Where do I begin? With all that has happened this season with Allen Iverson, and all that has happened in his career, it is tough to not write a Bill Simmons-length article. I’ll try and keep it short and sweet, kind of like his follow through. I guess we’ll start with the basics. This is an authentic Allen Iverson jersey from his rookie season in 1996-97. He was the hottest thing out of DC in some time, having played exciting college ball for the Georgetown Hoyas (let’s get ’em this year, boys). Iverson was actually the #1 pick from the historic draft class of 1996. Fast-forward 14 years: Iverson left two different franchises this season for personal reasons and now Iverson’s wife is filing for divorce. It’s not our job to talk about the here and now, though, not when we are supposed to be salivating over this nostaligic piece of of rookie memorabelia.
Despite Iverson’s ups and downs throughout his career, his reunion this season with Philadelphia was fleetingly heart-warming and he still is among the select group of veterans who truly deserve an NBA championship before they retire. Because this is a rookie jersey from the Sixers, I feel obligated to focus on Iverson’s days as a 76er, especially his earlier years. When reviewing Iverson’s rookie season, one video is etched into many fans’ minds.
This video is more signifcant than just a young Iverson crossing-up an older Jordan–it represents not only the passing of the torch in guard-suprestardum, but also exemplifies the stylistic difference between Jordan and Iverson and furthermore, the stylistic difference between the Jordan era and the post-Jordan era. Iverson, fresh into the L, demonstrates his I-don’t-give-a-f**k swagger by crossing over none other than Michael Freakin’ Jordan in extended isolation. This swagger and the resulting trend of isolation and one-on-one basketball characterized the post-Jordan era, at least in the minds of many. Jordan, on the other hand, is demonstrating his relentless desire to win with his surpsingly good defense and quick recovrey despite being shook by the youngin’. Not only does this illustrate Jordan’s signature relentlessness and defensive prowess, but it also shows him hanging on to the last of his position as the alpha-dog among guards. Furthermore, the symoblism of Jordan’s defense transcends the player and speaks to the era itself; just as Iverson’s isolation was a sneak preview at the generation ahead, Jordan’s defensive tenacity represents the beginning of the end of hard-nosed defense and the start of an era where many believe defense was a second priority (although, I, for one, don’t totally agree).
This jersey and video is supposed to be a fun exercise, but they elicit strong feelings of nostalgia and function as a microcosm of the NBA’s historical trajectory. Iverson was a big part of this history, for better or worse, and seeing as he’s at a low-point, it’s AGR’s job to remind the world what he brought to the table. So remember the impact of Iverson’s cornrows, tatoos, and baggy shorts, remember his 2001 MVP-season and how he and the Sixers handed the Lakers their only playoff defeat (on the road! in overtime!) that season in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals. Let’s remember his unrivaled passion and determination on the floor and his heart-warming emotional outburst upon returning to the Sixers. Iverson desrves it from us, especially right now. We’ll miss you AI, and God knows no one will be the same as The Answer.
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