As he heads to the Basketball Hall of Fame many questions still abound.
What if the NBA fully embraced him?
What if A.I. didn’t clash with Larry Brown?
What if David Stern didn’t enforce the dress code?
When people hear the name Allen Iverson, some may think about him crossing over Michael Jordan as a rookie or leading the ’01 Philly 76ers to the Finals.
People will remember the braids, the tattoos, his uncompromising attitude and that infamous press conference. Practice.
Casual fans may know him by AI but true lovers know Iverson by Bubba Chuck – a nickname given to the young upstart from the inner city of Hampton, VA.
As a two-sport prospect, Bubba Chuck led Bethel High School to a state championship in both basketball and football.
Signing with Georgetown, he set the Hoyas’ record for career scoring average, as well as, winning Big East Defensive Player Of The Year.
Before going to the NBA Puff Daddy brought both Allen Iverson & Coney Island’s own Stephon Marbury to play on his EBC (Entertainment Basketball Conference) team.
Starbury ended with 20 as The Answer left his mark at the Rucker Park dropping 40 points.
He entered the league number one overall in one of the greatest NBA draft classes of all time, 1996.
Philadelphia embraced his blue collar, relentless style of play emulated by Russell Westbrook, inspiring tons of fans including a young kid from Akron named LeBron James.
He soon became the franchise player the 76ers needed winning Rookie of the Year & became the scoring champion in only his 3rd season.
While he wasn’t the first to embrace hip hop in the league he was undeniably a product of the culture. Shaq went platinum while Iverson was still in school and Michigan’s Fab 5 (Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson) was rocking bald heads, baggy shorts & wearing EPMD caps but most of the criticism of being ‘thuggish’ or off-putting was heaped on him.
As much as some executives and allegedly David Stern hated Allen Iverson being the face of the league in a post-Jordan NBA the fans clamored for more of ‘The Answer’.
Reebok capitalized pairing him with rap superstar Jadakiss in series of commercials for RBK’s A5 then A6.
Produced by Trackmasters the two rapping back & forth brought legitimacy to A.I.’s rap career.
Radio stations went as far to all the commercial to their programming.
Under the moniker, Jewelz, Iverson prepared to release his debut CD.
Unlike Shaq, CWebb or even Jason Kidd there was outrage from the inception.
With the controversial single, 40 Barz his lyrics were explicit and after activists and even Commissioner Stern objected, the album was never released.
A disappointing season followed the previous historical one Iverson held a exit press conference to provide an united front with the front office to quell rumors of trading him or his tumultuous relationship with coach Larry Brown.
What came next has been written about endlessly.
Instead of taking his full message of how hard he works or how he’s played through countless injuries the media aired a snippet punctuating one phrase about practice.
“Practice, not a game…but practice?”
He was demonized as not being a team player and that he should humble himself, even the 76ers coach remarked the clearly emotional Iverson was drunk.
What wasn’t aired was the fact that his best friend’s death was fresh on his mind.
Years later from the league as his Philadelphia jersey was being retired Iverson was greeted with a raucous applause from fans and players alike.
His affect can be seen currently, Westbrook is praised for his electric style, champion Kobe Bryant wears an arm sleeve Iverson popularized and the fact that a fully tattooed Kevin Durant can be embraced in an international league is monumental.
This year Iverson showed up to the Hall of Fame press conference and in this post-NBA dress code one thing was constant, his hip hop style.
Though it wasn’t as outlandish as furs this time, and the jeans weren’t as baggy he still rocked sneakers, diamond studded earrings, a cuban linked necklace and a snapback showing he still does things his way.