Allen Iverson entered the NBA as an electrifying Georgetown University guard known for his brilliance and defensive tenacity. There was no doubt that the Philadelphia 76ers would make him the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
While the skills of the AI at both ends of the floor were undeniable, many worried about his durability as a pint-sized guard. Stephon Marbury, who was the fourth pick in Iverson’s draft class, summed up the former MVP’s greatness despite considerable disadvantages in terms of height and weight:
“Iverson is probably, pound for pound, the best 6’0” and under goaltender of all time, he and Tiny [Archibald]. No guard you’ve ever seen [could] do what he did when he was little.
Allen Iverson quickly earned praise from NBA veterans and basketball fans alike in his freshman year with the 76ers. What stood out in the AI game was not his outside shooting. His dazzling handling of the ball has constantly thrown defenders off balance, allowing him to penetrate the opposing team’s defence.
Despite standing just 6’0″, Iverson was such a threat when he entered the lane that the defenses automatically collapsed on him. He was a daredevil who apparently had no respect for his well-being as he fought the night against the behemoths of the game.
For such a small player, hardly anyone embodied heart and will like Allen Iverson did in his playing career. LeBron James spoke about Iverson in an ESPN interview with Chris Broussard, saying:
“I don’t take anything from the AI. Well, I do – his will. They say he was 6ft, but the AI was like 5-10½. Do we even mean 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give it that much weight?
“And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave his all. AI was, like , my second favorite player growing up, after MJ.”
The game in the days of Allen Iverson was different from what it is today. It was rougher and deadlier to the point where the Philadelphia superstar often sat down during practices to give his body time to heal.
Despite the nightly knockouts, Iverson built an enviable Hall of Fame career and earned the respect and admiration of many.
Former 76ers general manager Billy King had to hide Allen Iverson’s jersey to prevent him from playing when he wasn’t 100% healthy.
“The Answer” was an integral part of the Philadelphia 76ers uniform as long as he was physically able to play. There were also instances of it playing even when bumped.
Billy King, the former 76ers general manager, told a funny story about Iverson’s undying desire to be on the field with his teammates:
“I think the game was in New York once and he desperately wanted to play, obviously at the Garden, but he was injured and couldn’t play. I remember saying to our equipment manager: “You have to hide the shirt because if he gets it he will put it on and it will be a fight not to let him play.”
While today’s superstars are heavy on load management and would often object to playing in back-to-back games, Allen Iverson had none of that.
“The Answer” was great because he never let a height and weight disadvantage get in the way of his desire to be the best.