Allen Iverson: Poster Child for Never Giving Up

On Saturday night, Allen Iverson’s legendary career was brought full circle as his jersey was lifted into the rafters at the Wachovia Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers.  But Iverson’s career cannot simply be defined by the symbol of retiring his number.  To fully understand just how amazing of a player he was, we need to examine who he is and what it is he about.  Then, and only then, can anyone truly understand what Allen Iverson did for the game of basketball.

As difficult as it is to achieve greatness in the NBA, regardless of size, even the smallest players on the court can make the biggest impact.  Allen Iverson is a former point guard in the NBA listed at 6 feet, 0 inches and weighing 165 pounds.  In reality, however, he is only about 5’10”*.  That little-known information demonstrates that his accomplishments are all the more impressive. Iverson was that guy who gave EVERYTHING to each game, no matter how insignificant.  He never stopped trying to prove himself on the court, even after so many achievements: 4-time Scoring Champion, league MVP, and a taking 76ers to the Finals in 2001 (almost entirely by himself).  That’s what makes him so great.  Not to diminish the abilities of his teammates, but Iverson never really had a good supporting cast.  Instead of sulking about it, however, Iverson took it upon himself to carry his teams through everything, doing whatever was required to win.  Perhaps Iverson’s former teammate, legendary center Dikembe Mutombo, says it best: “He had something burning inside that made him believe he was unstoppable.”

But Iverson wasn’t just a symbol of great basketball prowess.  He was a symbol of hope.  Every little kid who grew up watching him saw that even the smallest guy on the court can change the game simply by giving his all. As much as Michael Jordan is revered, Allen Iverson has always been my favorite NBA player.  I love everything about him and his game: his shooting form was flawless, his ball handling skills were beyond ridiculous, his basketball IQ was off the charts, and he always did everything with the swagger that could only be pulled off by Allen Iverson.

Yet, today’s game is seemingly different.  No more do we get to see amazing feats of athletic invincibility coupled with the fiery, competitive spirit that Iverson showed.  Nowadays, there’s a lot more embellishment to get foul calls, whining, and an overall lack of effort and heart (eg: The New York Knicks).  That is what truly set Iverson apart: heart.  He played every game like it would be his last, never stopped trying harder, and took all challengers with a smile – and often left them with a pair of broken ankles.  So, in that vein, I agree with Mutombo, but only to a point.  It was not just that Allen Iverson had something burning inside him that made him think he was unstoppable, he just WAS unstoppable.

*The NBA measures players’ heights while wearing their shoes.  Basketball shoes add approximately 2 inches to a person’s height, so someone listed at 6’0” would be 5’10.

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