show his worth (which was apparent) wasn’t smart moves for either party at the time…Ah well. Never forgotten, but he will be put in that Wilt category, which isn’t good in that people find ways to not talk about your achievements to balance their own perception of what the game is or should be about.

  • barbosasamosa

    Great work Dylan! Always enjoy your pieces!

  • heckler

    Allen Iverson.
    that nigga.

    he’s that nigga that changed the culture. he’s that nigga that made philly bball beloved again. he’s that nigga that put reebok sneakers back on. allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s the nigga that dissed practice for commercials. that nigga that never accepted teammates nor structure. he’s that nigga that feuded with fans, media and coaches. that nigga that pistol whipped his wife. that nigga that made pat croce a name. allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s that nigga that couldnt fit with jerry stackhouse. that nigga that crossed jordan. that nigga that balled thru pain and more pain. that nigga who made #3 powerful and popular. he’s that nigga that did it his way.
    allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s that nigga that made cornrows ok for people like rip hamilton. he’s that nigga that made tattoos the new shit since rodman. that nigga that made tyron lue his bitch. he that nigga that made “play every game like my last” gospel. allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s that nigga that aint get along with nobody. aint friends with nobody. that nigga that said he took jordans poster off his wall when he got to the league. he’s that nigga that transfused hip hop culture to mainstream sports. that nigga responsible for slam and dime. stephen a smith and stuart scott. allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s that nigga that reminded us FG%s matter. he’s that nigga that lead the revolt. that nigga that reminded us that FG5s dont matter. allen iverson; that nigga.
    he’s that nigga that sent new trends. that nigga snatched your heart on the court. that nigga that gave you his on the court.
    that nigga. allen iverson.
    your nigga. our nigga.
    allen iverson.

    Happy Birthday,

    my nigga.

  • http://www.MVPresidesinChitown.com Chicagorilla

    @heckler

    Ive never been one to shy away from using to word nigga, but you just went off the deep end with that shit. That was mad ignorant and pointless. Its like you took a well written article then made it a piece of shit by your one post.

  • Tre

    LOL – BANG, my nigga!

  • rkirby

    @Chicagorilla I actually appreciated that @heckler joint. it was tough

  • iCARNACKi

    Good article. I will always be an Allen Iverson fan, everything about him. His reckless driving to the hoop, his crossing over of Jordan, his playing through any injury, his attitude, the fact he took a team that had no business winning 20 games to the NBA Finals and the fact he was the toughest pound for pound player the NBA has seen.

    He is one of the Top 15 players of all time, if he was 6″ taller he’d have been Top 2.

    Practice?

  • kennypayne

    allen iverson changed the game. They had to change the defensive rules to stop this guy and shaq. You could see the absolute fear in defenders faces when they had to guard him. Only shaq, bird, jordan and hakeem produced that kind of fear.
    While I would love to see him in the league next year, I kinda hope he doesn’t so he can go into the HOF soon.

  • http://www.wtf.com Chicagorilla

    @rkirby

    Yeh thats my bad. Im probably the only one posting on this article that doesnt think AI was the sh!t, but more like a piece of sh!t. Continue on with your misguided love for the one they call AI

  • Lee

    Yeah, he never quit on his teammates … unless it was practice. Oh, and the 42% shooting aint that great either. Tony Parker plays the same style and shoots around %50 and has 3 rings and a finals MVP.

  • Kobeeeee

    Would you guys also think that on a technical standpoint he was one of the best players ever – at least of the last 15 years?

  • Kudabeen

    @Lee

    Tony Parker?? One he doesn’t play the same style, because he plays with Tim Duncan and Ginobli…Not saying parker isn’t a good player, but what is he great at? Penetration (of teammates wives)?

    Out side of that, which is a product of great scheme and spacing what are you speaking of? Championships are a team accomplishment and he wasn’t the second best player on his own team for most of that…

    Parker isn’t a better scorer, defender, playmaker, or even finisher than Iverson…

    Parker better than Iverson for the Spurs maybe, but for those sixer teams…never