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End Of An Era: The Legacy Of Allen Iverson

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On October 30, 2013, I walked into the Wells Fargo Center and onto the Philadelphia 76ers floor. There was a sad vibe in the air. I, just like every other person that was fortunate enough to be in that arena that day knew what was about to happened in a few minutes.

I was about to witness the official end of an era.

As I walked up the 76ers floor, eyeing the podium that was being setup on the other end of the court, I slowed down and started looking around the building and up in the rafters, at that point I had a rush of Nostalgia. It hit me, I was in Allen Iverson’s house.

I took a seat court side and reflected back to the days that electricity would run through this building when Allen Iverson was a 76er, as a kid I’d sit in front of a tv screen and I could feel that electricity all the way in Vancouver, Canada.

Some of the greatest moments of my childhood took place on this court.

I was standing at the top of the key, the spot where AI crossed Michael Jordan. Legendary.

A couple of feet over: The moment when time froze in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semis(one of the greatest series ever), and the eruption from the crowd that followed Vince Carter’s missed fadeaway as Allen Iverson ran up the court with his hand raised:

I walked over to the spot where AI sent the Philly crowd and bench into a frenzy by dropping Antonio Daniels twice with one move!

I stood by the free throw line, I remember watching Allen Iverson scores his 60th point here as the crowd went crazy in Philly, he than walked over to the sideline and shouted “This is my house” (skip to 5:06)

For me and any other kid that grew up in the late 90’s/Early 00’s, this would always be Allen Iverson’s house.

The ankle breakers, the 40,50 and even 60 point performances, the game winners, the celebrations, the hand to the ear as the Philly crowd roared. The finals games, the MVP ceremony. There was just so many memories on this court.

I could go on and on, but the fact of the matter is every single night that Allen Iverson stepped foot on any basketball court it was a must watch show. No matter what! he would give it his all. A true warrior.

Heart over height; despite his small stature, Allen would get in the paint and rise up over the trees. Nonstop attack mode! he was ready to take 25-30 shots a night, he would play at a pace that was just so exciting to watch and he would keep coming at you all night long, he was down to go one on five, and at times he actually did.

He was absolutely fearless, a killer instinct that was on par with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s. Iverson would not back down, this man had a killers mentality,he truly believed he was unstoppable and wanted to prove it on every possession.

This self belief and supreme confidence is the reason despite being just 6’0, 165 lbs, he finishes his career as a giant. Just look at the resume:

  • 1996 Rookie Of The Year
  • 11 x NBA All-Star
  • 2001 NBA MVP
  • 2 x All-Star Game MVP
  • 7 x All-NBA
  • 4 x scoring champion (trails only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain)
  • 24, 368 career points, 5624 career assists and 1983 career steals in just 914 games!
  • One of only two players in NBA history to be top 10 in PPG and SPG (other player was Michael Jordan)
  • Career averages of 27 PPG and 6 APG, Playoff Career Average of 30 PPG(2nd to only Michael Jordan)

A first ballot Hall Of Famer.

He was an athletic freak, probably the quickest player ever. Many describe him as one of the most intimidating players in history, his viscous crossover had defenders looking silly, he broke down teams defenses. Guarding him one on one was like trying to hold water in your hands.

Iverson’s innate scoring ability was his greatest skill. His scoring touch was one of the most beautiful things in NBA history, the shots he would make and the way he would put the ball in the hoop was amazing. It was a joy to watch him.

There was never an opponent he faced in his career that could actually stop him. I don’t ever remember watching Allen Iverson get “shut down” or struggling to get off shots, he did whatever he wanted on the basketball court. The only person that could stop AI was himself.

This past week LeBron James said Iverson was pound for pound the greatest player ever, he than compared him to Floyd Mayweather.

“Pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player who ever played,” 

“Iverson reminds me of Floyd Mayweather,” James said, comparing Iverson to the undefeated boxer who has 18 titles to his name and stands just 5-foot-8. “You could never question Iverson’s heart, his will to want to win. A true warrior.”

James couldn’t have said it any better, Iverson was the Floyd Mayweather of basketball. If the game of basketball was an individual sport and was played one on one, than there are three players that would be on top: Michael  Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. If boxing was a team sport, Mayweather would not be considered top five ever like he is. Mayweather like Iverson has tremendous self confidence and he goes out and gets his! Both are small in height but were freaks of nature, they have egos and they go out and get theirs, not because they are selfish but because that is all they know.

Never in his illustrious career has Floyd Mayweather been shook by an opponent, neither was Allen Iverson. Luckily for Mayweather he plays an individual sport, Iverson was one of the best individual players in NBA history but he played a team sport and didn’t win a NBA championship. It was scary how good he was individually. The team he lead all the way to the Finals in 2001 was probably the worst teams in finals history, had he not run into the Lakers that year he would probably have an NBA championship.

As I sat down in my assigned seat for the press conference, other media, Iverson’s entourage (at least 12 deep) and family filled up the seats. Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Irving and Iverson’s coach at Georgetown, John Thompson took their seats.

Than walked in the man himself, Allen Iverson. Gold all in his chain, baggy jeans, fitted cap and all. He still looked like he was 25, he seemed at peace, but the joy and fire that you could see on his face in his prime wasn’t there.

He looked humbled.

The electricity I described earlier just wasn’t there anymore, there was a sad vibe in the air and you could see it on Allen’s face. No matter what he said, he and everyone else in that building knew it wasn’t supposed to end like, it was bittersweet.

“I never imagined the day coming, but I knew it would come,  I gave everything I had to basketball and the passion is still there, the desire to play is just not” said Iverson who had been out of the NBA for three years now.

It was a historic moment that I will cherish my entire life. I was witnessing the closing chapter of not only one of the greatest careers of all time but witnessing one of the most celebrated athletes of all-time say his farewell. Iverson was bigger than basketball.

He was a cultural icon that not only changed the NBA, but American culture as a whole. He did things his way, weather you liked it or not. He was true to himself and he never changed.

Iverson talked about his impact on the culture and his authenticity that fans around the world (especially from my generation) fell in love with.

“When I looked in the mirror, I wanted to be the same person that I was. I didn’t leave out my house and then turn into somebody else. I wanted to be me, I wanted to be the same person that my kids knew. I didn’t want to go home to Virginia and have my mom look at my me, like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I always felt like it was cool being me.”

Look around the NBA, Allen Iverson will live forever. Headbands, arm sleeves, tattoos and cornrows. NBA players have identities and its all thanks to this man. AI had swag before it was even a word. He made it okay to represent yourself. 

“I took an ass-kicking for me being me in my career, for me looking the way I looked and dressing the way I dressed. My whole thing was just being me. Now you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows.”

Iverson reflected on his amazing career,  he talked about wanting to be a better father and how he was happy with this decision. I knew he wasn’t happy, Allen had held out hope for the past three years that someone would sign him, he had publicly said many times that he was ready to accept a lesser role and play.

I asked him if he had been training the past three years and keeping his body in shape just in case a team did call him.

“No!, you want me to lie to you to make it sound flashy?” responded Iverson. “It’s not there anymore(passion for basketball), I don’t think about basketball, like I used to everyday when I woke up.” “You had your ups and downs, I got the best NBA stories”

Iverson did not get to walk away from the NBA on his own terms, he knows that he was blackballed but I don’t think he cared anymore. I think everyone in the Wells Fargo Center that day knew that this was tragic, even Allen knew. It was amazing and historic, but it was tragic and you could feel it in the air. This man was a king in the league, there has only been about five “faces” of the NBA and he was one of them, at one point he was the most celebrated athlete in the world and it hurt to see him go out this way. As great of a moment as this was, it was bittersweet.

But do you realize what we just saw?

We just witnessed greatness.

We witnessed something that we will never see again, there maybe another Michael, Kobe or LeBron but there will never ever be another Allen Iverson.

It is the death of the 6 foot shooting guard, (I stood next to Allen and can confirm that he is not even 6’0 feet tall). We won’t see anybody like this ever again, the league won’t ever be in the hands of a guy like this again. One of the most dominant forces in NBA history, the greatest little man ever.

The NBA  won’t ever allow someone this defiant to play, this man was a movement of his own, a true revolution. Allen Iverson was more than just a basketball player and he will forever be remembered.

When asked about his legacy, Iverson set the record straight. He knows he is one of the greatest players ever and doesn’t care about what members of the media that have never played in the NBA think about his legacy. “Tell me what the greats think”.

He has a documentary coming out next year, the next time we’ll see him is when the Sixers retire his number 3 jersey on March.1st and after that we will see Allen Iverson in the basketball Hall Of Fame in Springfield.

His legacy is intact, his resume speaks for itself. Anybody that has played the game of basketball at high level on any level will respect Allen Iverson, just like the legends of the NBA do and just like the young stars of today’s NBA do . He is pound for pound the greatest ever and his legacy will live forever.

Respect what you just saw, appreciate it. There will never be another.

By: Ekam.N

1 Comment

  1. hey

    February 24, 2016 at 3:57 pm

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