Hearing that Allen Iverson turns 40 on Sunday made even me at 20 years of age feel like I was getting old. It seems like yesterday that I was unwrapping my Allen Iverson jersey for my 5th birthday and immediately sprinting to the driveway to try and practice my own crossover in the hopes of following in his footsteps. Today, my NBA dreams long dead, I still search “AI highlights” on YouTube at least once a week. As other great NBA players have come and gone, AI is a man that is still a topic of conversation and the center of attention.
Allen never tried to be anyone else. He was always himself, occasionally to a fault. Sometimes people didn’t like that but he didn’t care. He always made up for it on the court. I often compare watching him in his prime to watching Mike Vick with the Falcons and for a few games with the Eagles: both were a bit undersized, took a lot of hard hits, and did something every game that left you speechless. Everyone knows that AI could score, but lots of players put up a lot of points. It was the way that he did it. He combined unbelievable quickness and ball handling with a raw determination to score that made him almost unstoppable. But that only begins to explain why he was and is such an icon. Iverson had such a swagger about him that allowed him to take over games because he played like he was the best player on the court, and more often than not he was right. People hated him for his overconfidence, but the bottom line is that confidence that sometimes made him seem foolish also allowed Iverson to demand everyone at the arena’s attention, whether they were rooting for or against him.
For some people, “The Answer” hampered his career by partying too much and having a bad attitude. I admittedly find myself wondering “What if?” far too often. Instead, I think we should be grateful now for what he did give us. Thankful for all the crossovers (Tyronn Lue and Michael Jordan, we haven’t forgotten). Thankful for all the impossible shots he made over guys a foot taller than him. Most of all, thankful for the hustle and heart he played with every single night. Happy 40th AI, don’t spend it going to practice.