The revelation that LeBron James looked up to Michael Jordan as a kid is probably not one that is met with much astonishment — I mean, what kid from that generation didn’t?
But LeBron’s other basketball role model as a teenager growing up in Akron might come as something of a surprise.
According to ESPN, James to this day draws inspiration from Allen Iverson — for his determination as much as his abilities on the court.
"I watch Jordan more than anybody, for sure," James told Chris Broussard. "But I’ll watch tapes of A.I., too.
"I don’t take anything from A.I. Well, I do — his will. They say he was 6 feet, but AI was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen.
"You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after M.J."
It’s sometimes easy to forget just how amazing Iverson was because of the hard times he’s fallen on in recent years.
But during his Jordan-crossing heyday, A.I. was as dominant as they came, especially given his diminutive stature.
An 11-time All-Star and the 2001 league MVP, Iverson led the NBA in scoring four times and steals twice, and he never seemed to take a break, pacing the league in minutes per game seven times.
And he was as efficient at the rim during the height of his career as he was toward the end of it — though he’d probably just as soon forget this run-in with James himself:
LeBron and Iverson have a relationship from their days in the league together — it’s easy to forget they’re only separated by 10 years — and A.I. was somewhat clairvoyant in 2006, when he commented on LeBron’s rocky future before it became his present.
But now, given LeBron’s latest insight into Iverson’s impact on his basketball upbringing, it appears two of the defining players of the past 15 years of NBA basketball may be even more kindred spirits than once thought.