Allen Iverson may have never been the best player in the NBA or might have never won a ring but one thing Allen Iverson was, is the definition of real. The Virginia native was an eleven-time NBA All-Star, the MVP of the 2001 NBA season, and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2016. Standing at about six feet in height Iverson made a name for himself as a primetime bucket getter with the ability to shift defenders with his quick feet and low center of gravity. Iverson’s career was filled with thrilling highs and harrowing lows and while you can debate if he really had the best version of what his career could’ve been, you cannot deny that AI was an icon.
Iverson’s impact on the game was much deeper than on the basketball court and any accolades he accumulated throughout his career. The bad boy label he received entering the league only fuelled the fire that led him to become a dominant scoring guard all while showcasing his personality every chance he could get. Whether it was crossing out your favourite player or having an entertaining press conference Allen Iverson was the man. The Answer did it his way and no one else.
When everyone wanted to sign with Nike, Iverson went with Reebok. When every player was trying to follow the image the NBA wanted them to have, Iverson, dressed like he always had. AI said what he said, and did what he did. That also meant Iverson only wore what was true to him and this is why NBA commissioner at the time, David Stern worked to make the league as digestible as possible. (mostly for middle-class white people) Implementing the NBA dress code also known as the “Allen Iverson Rule”.
The league wanted all players to ditch the streetwear in place of business casual clothing the league deemed appropriate. The more AI clashed with the NBA by being himself the more the media tried to write a narrative as him being a thug rather than Iverson trying to just be an individual.
The reality of it is that the NBA’s place in cultural relevance would not be where it is today without the hardships of Allen Iverson. Players in today's league are not strictly basketball players, they are brand ambassadors, business figures, and entertainment personalities. None of this happens without a player willing to be so unapologetically himself and make mistakes in order to be who he is. Allowing the next generation of NBA talent to never worry about being themselves.
NBA players and to be honest athletes today would not be able to braid their hair, cover their bodies in tattoos, grace a page like league fits or be the faces and voices of brands like Nike and Puma or even be able to voice their views on world issues if it wasn’t for Allen Iverson. There is a world where athletes have no control over their opinions and are silenced by their team and league owners. Allen Iverson allowed these athletes of today to be able to have their own voice, style, opinions, and ventures outside of athletics.
Because the NBA and David Stern put so much effort into demising who Allen Iverson was as a person, those who recognize his significance will defend him at all costs. It could have been someone else to cross the line but, it was AI who did so and for that, he will forever be remembered at the cultural GOAT.
Written by: Hector Nilo