Allen Iverson Immortalized
Tonight the Sixers honor one of the greatest players to ever lace up sneaks in the NBA. Allen Iverson’s #3 will take its rightful place amongst the other legends of Sixers past, high above the Wells Fargo Center court. That court will never again see another Sixers on it wearing the #3, the symbol of a man who literally gave blood, sweat and tears for his team.
Tonight A.I. is immortalized.
Iverson’s impact, like other all-time great players can be seen in the statistics, but they alone do not do him justice. Sure, it is worth pointing out that Iverson is sixth all-time in career points per game (26.7) and that he was named to 11 all-star teams in 12 NBA seasons. It’s worth pointing out that he was the 2001 NBA MVP while leading the Sixers to an Eastern Conference Championship and a NBA Finals Game 1 win over a Lakers team that had not lost at all during the playoffs.
We can look at the Rookie of the Year Award, the scoring titles, the All-NBA teams and the Olympic appearance, but all of these things are secondary to the lasting impact that Iverson had.
A.I. connected to people. There are players who have resumes like this that do not resonate the way Iverson did and does to this day. He impacted the culture and not just black culture or hip hop culture, but American culture as a whole.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, you were hard pressed to find a kid that didn’t want to rock cornrows. Every little kid who just started to play basketball for the first time cared way more about perfecting their crossover than they did learning any sort of fundamentals. And of course, everyone had a pair (or multiple pairs) of his kicks.
Iverson connected to people because of his authenticity. He spoke his mind and whether you liked what he was saying or not, he was being real. He was not like everyone else and he did not fit the mold. His underdog status made him perfect for Philadelphia. He was not seen in the perfect light by the national media and neither is this city.
He may not have been the person too many parents were itching for the kids to look up to you. However, he still taught us all a very valuable lesson.
It is important to be yourself and to make your mistakes without letting them define you. If you want to judge Iverson by the bowling alley incident, the cornrows and jewelry, or by the practice rant, you will miss the true essence of who he is. You will also miss it if you judge him simply for his play.
I see the real Allen Iverson when I see him reflect on how despite the differences they had, Larry Brown was the greatest coach to ever coach him. I judge Iverson when I see him return to Philadelphia and light up the crowd the same way he did so many times during his playing days. I judge him when I see displays like in his second stint with the Sixers when he teared up at the podium and spoke about how happy he was to be “home.”
That is the man that is going to be immortalized tonight.
Iverson has a tattoo on his arm that I’ve noticed since I was young. It reads ‘Only The Strong Survive’ It was obvious that he embodied that on the court. But, when you look back at his career you notice that he embodied off the floor as well.
Iverson today clearly admits that many of his mistakes were indeed solely his fault, but he grew from them and they have made him the man he is today. His strength will make sure that he legacy will forever survive.
Tonight we celebrate the legacy of Allen Iverson. This opportunity will come around one more time in about five years when Iverson is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. When that day comes, Philadelphia will get its day in the spotlight alongside an athlete that epitomized the city perhaps better than any before him or after him.
– Ray Boyd (Follow Ray on Twitter)