NBA Legends Explain How Good Allen Iverson Really Was

NBA Legends explain how good Allen Iverson really was.
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and more talk about Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson overcame early legal problems to become a star basketball player at Georgetown and the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. A tremendous scorer despite his small stature, Iverson was named NBA MVP in 2001 and earned 11 All-Star selections, but was also criticized for selfish play and several off-the-court transgressions. He retired from the sport in 2013, and was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Early Life
Allen Ezail Iverson was born on June 7, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia, to Ann Iverson. A single, teenage mom, Ann moved with her infant son to the Newport News, Virginia, apartment of new boyfriend Michael Freeman, who became the father figure in Iverson’s life. However, Freeman was arrested in 1991 for dealing drugs, and Iverson and his sisters soon had to endure deplorable living conditions at home.

For all the hardship, Iverson proved a gifted athlete. He led Bethel High School to basketball and football state titles as a junior, earning AP high school athlete of the year honors for both sports. However, his promise was nearly derailed by his involvement in a bowling alley brawl in February 1993. Despite differing accounts of what transpired — Iverson claimed he left before the fighting even started — he was convicted of three felony counts and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Iverson was released after serving four months after Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder granted him conditional clemency, and he earned the chance to play for Georgetown University men’s basketball coach John Thompson. Iverson rewarded Thompson’s faith with his stellar play, averaging 22.9 points per game and twice winning the conference defensive player of the year award. As a sophomore, he led the Hoyas to a berth in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament and was named a First-Team All American. He was then selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.

NBA Stardom and Criticism
Iverson quickly became one of the NBA’s must-see spectacles. Barely 6 feet tall, he blew past defenders with his blinding speed and fearlessly attacked the much larger players guarding the basket. With an average of 23.5 points and more than two steals per game, he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year.

He also became one of the league’s most polarizing players. Critics pointed to his missed shots and turnovers, and wondered why, as a point guard, he wasn’t passing the ball to his teammates. To some, he became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the NBA, his selfish play marking the demise of fundamental basketball, and his tattoos and cornrows celebrating its proliferation of street culture. Iverson embraced that image by releasing the rap single “40 Bars” in 2000, and bolstered it with his arrests in 1997, on misdemeanor marijuana and gun charges, and in 2002, on more serious gun charges (that were eventually dropped).

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