Allen Iverson: A Letter To The Man That Changed The NBA

A letter to the man that changed the NBA forever: Allen Iverson

Standing at six feet tall. From Hampton, VA. Pound for pound the best player to play the game. Likely your favorite NBA player’s favorite player. Need a hint or “the answer”?

I’m talking about Allen Ezail Iverson, and this is my ode to him.

In late March of 1997, you were probably somewhere walking around with your portable cd player, or Walkman listening to the sounds of Puff Daddy & Mase “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”, Mary J Blige featuring Nas “Love is All We Need”, Zhane “Request Line”, or Spice Girls “Wannabe”.

Likely, your only care in the world at the time was trying to keep your portable cd player from scratching while walking.

That is, until the night of March 22nd 1997, when the Bulls faced the Sixers, and if you didn’t care about Allen Iverson before this date, you did after his “Allow me to re-introduce myself” moment came when he crossed over Michael Jordan.

Back when playing “Snake” on a Nokia phone, using dial-up internet, taking pictures on disposable cameras, and watching music videos on TV were all a thing of the norm. Smells like 1999 is in the air, and this is the same year that I was introduced to Allen Iverson.

Before there was an Allen Iverson Wiki page made, there was me. Kids at school, and even some adults would come up to me to ask me different things about him, and like Dave Chappelle, I would spit hot fire like I was Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan Dylan!

When you think of Allen Iverson, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

From the cornrows to the…wait, let’s talk about those cornrows.

Let me tell you, my cornrows designs came from either Alicia Keys, or Allen Iverson, but mainly A.I.  

If he had a new design, you can bet your last dollar that I was going to get the same design to rock during one of my basketball games. Then, there were the tattoos, baggy clothes, headbands, elbow sleeves, sneakers and that crossover.  

The crossover was A.I.’s signature move, utilizing it against players such as Kobe Bryant, Stephon Marbury, Reggie Miller, John Stockton, Gary Payton, & Antonio Daniels – twice – in the same play.  

I remember watching either games, or clips of him doing his crossover a countless number of times so that I can emulate the crossover. Dribble to the left, dribble to the right, back to left – rock them to sleep – back to the right with a lean and head fake, cross back to the left, go to the basket/shoot.

The impact Allen Iverson had on me, can’t be compared. An impact that’s incomparable to the point where I think he should get royalty money every time a headband, or elbow sleeve is purchased. If you look up the word culture, the definition should simply be “Allen Iverson”.

My most memorable season of Allen Iverson’s career was the 2000-01 season. He averaged 31.1 points, 2.5 steals and 4.6 assists per game during the regular season, was named NBA League MVP and NBA All-Star MVP, and lead the Sixers to their first NBA Finals Appearance since 1983.  

My favorite moment from that season? Allen Iverson vs. Vince Carter in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Hard to believe it was 15 years ago, but I remember those two going at it as if their names were Tom and Jerry. The epic battle between the two players definitely lived up to the hype. Allen Iverson ended up averaging 33.7 points per game for that 7-game series, and on the night he received his 2000-01 regular season MVP Award?

Oh, he only dropped 52 points. Even though Allen Iverson and Vince Carter were going blow for blow, there was just something about Allen Iverson, it was his season. I remember all the hype (well-deserved by the way) the Los Angeles Lakers were receiving from the media, during their last 20 games of the season, and their entire postseason run, they were undefeated, that is until Allen Iverson came to town.  

Despite losing to the Lakers in 5 games, A.I. showed the world that the Sixers belonged in the series by scoring 48 points, dishing 6 assists, grabbing 5 rebounds and 5 steals in the Sixers’ Game 1 overtime victory.

After Allen Iverson’s storybook 2000-01 season, I remember his popularity shooting through the roof the next season. Fond memories of middle schoolers (myself included) all over the world sporting cornrows, headbands, elbow sleeves, and the A5 and A6 sneakers.

The A5 and A6 Reebok collaboration commercials with Jadakiss have got to go down as two of the most iconic basketball commercials ever, “Even on the court we stay fly, it’s Jada and A.I., go get the A5s!”

My home like many other middle schoolers, probably high schoolers, and college students as well, had our bedroom walls filled with posters, magazine articles, pictures, just anything Allen Iverson related. The thing I grew to appreciate about Allen Iverson was that he would rather be loved for being himself than loved for being someone he’s not.

I remember it like it was yesterday, 2005, the year David Stern changed the NBA Dress Code, and many player’s jokingly called it the “Iverson Rules”, but behind every joke, there’s a little truth behind it, right? Not saying he was the only player to have rock chains, tattoos, and other things that seemingly represented hip-hop at the time, but he was the most memorable.

I couldn’t grasp why Stern wouldn’t just let the players be themselves, that day was a bad one for me, as well as the day Allen Iverson officially walked away from the game in 2013. The words from Allen Iverson’s, infamous “We talking about practice?” rant runs through most of your minds, but the words that run through my mind?  

“Obviously everybody know why we’re here. I’m formally announcing my retirement from basketball. You know, I thought once this day came it would be basically a tragic day. I never imagined the day coming, but I knew it would come. I feel proud and happy to say that I’m happy with my decision and I feel great. I’m in a great mindset making a decision.”

I, too, thought this day would be tragic, but seeing the player I wanted to be like while growing up, not Michael Jordan, not Magic Johnson, not Larry Bird, but Allen Iverson happy with his decision to walk away from the game that he loves, made me smile.

Three years later, and we are a few days away from Allen Iverson being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

While I’ve never had the chance to meet Allen Iverson, I’d like to thank him for being one of the main reasons I kept a basketball in my hand, thank him for being the reason I was the player I became, and most of all thank him for remaining himself – unapologetically.

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