Allen Iverson is hanging up his NBA jersey for good. Yes, he hasn’t played since February of 2010 with Philadelphia, but still, most of his biggest fans were waiting for the Answer to get one final shot. Instead, he won’t be going out on his own terms. Slam is reporting Iverson plans to officially retire in the coming days, bringing with him the end of an era.
AI wasn’t just about the baggy clothes, the braids, the kicks, the crossover or the scoring. He had an attitude that defined a generation. It even defined a magazine. Over a decade ago, we put Philly’s finest on the cover of our first issue and never looked back. He set the tone, just as he always did.
It’s good to see so many come out and appreciate Iverson for his play on the court. Lately, it had seemed like he was always in the news for something negative. Recently, the Answer’s ex-wife claimed that Iverson kidnapped their five children after a vacation gone bad. Reportedly, Tawanna Iverson said she gave her former husband permission to take the kids on vacation to North Carolina from May 22 to May 26 but when the time was up, AI never brought them back.
According to TMZ, Iverson denied any wrongdoing after he said his ex-wife had full access to the children during that time but refused to drive 45 minutes to pick them up. All in all, it was a sad story… not necessarily because of the off-court issues — we never got the full details, so it’s impossible to say what happened. It’s sad because more and more kids are growing up today not knowing how great a basketball player the Answer was. He is probably one of the top 40 players of all time. As a basketball icon, he was probably top five.
His crossover changed the way the game was played and the way it was called. Think about the excitement Blake Griffin caused during his first two years. Now multiply that by 20. That’s what it was like watching Iverson handle the rock in the late ’90s. The skinny 6-0 guard got EVERYONE with it too. Big men. Guards. Even someone as smooth as Penny Hardaway got cracked.
As current Warriors coach Mark Jackson once said about guarding Iverson, “What I do is give him a whole lot of room and say, ‘Beat me with the jumper.’ I’m not gonna be embarrassed. I’m a grown man with four kids and they’re watching.”
With that, here are the 10 greatest players that got crossed up during the day by AI.
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10. STEPHON MARBURY
Once upon a time, Starbury and Iverson were two of the best college point guard prospects we had ever seen. Supremely athletic with blinding speed and quickness, they looked like NBA superstars toying with the competition. NBA GMs agreed with us. Iverson went No. 1 overall in the 1996 Draft. Marbury came just three picks later.
During college, they had a spellbinding matchup at Madison Square Garden in 1995, and that excitement continued into the NBA. In their very first matchup in March of 1997, Marbury’s T’Wolves won and he got the better of AI, finishing with 24 points and nine dimes as Iverson had 17 points. But over the years, the Answer got him back quite a few times.
9. REGGIE MILLER
Miller was never a particularly adept defender, and he always struggled checking smaller players. That was a problem whenever the Pacers matched up with Philadelphia. On one side, there was Mark Jackson. On the other, it was Reggie. So who exactly was going to check AI? Usually no one, unless it was Travis Best.
The two teams squared off in three consecutive years in the playoffs in 1999-2001. Iverson put up 28.8 points while Philly got swept during the lockout-shortened ’99 season (his first trip to the playoffs), and the following season saw him dropping 26.5 as the Sixers pushed the Finals-bound Pacers to six games. Finally in 2001, his education concluded. AI bludgeoned Indiana for 31.5 points a night during a first-round series win.
8. KEVIN DURANT
Remember Durant’s rookie year? P.J. Carlesimo lost his mind and tried to play the 6-9 string bean Durant at shooting guard. It resulted in some truly forgettable performances. In this game, the Nuggets rang up 138 points in a 42-point blowout win. Iverson missed only five shots while dropping 31 points against the overmatched KD. At the time, you would’ve never guessed Durant would become the second-best player in the NBA just a few years later.
What was most incredible about those early Iverson/Durant matchups? That 42-point loss wasn’t even the worst one for Seattle. Later in the season, they lost by 52 in Denver, giving up 168 points in the process.
7. TONY PARKER
Parker might be the best point in the league in 2013, but during his early years, he was routinely abused by other athletic guards. I remember Stephon Marbury all but undressing Parker during a first-round matchup, at one point crossing him over on the break and then basically running him over on his way to a bucket. The nights that Parker checked Iverson must’ve been Hell. Imagine chasing the Answer around for 48 minutes with Gregg Popovich swearing in your ear the whole time?
6. GARY PAYTON
Ah, what could’ve been. By the time Iverson was drafted in 1996, Payton was nearing the end of his prime. He was coming off the 1996 NBA Finals where he talked trash to Michael Jordan and then somehow backed it up, putting the shackles on the GOAT during Games 4, 5 and 6. The Glove was the best defender at his position I’ve ever seen. But by the time Iverson got comfortable in the league, Payton was nearly 30 and didn’t have the quicks to keep up anymore. If only AI could’ve come along just a few years earlier…
5. STEVE NASH
While Nash might be one of the 30 best players in league history, he was no better than a toll booth as a defender. Even as a young player in Dallas and Phoenix, Nashty Nash spent more time getting put into fire-foot drills by nasty ballhandlers than he did bodying up and playing some D. Having the future two-time MVP check Iverson in isolation situations was suicide.
But you know what the craziest part about this was? They came in with the same draft class and as a rookie, Iverson dropped 23.5 points and 7.5 assists a night while winning the Rookie of the Year award. Nash was coming off the bench for the Suns and finished the year averaging 3.3 points per game. Who would’ve ever thought that in 2013 Nash would still be around and Iverson would be an afterthought?
4. JOHN STOCKTON
Stockton was one of the best defensive point guards ever, a ruthless pitbull that played defense as hard as anyone on a nightly basis. Still, you’d never think of him as athletic. You’d probably assume that whenever he matched up with Iverson, the Answer was quick enough to leave him in the dust. Did it happen? Well, they played against each other just 11 times. Stockton took home the W nine times. Iverson did average 24.7 points against the Hall of Famer, but he also shot below 38 percent.
3. SCOTTIE PIPPEN
Pippen didn’t often check Iverson during their matchups in the ’90s. That honor normally went to Ron Harper. But every once in a while, the two would get switched onto each other, and the results were always fascinating. It’s too bad there isn’t more footage of this. *Cuts to Pippen fans screaming, “That’s because there isn’t any!!”*
2. KOBE BRYANT
Throughout his career, Bryant took a few haymakers on the chin from Iverson. Normally, he’d have another whipping boy to take the beating for him (Derek Fisher, Tyronn Lue). But every once in a while, Kobe would decide he’d had enough of watching AI dance and jive. Laker fans try to forget those times.
They met twice during the postseason, once in the Finals when Iverson was a Sixer, and once in the first round after AI had moved to Denver. Bryant’s teams won both of those series convincingly, but the Answer threw up 35.6 points a game in the 2001 Finals and 24.5 points a night in the 2008 Western Conference First Round.
1. MICHAEL JORDAN
Does anything else need to be said? I’m sure you’ve seen this video once or twice.
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