It’s only natural that today’s NBA generation would idolize 2001 NBA MVP Allen Iverson. The twentysomething superstars of 2014 were still in their formative basketball years as The Answer rose to such rare heights in the late 1990s and early 2000s, surely influenced by Iverson’s flair, attitude, and, most importantly, success. Kevin Durant counts himself among that group, as the reigning MVP confirmed on Instagram yesterday by calling Iverson “pound for pound the best.”
Chuck too real. He changed the way we play ball. He changed the culture of ball. He is pound for pound the best. He paved the way. I can go on and on. But he’s a legend and I’m just walking the path he created.
“Pound for pound” is a silly and mostly meaningless distinction, and one most commonly used in basketball circles to describe the diminutive, divisive superstar family and friends know as “Bubba Chuck.” Iverson, 6-0 and generously listed at 180 pounds, is one of the most decorated players in NBA history. But the 11-time All-Star, two-time All-Star Game MVP, seven-time All-NBA honoree, four-time scoring champion, and three-time single-season steals leader meant far more to the game than any of his on-court accomplishments.
No player in the immediate post- Michael Jordan era was more famous than A.I., a fact that shines light and casts shadows on his fascinating career. Synonymous with the me-first attitude and hip-hop culture so many – rightly or wrongly – associated with and derided about the NBA around the new millennium, what often goes overlooked about Iverson is that he simply won. From 1998-1999 to 2005-2006, he led the undermanned Philadelphia Sixers to a playoff birth in every season he played at least 50 games but one, almost single-handedly taking Larry Brown’s ragtag 2000-2001 team to the NBA Finals where Iverson’s legend only grew despite his team’s loss. Remember this in Philly’s crazy Game 1 win?
The question, of course, is whether or not Iverson could’ve won bigger if he were a more willing passer or dedicated practice and offseason trainer. We tend to think yes, but also know that Iverson’s basketball problems were a result of nurture as much as nature. The hoops world simply didn’t value efficiency and preparation then the way it does now. That’s not Iverson’s fault, but he’s become the poster child for the NBA’s modern nadir nonetheless because he was its most popular superstar.
If Iverson were playing today, he’d almost certainly be a better player. And considering he’s a surefire Hall-of-Famer, that speaks to just how great he was despite his times.
As for KD’s contention that Iverson is the best player ever “pound for pound?” A.I. is by far the most prolific scorer in league history for a player his size – it’s not even close, and it likely never will be. But if he were Durant’s size, for instance, we’d argue that KD would still be the superior player. Iverson’s basketball id is simply that debilitating, and whether that’s completely his fault or otherwise is irrelevant to his historical place in the NBA hierarchy.
(GIF via Complex)
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