Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Derrick Rose need to thank Allen Iverson sometime in the near future.
Arguably the greatest little-man player in the NBA’s history, the now 38-year-old former MVP is reportedly going to announce his retirement in the coming days and many of the league’s young guards owe him a debt of gratitude.
The 11-time All-Star shaped the way we view the combo-guard of today. In a time before the league cracked down on hand-check rules, and "listed" at 6-foot and 165 pounds, Iverson took an absolute beating on the court when he wasn’t a blur to opposing defenses. He led the league in scoring four times, and carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals.
It’s fair to say Iverson was one of several influences to transition the league from big-man offenses, to guard-centric schemes. To say nothing of the cultural tolerance he demanded with his incredible play. Fellow No. 1 picks Irving, Wall, Rose, and other stars like Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard, wouldn’t have the ball in their hands as much if it wasn’t for Iverson. Coaches before Iverson would demand they pass, rather than score. He was criticized plenty during his prime, but Iverson most assuredly watches many of the aforementioned guards go right to the rim play after play unabated by the media or coaches.
Hopefully, he won’t be remembered for his recent child custody battle, as well as an ongoing bout against alcoholism and bankruptcy, a fate that should seem impossible for a player that signed $154 million worth of contracts. Sadly, it's true.
Instead, we should remember the crossover against Michael Jordan, the countless shots he had no gravitational business making, the passing lanes he clogged with his slight frame, and countless injuries he played through.
It’s also important to remember that Iverson might not have made it to the NBA if a racially charged assault case in his native Virginia had kept him incarcerated any longer. He was originally sentenced to 15 years, before he was granted clemency after serving four months.
Hall-of-Fame college basketball coach John Thompson took a chance, and a stunning two years at Georgetown led to the first overall pick in 1996 -- one of the best drafts in league history that also included Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash
Iverson’s career spanned four teams: the 76ers for 11 years, Denver for 2.5 years, Detroit for 54 games, Memphis for another three games, and a final stand back in 2010 in Philadelphia, who retired his jersey earlier this year. He wanted to break back into the league, but ultimately a stint in Turkey in 2011 was the closest Iverson came to professional basketball again.
Awards and accolades include: 11 straight All-Star games, 1997 Rookie of the Year, 2001 MVP, 2005 All-Star Game MVP, 24th all-time on the career scoring list with 24,368 points, 19th in career steals with 1,983.
Let’s remember the accomplishments on the court, and Iverson's overall impact as a player, rather than the private trials and demons that are best handled by his friends and family.
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