Any Other Sunday.
Ann Iverson: “You going to basketball practice today”
Allen Iverson: “I aint playing no basketball, its soft. I don’t want to play no basketball…”
“…I don’t like basketball!”
A young Allen Iverson is running like there’s no tomorrow. No end to this path, problem or playbook. The row’s and tattoo’s aren’t all there but the heart and soul is. Everyone’s chasing him. From his opponents on the floor to all the eyes in the crowd on him. Some fixing him with doubt, others piercing with hope. He drives, twists and turns like that slippery when wet, tenacious juggernaut he is rocking to the stadium like Bon Jovi…the music this hip to the hop kid doesn’t roll with. Weighing in at just shy of a buck 70, probably that mark when sweating, he tears through the open lane, a flight-path only cleared because of his crossover potential to weave a wonder and thread his small, sinewy frame through any needle point. Men are falling all over him like he was a supermodel…he’s for sure a superstar. He’s leaving them for dust in the heels of his cleats. He bobs and ducks, leaving defender after defender with no fruit. Now how do you like them apples? Twisting and turning, ducking and diving like Ali, this kid looks like the greatest as he floats through the wall of defense and finds the last few steps it’ll take to sting like a bee. No cream can soothe this. They said he was streaky like a bad window cleaner. Weak like all someone in that position has left and not built for this game. As he’s about to score one for his team and his own legend, scoring over the opposition and every critic that tried to write him wrong this is more than just another “point” to be made however. Here it is, ‘front row seat, radio in hand, snacks by feet’. Everyone’s finally waking up as A.I goes to town. Round his back, all the way down to the ground as everybody screams…TOUCHDOWN!?
“Serious I never wanted to play it” Allen Iverson tells SLAM magazine, with a scoop on a conversation with his mom like only the journalism names of Jackson could get from the answer. There’s no question here. You’re not ‘Illin’ like a Run-DMC classic playing around with the great Doctor J, Julius Erving. You may now Allen Iverson from the court conviction of hoops dreams made into the realest reality. A man who overcame all the racist hate, playground level jokes and talk about his appearance and cultural shift that truly changed the game more than the overused, saturated term to show his game did the walking. A player who not only crossed over the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan, but the whole league and world too. From the dress-code to the cross over dunk trend of idolisation. An icon was born into the hip-hop/hoops soulful partnership that flowed off key together like jazz and we aren’t talking about Utah or Stockton. A man that bridged the gap between Michael, Kobe and LeBron with a different player that will for sure never be duplicated no matter how many young pup players try to copy and paste the artificial intelligence of your dawg A.I. A man that doesn’t need a great SLAM special collectors edition issue in his name or a gracious jersey retirement ceremony for you to remember just who he is and all he’s done. It’s personified everywhere in todays culture on and beyond the court. It’s still so hard to believe that he’s “retired” and not coming back one more time, like LL said…he’s “been here for years”. Are we really that old? The heart still beats for the soul saviour and survivor of purist poetry hardwood hype made history. A heart that showed he could go sneaker to sneaker with ANYBODY. Driving into the lane time and time again to paint more points that his outside J could still afford…but that his body inside couldn’t. Taking shot after shot and beat down after beat down from anybody to make his way to the bucket and the rafters some championship banners really did belong next to his number 3 jersey. This David wasn’t afraid of anybody, not even the Goliath daddy of them all in Shaquille O’Neal as the answer almost took Larry O’Brien off the Lake Show dynasty of Shaq and Kobe. Forget Tyrone Lue…Allen Iverson almost stepped over the entire history of the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise.
This type of heart doesn’t come with ‘practice’ (sorry…like Christophe Waltz we couldn’t resist). It’s something your born with but broods and breeds all throughout your life from what you hold inside to what you show to the outside world. It’s heart that transcends sport so much it can translate to any game…but make no mistake the talent has to be there too. Boy did this kid have some talent too. Before he owned the streets of Philadelphia like Springsteen as a Sixer. Even before he showed John Thompson and the legendary Georgetown Hoya alumni that their biggest players weren’t just the tower trio of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Not to get defensive, but when the latter mount joined Iverson in Philly for a championship run that showed them as the hard working, high-guarded, anti Shaq and Kobe dynamic duo, he could see that this guy was tougher than basketball leather for another run at a DMC homage reference. Pigskin maybe?! The Philadelphia basketball legend Dr. Julius Erving knew the order, even if Charles Barkley at first didn’t. We all came around. We didn’t need to see an awesome Jadakiss Reebox commercial to see that his “heart was huge”. All you had to do was watch some football. Some high-school highlights from Bethel high school that shine brighter than what you see in the trophy cabinet down their hall of fame for this Naismith lock. A hidden genius talent like Matt Damon’s janitor ‘Good Will Hunting’ you have to see it to believe it. He made it in hoops despite his size and even with all that weight and height (or lack of) you better believe it. Allen Iverson was an incredible American football player. Thank God for padding right? Let’s be serious for a second and change this statement up. Allen Iverson could have played in the NFL. Yeah, I said it!
You better believe it. This kid had two fields as the ‘Associated Press High School Player Of The Year’-in BOTH sports-led both squads to Virginia State Championships. Iverson was just this good when he was traveling with the ball when it was legal to do so. The Basketball God’s are glad he followed their path to hoops heaven on earth and not the adjustment bureau of the Madden world, but still whether you’re passion lies on the field or on the pine it’s certainly more than a curious notion to think what it would have been like if young Allen entered the NFL draft instead of the NBA one. All the history he wrote in his Basketball dominance wouldn’t have happened and that’s a cruel shame to even imagine but who knows what could have happened on the gridiron?! We may have been missing out on something just as special and/or stellar. Those people (residing in Minnesota of course) who wanted to clone Kevin Garnett as he could play all five positions on the basketball floor may have wanted to save some room in the machine for the fly off court talents of Iverson. He could have been one of the best…he of course still is but we’re talking about a different vision at commercial success like LeBron choosing the Cleveland Browns (“baaaby”) for his televised decision. Iverson’s playoffs may have not paid off with a championship but he could have had his Sherman superbowl moment from the braids to the front page…you can guarantee he would have dunked over the goal in celebration with every touchdown too. What could have been instead is what should have been in this superstars life, but looking through the glass of the alternate reality sliding doors certainly is as inspiring as it is intriguing.
They called him “electrifying”. An “entertainer”. Said he made the big plays on both ends of the floor…and boy could he ‘run Forrest run’ when given the ball. Sound familiar? They say that Iverson wasn’t built for Basketball despite him proving everyone wrong. Perhaps he was built for this game? Need more proof for your doubt? He was all state his junior year. The schools Q.B’s finest who could kick-off, punt, play running back, kick returner and defensive back as well as the quarterback position. This Point Guard of the first and down just knew how to lead teams with his driven desire the epic example. He did everything on the field, drawing capacity crowds of 200 off it. “Before there was Michael Vick, there was an Allen Iverson” they said. Now what does that tell you? The influential interceptions, stellar sacks and raw runs that followed through to the tenacious and triumphant touchdowns, this was an end to end genius that just knew how to play the game like the steal to smash lay-up line he made his on the hardwood. His seven interceptions at safety made a state record that still stands. This defence almost rests. Now THAT, like the player he was, was difficult to tackle. They compared him to Dion Sanders. Had him set for a different draft, until a Stern wind blew in. Still, even when it came to football, Allen Ezail Iverson was his own man with his own plan. Or maybe his mothers one. When that bowling incident derailed the football lane he was about to strike through with an undeserved prison term the future of his helmet and pads play was brought to the ground with a wake-up crunch, but this isn’t the reason Iverson went a different route. After following his mothers orders to go play basketball (boy, don’t you wish we all had parents like this?) he learned to love the “other” game he played as he hooped it up with his football friends. The rest of course-as you know-is history at it’s finest. Like the ‘Mr. Football’ he was named in the Virginia Newport News and the 1,423 yards with 14 touchdowns and 781 yards gained with 15 touchdowns that made him one of footballs top recruits and a Heisman hallmark if he had made history in a different game. We’re glad by the grace of the basketball lord that Iverson was called by the one true game that would become his. A same call that even without a ring The Answer will reply to Naismith one day. Still, throughout it all and especially in the early days this basketball superstar would always wonder what it would have been like if he followed football. Thankfully though this is all a notorious dream, instead of his B.I.G. reality. Still it’s a play that even Madden couldn’t draw up. One we’ll always touch back on even if the blind side can’t see.
“There are so many great offensive players. And to be a great defensive player that’s special because you’re stopping a great offensive player. That’s like a linebacker-if you a great linebacker, that’s serious, man to be able to get Barry Sanders every-time you want to. That’s crazy, that’s talent.”-Allen Iverson.