What Allen Iverson Meant To Me

Apr 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson talks about his selection for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 during a press conference at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson talks about his selection for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 during a press conference at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Allen Iverson will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame this weekend

Maybe this article should be about Shaquille O’Neal, considering he spent his final NBA season with the Boston Celtics and Bill Russell is one of his presenters this weekend when he’s inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Shaq only played 37 games with the Celtics, and his production was minimal, but he was still a Celtic for a season.

But no, this article is about the guy that Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas hopes to remind people of one day. Thomas has always dreamt big, and there was no exception when he said he hopes to be “the closest thing to [Allen Iverson]” on an Instagram post earlier this summer. In reality, for as good as Thomas was last season and how good we think he can be, we know, Isaiah Thomas knows, everyone knows there’s only one Allen Iverson.

Iverson never played for the Boston Celtics. In fact, he was on the Philadelphia 76ers, an in-division rival of the Celtics, for his first 10 and a half seasons and the final 25 games of his career. The 76ers retired his #3 and he’s one of the greatest players in their franchise’s history. In 40 career games against Boston, Iverson posted 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

I’m just 20-years-old, born in July 1996. Therefore I wasn’t even born when Iverson rose to stardom at Bethel High School, or during the trial involving the bowling alley brawl. I wasn’t even born for the 25 points per game he dropped at Georgetown as a sophomore, but I still own his Hoyas jersey and you better believe I’ll be wearing it on Friday when Iverson is enshrined to the Hall of Fame.

Iverson made his debut on November 1, 1996. I was just a couple of months old. I don’t remember him crossing over Michael Jordan, and Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue is just a blur in my mind as I vaguely remember watching it. Yet basically singe-handedly bringing the 76ers to the NBA Finals and stealing a game from the Los Angeles Lakers is still outright amazing in my eyes.

By the time I fell in love with Allen Iverson’s game he was in his late-20s. I loved basketball and, as any young basketball player, watching NBA players score was the coolest thing in the world. I didn’t care about the Xs and Os like I do know, or all the analytics that take up my life nowadays. The fact that Allen Iverson led the league in minutes per game in five of six seasons spanning from 2001-07 didn’t matter to me, it was the fact that he averaged 30.7 points per game as a 29-year-old in 2004-05.

There have been plenty of great scorers in NBA history, even during Iverson’s career. Sure, he led the league in scoring four times, but every other year there was at least one other person who scored more points than he did.

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It was the way that Iverson did it that I fell in love with. There really are few things better than watching a six-foot point guard flying through the air for a dunk or an acrobatic shot. Being born in the same year that he was drafted does make it a little odd that he’s my favorite NBA player of all-time, I suppose, but the aurora around him and what he meant to the game makes it hard not to love him.

His cornrows, his attitude and passion, his drive and the fact that he was just six feet tall made it even better. Yeah, I’ll admit, I wanted cornrows growing up. I thought it was the coolest hairstyle in the world. However, as a small Asian kid, that wasn’t an option. I still dreamt about it, though.

Whether you want to think that Iverson had an attitude is up to you, but his Practice rant is still hilarious in my eyes and just exemplifies the type of player he was. Also, he has never been one to shy away from giving credit to everyone who has stuck with him throughout his life.

At the end of the day, he wanted to win.

I wanted to win, and Iverson helped me believe I could.

I was never the tallest kid on the court, in fact most of the time I was the smallest. I was that little kid with a headband (because of Allen Iverson) who had no muscle to his frame and looked like he’d quit and play piano within the year. But I was good as a kid, if I do say so myself. I was always one of the best in Park District and eventually played travel basketball for a year.

Me sadly bragging about my Park District basketball career has a meaning, though. At the time I thought I could make it to the NBA. I didn’t know about AAU ball and everything in between, all I saw was Allen Iverson in the NBA and I really felt that could be me one day.

Just like Isaiah Thomas, and any small point guard whose played basketball, Allen Iverson was inspiring. Despite being the smallest player on the court, he was the best most of the time. He was as fun as anyone to watch and it made me realize that height on the basketball court could be overcome.

Granted I’m writing this instead of playing in college or the NBA, however realizing that at a young age only helped me fall in love with the game even more.

The drive and passion that Iverson played with stuck with me. He hated to lose, and me being a sore loser as a kid, loved that about him.

Usually players who impact you the most are on your favorite team. Mine wasn’t. I wanted cornrows and I wanted to be exactly six feet tall when I grew up because that’s how tall Allen Iverson is — sadly I’m maybe 5-7.

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I watch his early career highlights now because I wasn’t fortunate enough to be around when it happened live. I’ve seen every amazing play he’s made in his career dozens of time, and watching him get inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Saturday will be amazing to witness.

Isaiah Thomas might be considered one of the best small point guards in NBA history one day. Although, whether you loved him or hated him, there’s no denying that Allen Iverson is the greatest little point guard in NBA history. We don’t talk about Calvin Murphy, we talk about Iverson and Nate “Tiny” Archibald when discussing great little guards.

Iverson helped change the culture of the NBA by just being himself, as well. He still dresses the way he wants to and talks the way he wants to. He didn’t change just because people didn’t like it. It’s why so many people love him to this day, and why his outfit on Saturday will be one of the most talked about things.

Pound for pound he’s the greatest player to ever play in the NBA, and he’s a testament to how smaller point guards can still be great. There have been plenty of great small guards in NBA history, but none dominated the game for as long as Iverson did. He paved the way for smaller, score-first guards in the NBA, and players like Isaiah Thomas should be thanking him this weekend.

So, congrats A.I. and thanks for helping me fall in love with the game. Thanks for being that exciting player that everyone was anticipating to make a highlight play every game. Thanks for proving to everyone that small point guards can make it in the NBA.

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There will never be another A.I., that’s for sure.