Tag Archives: Allen Iverson

One Last Answer: AI Lifted A Generation

18 Sep
Allen Iverson

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson speaks during induction ceremonies at Symphony Hall, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola). Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson’s induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame last week was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of a generation of young people whose aspirations were often snuffed out before it had a chance to really to blossom into anything special.

As a basketball star and cultural icon, AI was “The Answer” in more ways than one. 

Iverson’s road to the Hall of Fame, to be sure, came from his dynamic basketball prowess. Yes, pound-for-pound he was one of the greatest little men, if not the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Iverson’s blinding ferocity on the court against the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal made him popular players in the sport. His jersey sales rivaled that of his aforementioned contemporaries.

Between the 2001 NBA MVP Award, the scoring titles, the All-Star appearances including two MVP Awards in that game and leading an unlikely Philadelphia 76ers team on an improbable run to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson deserved to be in the company of the game’s legends. What he did on the court in his career was truly unforgettable.

Along with his legendary skills as a basketball, Iverson was a transcendent icon of an often misunderstood group of young people. Iverson defiantly wore his braids and tattoos much to the chagrin and distaste of the media that covered him. 

To a maligned group of young people who listened to Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Nas while they were being chastised by overly sanctimonious old heads, Iverson was their “folk” hero.  Iverson truly kept it real through the times he was right and through the times he was wrong.  To me, Iverson was the rebel that the late James Dean was to teenagers and young people of the 1950s.

Sometimes words like loyalty to the hood and never forgetting the brothers you met on the way up are not often meant or are thrown around like a punch line from a hood movie or a lyric in a rap song.

Throughout his career, Iverson took those who loved and nurtured him before he became a household name with him on his journey. Iverson was truly loyal to his friends and relatives from the Norfolk,Va.-Hampton roads area — sometimes to a fault.

During his Hall of Fame speech in Springfield, Mass., Iverson mentioned the names of all those friends and family members that put a few dollars in his pocket when he or his mom didn’t have it. That’s true loyalty and true love. That’s not just talking, that’s truly keeping it real.

For those of us here in Philly, Iverson now breathes the same air as the great basketball legends whose statures overshadow the city. As I have always said if you had to build a Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia basketball icons, you would include AI, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Monroe and John Chaney.

The memories of Iverson crossing Jordan, scoring and stepping over Tyronn Lue in the NBA Finals, outdueling Vince Carter in Game 7 of the 2001 East Conference finals will be stamped indelibly on the hearts and minds of Sixers fans everywhere.

For the young people who grew up in the midst of the crack epidemic and mass incarceration, Iverson was the Answer those who hoped to make out of their predicament whether it was jail or just the devastation of poverty.

Like Tupac and Biggie, Iverson wasn’t afraid to keep it real and tell his truth for a misrepresented generation of young people.  And so now the final Answer is … a Hall of Famer.

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Allen Iverson Deserves to be a First Ballot Hall of Famer

19 Feb
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Former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Photo by Webster Riddick.

It’s a surprise to no one in this town that former 76ers guard Allen Iverson is a finalist for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in
Springfield, Mass.

Throughout what was a tumultuous career in Philadelphia, Iverson was nothing short of brilliant on the court and deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Despite being just under 6 feet tall, he was a four-time scoring champ and often scored over men much bigger than him.

He was an `11-time NBA All-Star, led the league in steals three times in his career and was MVP of the NBA All-Star game twice.

Sixers fans will always remember the incredible ride to the 2001 NBA Finals where he played the role of Superman and put a team of role players on his back. Even though the Sixers lost that series, people still talk about the win in Game One where Iverson hit a jumper over a falling Tyronn Lue and then casually walked over the Lakers guard.

I just hope that Hall of Fame voters will base their decision on Iverson’s Hall of Fame admission on his on the court play and not his off the court issues. As I say when it comes to the Hall of Fame of any sport, players should be judged strictly on what they’ve done in their careers during game time, and that alone.

But there’s always a tendency for more than a few voters to look at how a potential Hall of Famer got along with the media or if they were paragons of high moral virtue.  When you consider that KuKlux Klan members, pedophiles and even murderers are in the Halls of Fame of several sports, the irony of Iverson facing judgmental sportswriters is glaring.

Recently, former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, was denied entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame not because he didn’t have the stats—he ranks in top 10 all-time in receiving yardage, touchdowns and receptions—but because of his perceived diva-like behavior that rankled coaches and teammates.

ESPN columnist Skip Bayless on several occasions called him, “Team Obliterator.”

Now I’m not going to lie. Owens had issues with teammates and coaches. When he was here in Philly, he did play a role in his own demise with the Eagles by taking shots at quarterback Donovan McNabb, something that you just don’t do.

But that said, you can’t deny that Owens played like a champion, even if, as his critics put it, he wasn’t necessarily doing it for the team. Playing in a Super Bowl on a broken leg and gaining 100 yards receiving was a remarkable achievement.  You also can’t argue with his numbers. In most cases, ranking in the Top 10 all-time in three different categories at your position makes you a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

I think Owens will eventually get into the Hall of Fame just like a number of players who were perceived as troubled during their playing days.

But what he did on the field should have been good enough to get him in this year.

And that’s why I’m concerned that Allen Iverson might meet the same fate.

During his time in Philly, Iverson left it all on the floor. Playing hurt was no big deal to him. He maxed out his talent.

But he did have more of his share of off-the court issues. He didn’t keep himself in as good of shape as he could have, something that might have kept his injuries to a minimum.

And then there was the infamous “We talking ‘bout practice,” speech. While it continues to live as a meme and occasionally shows up on social media thanks to YouTube, it didn’t endear Iverson to the local media.

Iverson was true to himself and truly kept it real. He was a great player on the court and his own man off of it.

So in his case, we need to be talking about first ballot Hall of Famer.

Allen Iverson in the Front Office? An Interesting Concept

26 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson on his retirement day. After a brilliant and sometimes tumultuous career, Iverson thinks he can help in the front office.

Allen Iverson on his retirement day. After a brilliant and sometimes tumultuous career, Iverson thinks he can help in the front office.

PHILAELPHIA— In addition to a devastating crossover and a game that you’d expect to see from guys twice his size, former 76ers guard Allen Iverson was known for not being real fond of practice.

But according to an article on nbc sports.com, Iverson would like to help the Sixers find some guys who might have a better attitude toward it.

Iverson has expressed a desire to be a part of the Sixers brain trust. That’s right, the guy who often clashed with head coach Larry Brown and was the subject of an angry tirade from former Sixers general manager Billy King when he and Chris Webber failed to show up for Fan Appreciation Day back in 2006, wants a gig in the front office.

Because skepticism and Allen Iverson go together like chocolate and peanut butter for some people, many believe that his bad off-the court habits and the perception that being a great player doesn’t mean you can spot talent, will keep him out of the Sixers war room.

The skeptics have a point. For every John Elway who has successfully transitioned from the field to both coaching and the front office, there are guys like Ted Williams and Elgin Baylors of the world who were absolute disasters.

During a 76ers broadcast, the irrepressible Iverson made his case for why he would be an ideal candidate for a front office post when he was asked what he looked for in a player:

“Their fight. Their fight. The fight in a guy. I’m the biggest [Russell] Westbrook fan I think there is. You know what I mean? Because he reminds me so much of myself as far as his heart and laying it on the line night in and night out. This is a guy who’s going to bring it every single night.”

That statement coming from Iverson has a lot of credibility because he lived it.  In street parlance, “game recognizes game.” Sure, Iverson had talent, but you don’t rise from the streets of Norfolk, Virginia as an undersized guard who had done time in jail to become an NBA All-Star without heart.

And while it’s not something you can measure statistically, heart is important and Iverson recognizes that. Besides, talent evaluation is an inexact science. Just ask all of the guys who passed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Iverson should be the next Sixers general manager, but I do think his experiences as a player—the good and the bad—could be a good starting point.

Granted, there’s a whole lot for Iverson to learn and, and the whole suit and tie on a regular basis thing might be a deal breaker.

But if Allen Iverson approaches the opportunity to help create a good NBA team with the same conviction he did as a player, he could be a real game changer.

I hope he gets the chance.

One Last Hurrah for the Answer

2 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards.  Photo by Yahoo.com.

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards. Photo by Yahoo.com.

PHILADELPHIA—As they raised the banner with his No. 3 jersey above the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center, Allen Iverson looked up in amazement as the crowd roared its approval with some chanting MVP.

It was one last good-bye and one final cheer from the crowd for the 39-year-old Iverson, who wearing a Black fedora, some chains around his neck and some studious-looking glasses. He put his hand to his ear to really feel and hear the energy of the crowd one more time.

After the ceremonies ended, Iverson said hearing that crowd cheer for him was a bittersweet occasion because he knows it may be the last time he gets to hear the roar of the crowd again until he is eventually inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

“It feels good, but you know in some part of my heart, it hurts,” said Iverson, who won four NBA scoring titles and two All-Star Game MVP Awards. “I realize and I understand that it’s over. When I come into the arena, I’m stepping onto the basketball court with street clothes on and I know it will never be in a uniform again.

“That part of it brings back so many memories just hearing the roar of the crowd, doing my signature put my hands up to my ears.  It brings it back, but it hurts still. I’m a basketball fan, it’s hard for me to watch the Sixers play. … It feels like just yesterday I was here trying to entertain these fans.”

The Philadelphia 76ers organization retired Iverson’s number during halftime ceremonies of the Sixers game versus the Washington Wizards.  To keep it real, those who witnessed Iverson’s jersey being raised above the rafters to go along side the likes of Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Wilt Chamberlain will probably not remember the outcome of the game itself.

That’s because they came to celebrate a player in Iverson who was perhaps the embodiment of what means to be an athlete in a broad-shouldered city like Philadelphia. If there was a Mount Rushmore of gritty, tough athletes in this town, you’d have to carve out a statue of Iverson.

Philly fans will never forget Iverson leading the Sixers run to the 2001 NBA Finals. The 6-foot former Georgetown star was brilliant in the Eastern Conference semifinal and finals. Fans will never forget the fourth quarter of the Sixers Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers and the three-pointer he hit while stepping over Tyronn Lue.

“The best one was in Toronto when Vince (Carter) got 50 and the next game Allen goes back and gets 50. You don’t see that in a playoff series,” said former Sixers general manager Billy King. “It was games like that … beating Milwaukee, winning the first game in LA. The whole year was magical. (Iverson) getting MVP of the All-Star game, I was blessed to be a part of it and to have a front-row seat.”

During the course of the evening, Iverson was showered with affection from all-time great Sixers like Erving and his former head coach Larry Brown, who appeared on the Wells Fargo jumbotron, congratulated Iverson for having his jersey retired.

There were video accolades from current players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Ray Allen and Chris Paul who paid tribute to Iverson and thanked him for being an influence on them as players.

Some of the players Iverson played against were also in attendance. One of them was former Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton. Known as the “Glove” for his defensive prowess, Payton said Iverson was difficult to defend.

“He was always a nightmare to guard because you knew he was going to score,” Payton said. “He could get to the basket and hit jump shots. You just had to contain him and hope he had an off night.”

Iverson was also an iconic figure to the mid to late 1990s hip-hip generation. His braided hair, jewelry and tattoos gave a voice to a generation of young fans that the world would prefer not to see or hear. Iverson brought street swag to the NBA like no other player before him.

“He changed a lot of things with the cornrows, he changed a lot of things with the chains,” said former NBA guard Gary Payton. “He changed a lot of things in the NBA as an icon. When he goes to the Hall of Fame, it will solidify his greatness.”

Iverson, who won the NBA’s MVP award in 2001, said he took a lot of criticism from the media for the way he looked, the way he dressed, the friends he hung with and his attitude. If he had to do it all over again, he would still do it his way.

“I enabled this generation now and took the beaten, so they can express themselves and be who they are,” Iverson said. “It’s a bittersweet situation, but I wouldn’t change it for nothing else.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Answer: Allen Iverson Retires as a Sixers Icon

31 Oct

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grXws5m11SA

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson taking questions from reporters at his retirement press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Allen Iverson taking questions from reporters at his retirement press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Allen Iverson may have stood a few inches under 6-feet, but on the court he was as tall as Wilt Chamberlain and could fly as high as Dr. J., Julius Erving.

Like Chamberlain and Erving, Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick in the 1996 draft out of Georgetown, did some incredible things on the court. He also left a hip-hop sensibility in his wake similar to Chamberlain’s signature headbands and Dr. J’s ‘fro.

And he owns every bit of it.

“I took an ass-kicking for me being me in my career, for me looking the way I looked and dressing the way I dressed,” Iverson said. “My whole thing was just being me. Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows. Know what I’m saying? I took a beating for those types of things.”

On Wednesday, Allen Iverson returned to the Wells Fargo Center, the place where he made his mark, to formally retire from the game of basketball as a 76er, and to thank the fans that supported him the most throughout his career.

He leaves the game with no regrets, despite the on and off the court drama that sometimes accompanied him, Iverson said.

Iverson also leaves knowing that he made it a lot easier for the nonconformist in the NBA due to his hard-charging, uncompromising style both on and off the court that gave a voice and a platform to an often-criticized and misunderstood generation of young people.

“I’m proud that I’m able to say I changed a lot in this culture and in this game,” he said. “It’s not about how you look on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside.”

During the ceremonies, Iverson acknowledged his former coaches–Georgetown head coach John Thompson and 76ers head coach Larry Brown–and former Sixers vice president Pat Croce for helping him to shape his career as a basketball player and as a man.

Poster featuring the many faces of AI. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Poster featuring the many faces of AI. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Known as one of the best pound-for-pound players in the history of the game, the 38-year-old Iverson won four NBA scoring titles, was an 11-time NBA All-Star, a seven-time All-NBA selection, a two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2001. He was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year during the 1996-1997 season. He also averaged 26.7 points per game during the regular-season, giving him the sixth highest average all-time, and scored 29 points per game during the playoffs.

With those numbers, there is no doubt that Iverson is a Hall-of-Famer, possibly on the first ballot. He was arguably one of the best little men to play the game along with guys like Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Isaiah Thomas and Bob Cousy.

“I don’t think anybody would dispute that,” said Theo Ratliff, Iverson’s Sixers teammate during the 2001 season. “A guy that put up the numbers and do what he did throughout his career at 160 pounds and being one of the best scorers to ever play the game, you can’t beat that.”

Of course, Philly sports fans no doubt remember how Iverson led the Sixers on a magical run to the NBA Finals. Though the Sixers would lose in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers, Iverson played well, especially in game one of that series when he scored 48 points and hit that memorable jump shot over Lakers guard Tyronn Lue who leapt to block the shot.

During his retirement press conference, Iverson said he was glad to have had the opportunity to play in Philadelphia and  be mentioned in the same discussion with greats like Dr. J.  In the times that Iverson has made appearances at the Wells Fargo, the roar of the crowd is the same when Erving is in the building.

“When I think about Philly fans, that’s what I think about. I always wanted them to treat me the same way they treat him when he comes home,” he said. “When people tell me that it’s Doc and it’s A-I when you talk about Philly basketball that’s like one of the biggest compliments someone can give you. You put my name in the same sentence as Doc. That’s why this day is so special because of things like that.”

Iverson’s years in Philadelphia didn’t come without its share of controversy or vitriol. Aside from the braids and tattoos, people didn’t  like the company he kept, the way he partied and caroused, or his inability to take criticism from his coaches and the media. He also had his brushes with the law, most notably an incident involving his now ex-wife Tawanna. There were more than a few people in the community who thought him to be rude and arrogant.

And then there was 2002’s press conference that rocketed him into the Jim Mora stratosphere of sports-related meltdowns with the line “We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice!”

Iverson acknowledged all of that and admitted that some of the criticism hurt, especially when his kids heard it.

But through it all, Iverson said he has no regrets about his time as a basketball player in Philadelphia.

“It’s easy to say I wish I would have did it this way. I can’t go back and rewind it and do it all over again,” Iverson said. “I’m happy with the way I’ve done it because it taught me a lot.  To answer the question, no I don’t regret anything. If I could take back all the mistakes I made throughout my career, I would have missed no shots, I would have made no turnovers, I would have gone right instead of going left. I would have got on I-76 at 4 o’clock instead of five…

“I don’t regret it because it was blessing to get me here to the point to where I can retire. …Coming from Newport News, Va. what more could you ask for? My family is taken care of for the rest of their lives. What do you mean, regrets?”