As another day flies by, we draw another step closer to Allen Iverson officially announcing his retirement from a league that he made very entertaining — for both good and bad.
With that in mind, you are going to see a lot of stories about his legacy and all the wrong things he did. Writers are going to tell you about Iverson missing practice, the infamous rant that came from it and how his jewelry and clothes influenced the NBA dress code. They’ll even tell you how he had little suburban children running around with braids, oversized shorts, headbands and arm sleeves.
But what they don’t understand is how he influenced the inner city. Some may say for better, some may say for worse. Nevertheless, he definitely influenced a generation of Michael Jordan followers.
While parents were out trying to be like Mike, their children knew that they could, realistically, be more like A.I.
The cornrows, the furs coats, the tattoos, the baggy clothes; Iverson looked like what they saw in their neighborhoods, just on a larger scale. Even the way he walked and the way he talked was part of the appeal. His “I could be you” approach spoke to kids in a way that Jordan’s sneakers couldn’t.
He wasn’t 6-foot-6. He was probably closer to 5-foot-9 than his listed 6-feet-tall. It made him more relatable. He had that everyman height, but was never afraid to chop at the tallest tree.
… like when he tried to knock MJ off of his pedestal.
The world watched Iverson cross Jordan over, wait for him to come back then rock him again just to hit the jumper over him. And we took it as a sign that you can have your idols, but you can’t let them stop you from getting where you’re trying to be. Iverson was the little guy with the pride and the heart.
No matter how many times he hit the ground or how many injuries he had, he still persevered. And it wasn’t just that. Iverson was actually good — no. 19 all-time scorer (24,368 points) good. Good enough to single-handedly carry a team to the 2001 NBA Finals that probably shouldn’t have made it out of the second round.
Iverson’s pride and skills did that; pride that might have been foolish at times, like being too proud to go to the D-League, too proud to come off the bench in Memphis, or too proud to latch on to a loaded team just to win a title. Being stubborn may have been his downfall, but it gave us the confidence to think that we could buck the system and make it out of areas that people thought we couldn’t.
I mean, you saw Lebron James say “I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here.”
So instead of pointing out all of his mishaps, I choose to look at the positive mark that the future Hall-of-Famer left on the league and a lot of its fans.
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