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Allen Iverson, a Legend

Photo by W_伦 via Flickr

NBA

Growing up, I was always told ” You know who has the best handles ever? It’s Allen Iverson. Man, he was so good, he crossed Jordan up!”

That was the first way I boxed Iverson up as a young man – the NBA star with the best handles.

As I grew into my teen years, I started playing basketball on teams. As you well know, to improve your skill, basketball, and anything else for that matter, requires something called practice.

14 years ago Iverson infamously said in a press conference, “I’m talking about practice. Practice. Not a game, practice.”

Countless times, over and over, my friends and I would mock Iverson.

“Who wants to practice? And if the best of them doesn’t want to, why should we practice?”

That is the second way I boxed Iverson up – the man who thought he was too good to practice. He didn’t need to improve his game. He thought himself adequate for the job.

These two things, these opinions I formed of a man I never even watched play, made me make Allen Iverson this man, who was too good for his own self.

As I saw it, he didn’t lead a team to a championship. His practice rant screamed of his apathy.

Why should we look up to a man who not only wasn’t good enough, but didn’t care to even practice to become better?

Then, I stumbled on “Iverson,” the documentary of his life.

I turned it on, I’m always interested in documentaries of famous sports figures.

I watched the entire movie through. I felt different waves of emotions throughout. Anger. Empathy. Joy. Sorrow. Frustration.

You can pick apart any person’s life just by what the couple of things defines them as “famous.”

But when you really tear open the tunnel vision of lies and assumptions people had fed me concerning Iverson, I learned one thing.

A.I.

On June 7, 1975, a legend was born.

This legend poor as dirt grew up in Hampton, Virgina, in a still socially segregated part of the United States.

His power of will and strive for greatness kept him away from cocaine and all other recreational drugs.

This man blew his competition away as young man.

His Junior year at quarterback and point guard he won the Associate Press’s High School Player lettering in both football and basketball. He won Bethel High state championships in both sports his Junior year.

His Senior year, I learned, may have been the hardest year of his life.

After being in a bowling alley, where Iverson and his 3 friends we’re playing a few games, a white against black fight broke out.

After a woman claimed he had hit a lady over the head with a chair, Iverson was given a 15 year sentence on a scandalous felony charge of “maiming my mob.”

Some speculate that he and his friends were only charged, because they were scapegoats. This young man was the town celebrity. If young and succesful black athlete could be locked up, many people have claimed that the white crowd in Hampton would’ve gloated in his sentencing.

Fortunately, Iverson was granted a pardon by the Governor of Virginia, Douglas Wilder at the time.

Without this pardon, Iverson would’ve been locked for 15 years!

For his speculative participation in a “hate mob” that no other man or woman, black or especially white, was charged with a felony for their participation in this “mob.”

Iverson then finished his final year of High School away from Bethel, from which he was not allowed to study at no more.

Iverson then went to Georgetown for two years, averaging a Hoya’s record 22.9 points per game, while leading his team deep into March Madness each year, his first year the Sweet 16, the next year the Elite 8.

Then, after dropping out of Georgetown after his sophomore year to take care of his family, Iverson signed an endorsement deal with Rebook, and then was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number 1 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.

His first year in the league, Allen Iverson averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.1 steals, on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year. To put this into perspective, in Stephen Curry’s 14/15 MVP  season, his stat line was 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 2.0 steals.

Iverson took the league by storm, and into his 6th year he was found in what was found in the “practice scandal.”

Why did Iverson miss practice that day? Because he was attending his best friends funeral!

Because Iverson got upset that the media was pestering him about not attending practice, he went onto that practice rant.

Now today we mock and poke fun at a man’s emotions over his best friends funeral.  Especially after all Iverson has been through, this is a very poor representation of who Iverson is.

People may look at Iverson’s stats for the rest of his career, to sum up his legacy.

Sure, he was able to take away one game from the Lakers in the first game of the 2001 NBA Finals, while dropping 48. But then the 76ers were swept. His legacy will never be about his playoff sucess (even though he led the 76ers there seemingly every year)

Iverson won 3 scoring titles. was an 11 time All-Star, and had an MVP. These are things that we look to see if a man is “great” in his sport, if he should be a Hall of Famer.

But what should make Iverson great is who he is. What he had to fight through his whole entire life. He had to grow up the poorest of the poor, while saying no to the temptations of drugs. He was sent to jail, because of his name and the color of his skin.

When he got to the NBA, he got cornrows,  wore chains and acted like no other basketball player had before.

In fact, David Stern made a dress code for NBA players because players like Iverson were considered to be bad examples for children. His own league wanted to squash the way he expressed himself.

If we cannot honor and respect a man who persevered through trials and hardship. If we turn his own name into the equivalent of “lazy, practice is stupid, look I’m a rapper,” stereotype, we can’t even see legacy when it’s staring us straight in the face.

Because this man also ended his chances of pursuing his career at the age of 35, to raise his 3 children. He took the last prime years of his basketball life and humbled his own self.

On this father’s day weekend, Allen Iverson’s legacy should be remembered as a sensational athlete, a survivor of discrimination, a persevere, a trend setter, and even a father.

We should remember these things. Not because he entertained fans across the world. Not because he made millions of dollars. Not even because he has an inspiring past. It’s because his entire life’s story tells us this.

On June 7, 1975, a legend was born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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