One of the greatest and most entertaining players to grace the hardwood, Allen Iverson recently found himself in the limelight following his induction into the Hall of Fame. Iverson, who was well-known as “AI” or “The Answer,” spent 14 seasons in the NBA, primarily with the Philadelphia 76ers, and although he never lifted the title, he proved himself to be one of the great scorers despite standing just 6’0″. He played with a tremendous amount of heart, but he was also famed for his flair with his dazzling handles and lightning quick crossover which inspired an entire generation to attempt to replicate his breathtaking moves.
10. He Attempted a Rap Career Whilst in the NBA
Like many NBA players, Iverson attempted to launch a rap career during his playing days. Like most, it did not take off and Iverson instead found himself in trouble with the NBA. In the summer of 2000, under the moniker of Jewelz, Iverson recorded a rap titled “40 bars.” However, after a Philadelphia radio station played an uncensored version of the track, he faced backlash due to the controversial lyrics and the commissioner (at the time), David Stern, condemned the song—“The lyrics that have been attributed to Allen Iverson’s soon-to-be-released rap CD are coarse, offensive and antisocial.” Iverson agreed to change the lyrics for the song, but his debut album, Misunderstood, was never released. A spokesperson at Universal Records stated that the controversy had spoiled the excitement of crossing over to music for him.
9. He Was Also a Talented Football Player
Iverson played basketball with such grace and talent that it is hard to imagine him playing any other sport, but he also could have followed a career in football. During his time at Bethel High School in Virginia, Iverson played as the starting PG for the basketball team, but he was also the starting quarterback, plus he played running back, kick returner and defensive back. He brought glory to his school in an epic junior year, where Iverson led both teams to Virginia state championships. This saw him earn The Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both sports.
He had to complete his senior year at a school for at-risk students following a controversial incident with police (more on this to come), but Georgetown head coach John Thompson was convinced by Iverson’s three years and offered him a scholarship to join the Hoyas basketball team.
8. He Popularized the Shooter’s Sleeve
Not only was Iverson incredibly influential in terms of his game, but his personal style was also replicated by many. It has been said that it is Iverson who brought the hip-hop style to the NBA throughout the 2000s. Wearing baggy shorts, a headband, sleeves, sweatbands, and sporting his trademark cornrows along with being heavily tattooed, many soon followed suit both in the NBA and outside of it. In every game in today’s NBA it seems that at least a few players are wearing a shooter’s sleeve, and this was popularized by Iverson. He first wore one in a game to combat bursitis, which clearly worked as he dropped 51 points in that game. He wore one every game after, and soon more and more players were wearing them despite having no problems with their arms, including Kobe, Carmelo and LeBron.
7. He Drew a 15-Year Prison Sentence When He Was 17 Years Old
It is no secret that Iverson has had his troubles with the law, and this dates back to before his career even began. When he was just 17, Iverson was arrested with several of his friends after an altercation in a bowling alley which led to a huge fight. During this fight, Iverson allegedly struck a woman on the head with a chair. Iverson and his friends maintained their innocence, but he drew a 15-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended.
After four months in jail, the conviction was overturned for insufficient evidence in 1995. Speaking about his time behind bars, Iverson stated “I had to use the whole jail situation as something positive. Going to jail, someone sees something weak in you, they’ll exploit it. I never showed any weakness. I just kept going strong until I came out.”
6. He Ended His College Career as the Hoyas’ All-Time Leader in Scoring Average
Allen Iverson spent two seasons at Georgetown before declaring for the NBA draft, interestingly making him the first player to leave Georgetown under Coach John Thompson early for the NBA. In his first year in 1994/1995, Iverson helped the Georgetown Hoyas to the Sweet 16 round where they fell to North Carolina, but Iverson would win Big East Rookie of the Year. In his sophomore year, Iverson led the team to a Big East championship and through to the Elite 8, where they lost to Massachusetts. He ended his college career as the Hoyas’ all-time leader in scoring average, with a whopping 22.9 PPG. Impressive when you consider the likes of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert are also alumni. He was named as a First Team All-American for his short, yet prolific, college career.
5. He Dunked 42 Times in his Career
What was particularly amazing about Iverson’s scoring was that it mainly came from him attacking the paint and going up against players an entire foot bigger than him. He also had a brilliant ability to put the ball high off the glass to finish over bigger defenders. However, occasionally Iverson would also have the crowd on its feet with a breathtaking dunk, despite standing just 6’0″. He dunked 42 times over his career, and some of these dunks were over defenders and not simple rim grazers. Iverson proved that he could soar, and some of his greatest highlights come from these astonishing dunks that he threw down from time to time.
This is a large part of what made him one of the most popular and exciting players of all time, as he had incredible handling, fantastic speed and the ability to soar above defenders as well as score from outside.
4. Iverson is One of Three Players to Average 26 Points and Six Assists for Their Career
Not only is Iverson known for his prolific scoring, but also his ability to provide for his teammates. Although not as well known for his passing and primarily a scorer, Iverson averaged 6.2 APG for his career and as many as 7.9 one season. For his 14-year career, he averaged 26.7 PPG and 6.2 APG, which make him just one of three players to average 26 PPG and 6 APG. The other players are Jerry West and LeBron James, certainly not bad company to keep.
This is also particularly impressive when you consider that Iverson more often than not was playing on a team that was somewhat limited offensively and he was the only star player. He is also one of six players to score 2,300+ points a season to go along with 160+ steals (Jordan, Kobe, Wade, Arenas, Barry and Curry).
3. He Scored 50 Points in His Rookie Season
Iverson proved his scoring ability from the get-go with a brilliant rookie campaign, seeing him pick up Rookie of the Year after averaging 23.5 PPG, 7.5 APG and 2.1 SPG. He was the first pick in the 1996 draft, making him the shortest top pick ever. Highlights from his rookie year include scoring 37 points against the Bulls and crossing over Michael Jordan before hitting the game winning shot, and scoring at least 40 points in five straight games which broke Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie record of 40+ in three straight games. One of Iverson’s games with 40+ points included a stunning 50 point effort against Cleveland, which, at the time, made him the second youngest player (21 years, 309 days) to score 50, after Rick Barry. This was later eclipsed by LeBron James, and Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 at 20 years and 52 days.
2. He Has Astonishing Personal Accolades
Although Iverson never won a ring, he retired with some truly remarkable personal accolades which ensure that he goes down as one of the greats. Over the course of his 14 season career, Iverson earned MVP, 11 All-Star selections, two All-Star MVP’s, 3x All NBA First Team, 3x ALL NBA Second Team, Rookie of the Year, he was the leader in steals three years in a row and earned four scoring titles. His standout season came in 2000/2001, which will go down as one of the great individual seasons where he carried his team to the finals. That campaign, Iverson averaged 31.1 in the regular season, seeing him pick up his second scoring title and pushing the 76ers to the top of the East. He also led the league in steals with 2.5, helping him to win regular season MVP (becoming the shortest and lightest player to win the award).
1. His Playoff Scoring Average is Second in NBA History
Despite standing just 6’0″, Allen Iverson has gone down as an elite scorer who could score in a manner of different ways. His regular season scoring average over 14 seasons is a remarkable 26.7 PPG, and this is good enough for sixth all-time. It was not just in the regular season that he could light it up, as he averaged an eye-popping 29.7 PPG in the post-season. This is the second highest of all time, and second only to Michael Jordan. This average is not inflated through a lack of games either, as Iverson suited up 71 times in the playoffs. This included an epic journey to the finals in his MVP winning 2000/2001 season, where he averaged 32.9 PPG over 22 playoff games. It was his only trip to the finals, where the 76ers fell to the Lakers in five games despite Iverson’s best efforts.