We’re Talkin’ Bout Practice
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
Getting to know the man behind the oft-played sound clip is a tall order, but to fully understand professional basketball lure, it is a must. Through ultimate sacrifice, shear determination, and unwavering talent, Allen Iverson became one of the greatest, as well as one of the most misunderstood, basketball players of all time.
Iverson was born in Hampton, Virginia to a single 15-year-old mother. At age eight, he witnessed his first murder on the streets of his own town. Needless to say, the dude had a tough childhood that was compounded by an unstable home and lack of a father figure.
In high school, AI was classified as a rare-breed talent that only comes around once in a generation. He led the football and basketball teams to state championships during his tenure and orchestrated both at the most vital positions: quarterback and point guard.
They say there’s no such thing as bad press, yet at the tender age of 17, the fame and notoriety was starting to become more than a measly blip on the radar for Iverson. He was becoming a full blown star because of his athletic prowess.
One night at a bowling alley in Hampton, darkness descended on the bright career of such a promising athlete. After exchanging some not-so-nice words with a fellow posse, Iverson’s entourage engaged in a full blown brawl that concluded with three arrests, one of which was Allen himself. During the fight, Iverson allegedly struck a woman in the head with a chair and was eventually convicted as an adult with the felony charge of maiming by mob: a crime that sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
“For me to be in a bowling alley where everybody in the whole place know who I am and be crackin’ people upside the head with chairs and think nothin’ gonna happen? That’s crazy!” Iverson exclaimed to the press. “And what kind of a man would I be to hit a girl in the head with a damn chair? I rather have ’em say I hit a man with a chair, not no damn woman.”
Little did AI know, this was just the first time he would be misunderstood by the public.
Iverson served four months of the fifteen year sentence in a correctional facility in Virginia and was eventually acquitted of all charges due to insufficient evidence. This series of unfortunate events was certainly disheartening, but it didn’t stop AI from reaching his dream as John Thompson III (head basketball coach at Georgetown University) offered him a scholarship to play for the Hoyas.
Though he spent just two short years as a Hoya, Iverson made an unforgettable mark on Georgetown and college basketball as a whole. The man led his team to two NCAA tournament appearances, won the Big East Rookie of the Year as a freshman, and finished his career as the Hoya’s all time leading scorer (per game) as he averaged 22.9 points per contest.
However, after his sophomore year, Allen declared for the NBA draft, making him the first player to leave early under John Thompson III. This move was widely criticized by the media and fans alike, marking another point in his life where AI was unfairly judged.
The quick jump to the pro’s didn’t seem to affect the 6 foot point guard all that much; Iverson averaged an astounding 23.5 points per game, 7.5 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game on his way to Rookie of the Year honors for the 76ers in 1996.
After meddling in mediocrity for much of the 1990s, the Philadelphia 76ers were now a must-watch basketball team with Iverson leading the charge. In the 2000-2001 season, the Sixers finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and eked out a NBA Finals appearance thanks in large part to Iverson’s 31.7 ppg and MVP winning performance that season. Even though they lost to the Lakers in five games for the title, AI put the 76ers on the map and left us with this awesome youtube clip (one of many, of course).
In 2003, disaster struck the 76ers organization, and specifically Iverson himself. After all-world coach Larry Brown departed, AI involved himself in many avoidable incidents with coaches Randy Ayers and Chris Ford. He was suspended for missing practice, fined for not notifying Ford that he would not attend a game due to sickness, and refusing to play in a game because he felt insulted that Ford wanted him to come off the bench as he recovered from a back injury. Iverson missed 34 games in a tumultuous season that saw the Sixers miss the postseason for the first time in six years.
But Iverson wasn’t down for long. In 2005, the Georgetown product averaged a career high 33 points per game which is unheard of in today’s NBA. His determination for proving people wrong forced him to play up to his ability, and a killer crossover didn’t hurt either.
After a few more (30 ppg) years in Philly, Iverson was traded to the Nuggets where he teamed up with Carmelo Anthony to form one of the most formidable scoring tandems in the NBA. He experienced mild success in Denver, making the playoffs twice, but it was never the same as the glory years in Philadelphia. Ditto for his short stints in Detroit and Memphis.
Despite those hardships, Iverson always bounced back from adversity and did something to make you say “wow” every time you saw him on the basketball court.
His career accolades include an MVP award, 3x All-NBA first team, 3x All-NBA second team, 4x scoring champion, Rookie of the Year, and 3x steals champion.
When you have a player has good as that, why the hell do you need to make your teammates better at practice?