What kind of legacy does Allen Iverson leave behind?
Allen Iverson is announcing his retirement. What kind of impact did he have on the league and how will he be remembered?
If you missed it, Allen Iverson reportedly will announce his retirement soon.
And with that, comes some reflection. An 11-time All-Star and onetime MVP in his 13 seasons, there's no doubt that Iverson will, or should, have his name penciled in on the Hall of Fame ballot when he's first eligible for in 2015.
It wasn't just the points he scored, or the soundbites he produced. It wasn't just the crossovers and no-look dimes. It wasn't just the step-back jumpers or fearless 1-on-5 attacks of the rim. Iverson was his own NBA subculture, a player that bridged the gap between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and then LeBron James. He reinvented the way we perceived NBA superstars, with his braids, tattoos, low shorts, no-holds-barred interviews, the sleeve -- Iverson was his own unique brand, and one that casual fans embraced.
Basketball writer Myles Brown put it this way: "LeBron James is 6'9, 275lb and covered in tattoos, yet he could be a pitchman for any product in America. That is Allen Iverson's legacy."
Iverson's one of the greatest scorers ever, but he represented more than that to a lot of young kids in the 1990s. For example, Kevin Durant, born in 1988, tweeted this Thursday:
Thank you Allen Iverson!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) August 22, 2013
Simple, but a powerful message. Durant isn't making a claim that Iverson's one of the greats or making a Hall of Fame statement or congratulating him on his career. He's just saying thank you.
From his time at Georgetown (thing I learned today: he won back-to-back Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards) to the way he stormed into the league after being the No. 1 overall pick, Iverson was destined to be an NBA household name. He established it almost immediately as a rookie in an individual moment that's as iconic as any in league history. Late in March of 1997 with his rookie season wrapping up, Iverson and the struggling Sixers were taking on the defending champions Bulls, and of course, the greatest player ever.
Iverson dropped 37 on Chicago in a losing effort that night, but also did the unthinkable. He crossed Michael Jordan.
That play has lived on some 15 years later. Imagine what Twitter would've looked like if it existed that night.
Iverson was a dominant scorer -- albeit an inefficient one -- but he was also controversial and polarizing. He clashed with his coach, the league and reporters. But he was also incredible, and did it all within a thin 6-foot frame. The 76ers' 2001 postseason run is something etched into the brains of anyone over the age of 20, with the way Iverson flung himself all over the court every single night. The heart, determination, passion, intensity and emotion. Iverson played with his heart and soul -- with a kind of tangible honesty. You could see what he was trying to accomplish -- and even if you weren't an Iverson guy, you'd always catch yourself saying, "Man, I just respect the way he plays."
When the Sixers advanced to the Finals to take on the defending champion Lakers -- a team that hadn't lost yet in the postseason -- it really was seen as Iverson versus Goliath. The only chance Philly had stood in six feet tall. And with his 48 points in Game 1, the Sixers shocked the world. It was almost as if the next six games didn't matter. Iverson slayed the Lakers on his own, and humiliated them in the process.
The fact they weren't swept was almost perceived as a win. Iverson took on the beast, and while the Lakers eventually won, his moment stomping over Tyronn Lue lives on as much as that Lakers title does.
So how will we remember Allen Iverson? What's his legacy? Obviously one of the most prolific scorers ever, a high volume player who was single-minded in scoring the ball. He had his demons, issues and problems. He had his too-candid moments, a career flameout in his final three stops (Denver, Detroit, Memphis and Philly, again) and run-ins with the law.
But he also redefined the game and helped carry the NBA from one era to the next. He was an individual playing a team sport, a counterculture icon that broke through to the mainstream. He was A.I., "The Answer," the crossover, streetball on a hardwood floor ... and he was "talkin' 'bout practice."
And he was one of the greatest to play.
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