By David Jordan Jr
Today the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame will immortalize Allen Iverson forever with his induction into the greatest basketball fraternity ever. “The Answer” played every game like it was his last and played the game his way. All out, full of confidence and overflowing with passion and enthusiasm, Allen Iverson transcended the game of basketball not only with his talent, but with his aura. His approach to the game was simple; KILL. Each time Iverson stepped on the court, it was understood that his opponent was in for a long night and was subject to become a highlight on SportsCenter. The God given talent was visible to anybody that had the privilege to watch him play, yet it was his passion for the game which truly connected us all to him. “The Answer” is 6’0 ( and that’s a stretch) and played between 160 and 165lbs, yet it was his exploits at this size that showed the world that anything is possible. Bethel High School provided the launching pad for greatness. It was at Bethel High where Allen first burst onto the national scene not only as a basketball prodigy but also as a phenomenal quarterback for Bethel’s football team, leading both the football and basketball team’s to state championships in the same year. We all know the events which took place during his high school years which could have derailed his life or permanently silenced Allen Iverson to the world, but his triumph over adversity is what makes his success inspiring. In an interview Iverson a few years ago said the things he encountered were because “God said go through it” and that he never questioned the things God allowed to happen in his life. God often gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers and through everything Allen Iverson has proven to be one of the toughest soldiers on earth.
Georgetown University and Men’s basketball coach John Thompson provided the perfect (and only) opportunity for Iverson to fully blossom on the court and to develop as a man. Thompson realized not only the enormous talent which Iverson possessed, but he also understood all of the things both good and bad that would be before Allen on the court and off the court and he prepared him for those things during his two years at Georgetown. Upon entering the NBA, his way of playing was not embraced by all of his peers and critics alike. The labels given to him not only for his on court play early in his career and his off court persona were unfairly given to him, yet it was his not conforming to what other people thought he should be that enabled Allen to connect with the world on a massive level. The braids, the tatts, the ice and the authenticity were things that in the late 90s and early 2000s were not embraced by many; fast forward to 2016 and each of the aforementioned things you see in the game of basketball across the world. Before Allen Iverson’s arrival into the NBA you couldn’t create a player on a video game with corn rows or tattoos and you definitely did not see a player in any sport tatted up as the poster boy for a video game series (Shout out to NBA 2K for making Allen Iverson their cover guy for the first five installments of their video game series).
Authenticity in A.I. could also be seen in one of the greatest sneaker commercials ever; “The A5” was brought to the world with Jadakiss and trackmasters in a hip hop inspired Rebook shoe commercial that shook up the world and connected hip and basketball on another level. Basketball and hip hop have always been intertwined with each other, but the best player in the world joining forces with one of the top lyricists in the world proved to be the perfect combo. Interviews with Allen Iverson over the years contain the same authenticity and sincerity; true words, real feelings and a sense of self are consistent in all of his interactions with the world. The things which some people did not like or couldn’t accept about Allen Iverson are the very things which enabled him to transcend the game of basketball on the court and the way many people carry themselves and live their lives off of the court. Twenty years ago a person with tattoos and cornrows would standout as being totally different from the norm, yet today you will find people from all walks of life in all professions and of all ethnicicites sporting corn rows with bodies adorned in tattoos. Iverson wore braids because he wanted to and got tattoos because he wanted to; the world followed suit beacuse he showed us all that there is nothing wrong with being yourself. The Allen Iverson effect is much bigger than basketball; basketball provided a stage for him to perform and it also gave the world a window into the man he is and how it is essentially priceless to be true to oneself. Congratulations on the enshrinement A.I. #TheAnswer