The video above might be the best sports memory of my life. Yes, even moreso than Brad Lidge striking out Eric Hinske to win the World Series in 2008. Iverson hitting a game winning shot in a series the Sixers would eventually lose was the pinnacle of my childhood sports memories. There was something about the Sixers run in 2001 that brought a static electricity to the city, and it was all because of Iverson.
A.I. made his mark early. When he crossed over Jordan, it was his announcement. M.J. wasn’t done yet, but the league was put on notice. Some punk kid with braids, tattoos and chains was about to take the league in a very different direction than Michael “Republicans buy shoes too” Jordan.
Every part of Bubba Chuck’s career was exciting. Never was someone so polarizing. Never did a team rely on a player as much as Larry Brown’s Sixers relied on Iverson. Rarely has someone been surrounded with less talent and produced more. Sure there was a smattering of Mutumbos, McKies and Igoudalas, but for every one of those there was a Matt Harpring, a Matt Geiger, a Keith Van Horn.
The Flight Brothers stint in his career begat one of the best marketing campaigns in NBA history.
And just to prove they still had the juice, Iverson found Larry Hughes at a charity game this year to reenact the play.
Most of what I loved about Iverson was his “fuck you” attitude. An attitude that clearly manifested itself off the court, stemming from his pre-college brawl that almost ended everything. An attitude that rankled David Stern so much that he enacted a dress code to put the kibosh on the fresh white shirt-dress that Iverson wore before each game. But also, an attitude that made him one of the most dynamite players to watch.
My favorite “fuck you” moment of Iversons? A meaningless shot after the whistle, right after Dwight Howard tried to throw off his rhythm by blocking his practice jumper. Oh, you want to block my shot? Fuck you.
Every crossover was a fuck you. Jacque Vaughn? Fuck you.
Antonio Daniels? Fuck you.
And yeah, his attitude did get him in some trouble, but let’s remember, we were talking about PRACTICE. Not the game. Practice.
The stories off the court are just as good. Buying new clothes every road trip and just leaving the old ones in his hotel room. Brandishing the burner at his baby’s mom and the ensuing legal hullabaloo. The strippers. His rap album. The $40,000 tabs at the TGI Fridays on City Line Ave.
I went into that Fridays a couple of weeks ago, hoping just to sniff some of the second hand nostalgia that must have been lingering from Iverson. I was in for a treat: not only was the nostalgia there, The Answer was there himself. Sitting at a high top table by the railing next to the DJ booth, my favorite basketball player ever was just getting loaded at his old haunt, accepting the adulation and adoration of his still-loyal fans like Don Corleone on his daughter’s wedding day.
I didn’t approach him. “Let the legend live,” I thought. It would be stupid to tell him how much he changed my life, because he probably knows already. Everyone in Philly, everyone who was watching at all, was affected by him. Whether you had the zip up Reeboks (red or blue) that everyone had, or for every human that wore tire tread cornrows (I thought about it), it was all because of Iverson.
In this interview with Jadakiss, he tries to list his top 5 players and the list spills to 9 or 10 names. For me, it’s just one name in a Dylan-esque list. Iverson Iverson Iverson Iverson and Iverson.
He was a highlight reel every night. As much as a diva as people thought him to be, he was always on the floor scrounging for loose balls, giving everything for the game he loved.
So enjoy the Hall, Allen. You deserve every second of it. And show up as late as you want buddy. One last “fuck you” to ‘em all. It’s too bad that we’ll never have one like him again. Unless…