Is There a Defense for Allen Iverson?

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Is There a Defense for Allen Iverson?
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Arguments provided by North Station Sports writers, Nick Gelso and Mathew Golden.

In our second edition of “NSS One on One”, we decided to debate another subject that often sparks an emotional response. 


Is There a Defense for Allen Iverson?

This section of North Station Sports is designed to encourage you to join in the debate and voice your opinion. If you would like to take on the point guard role and initiate our next “One on One” feature, simply contact us with your topic and your argument for, or against, that topic.


In Defense of Allen Iverson

by Mathew Golden

I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1996. I was living in a dorm room and my assigned roommate was an all around die hard Philadelphia sports fan. He was psyched to have this rookie on his team. I knew a little bit about him from his days at Georgetown where he was the quickest player in the country (I also knew he had been involved in a brawl at a bowling alley in Virginia).

He was raw and out of control but competitive and tough as nails. He had a legendary battle with Ray Allen in the Big East Tournament that year. He went No. 1 overall in the draft to Philly. At about 5'9" and weighing about 140 pounds, Allen Iverson entered the NBA.

As a rookie, he put together a stretch of games of 44, 40, 44, 50, and 40. He was a riot to watch. Lightning fast. Insane crossover. Extremely fearless. He was like a moto cross X-gamer with a basketball. And he got better and better and the team got better around him.

When the Sixers got Eric Snow to play PG and AI moved to SG, he really took off. He was one of the five best players in the game at my size. And not in a Steve Nash finese game. He was a power guard. He got his shot off time after time. No player crashed to the floor more.

Did he take a ton of shots and were a lot of them bad shots? Hell yes. Did you see the teams he had? They had no one. I watched a ton of Sixer games and an off balance fadeaway from AI was better than an open 15 footer from Eric Snow.

They were a slow, plodding, methodical team that was one of the most exciting teams in the league solely because of AI? Was the ball in his hands too much? Hell yes. But I wouldn't have had it any other way. I was living w/ a Sixer fan and we had CSN. I watched Daily News Live every day and there was no talk about AI doing anything different.

Was he a thug? Absolutely. And I admire him for it. He grew up before our eyes and became a man. He has insane ink, like the Chinese thing on his neck, and the corn rows and whatnot. He paid for it in endorsement money probably. He wasn't mainstream. So what.

His mother was there at almost every game with her jersey on and holding up signs. Did he have a posse? Don't we all. Ever see Entourage? I come from a blue collar town where the people wear that fact like a badge of honor. So does AI. He wanted to keep it real and good for him.

Did he dog practice and chase out a teammate or two? Absolutely. And those teammates were dogs. Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes are bums. Derrick Coleman?!? How much did Bird practice the last couple years he was in the league? McHale? How many NFL vets never practice all season?

Until LeBron, I have never seen a team rely so much on one player to do everything. And he is a third the size of LeBron. 10-15 times a game the shot clock is running down and it is on AI to make a play. Everything ran through him and it wasn't stand at the top of the key like Duncan.

It was break-your-man-down-and-take-on-three-guys-giving-up-a-foot-and-100 pounds. AI led the league in free throw attempts and makes. He never came off the floor. He led the league in minutes SEVEN TIMES. No one hit the floor more.

I am going to end with the five most under appreciated aspects to AI are:

5. He has the best nickname ever. The Answer.

4. He was not a selfish player. He was 21 when he came into the league and was not a PG. He improved his passing game a ton over the years. He was relied on and expected to score, especially early in his career.

3. He was an excellent defender. He was everywhere on defense. He was so quick and had such great instincts, it felt like he was doubling everyone. A crazy amount of energy he had.

2. He was the most exciting and electric player in the NBA between Jordan and LeBron. Period. He would have three or four jaw dropping plays per game. And because of his size, the degree of difficulty is elevated. His 40 were better than Shaq's or Kobe's. Hands down.

And when he went off, you could feel the excitement from the crowd, the announcers, everyone. I would call my brother or he would call me..."AI is going off. He just dropped 22 in the first quarter."

He was must see TV in a league that was losing ratings every year. He was undefendable. There was no one in the league that could stay in front of him, handcheck or not.

1. This is the big one for me. This is the reason all the negative gets overlooked. I give him the benefit of the doubt about Detroit and Denver. I don't care about practice-gate, the bowling alley, the corn rows, the battles with coaches...none of it...and all because...HE PLAYED HARDER THAN ANYONE I HAVE EVER SEEN.

He wanted it more. He was trying so hard to win every game. You felt it. He wasn't a freak physically. He wasn't tall. He wasn't using his wits to get around the court, although I am sure his basketball IQ is underrated. He played harder. He played hurt. He was motoring all over the court like the other players were in slo-mo. The way he took on big men. All of it.

He is a four-time scoring champ. He is a league MVP. He is a two-time All-Star MVP. He is a 10-time all star.

Don't judge the Answer by his cover.

 

There is No Defense for Allen Iverson

by Nick Gelso

The topic of A.I. is one that I am most passionate about and yet, because of his hard nature of play, is one of the most difficult arguments to make in print.

Iverson was always a controversial character. Like Matt said, he was never mainstream but he always played hard and that always made my argument against Iverson's effect on the game difficult. The events of the last two season, however, have made it a bit easier to contest Iverson's legacy.

Knowing the style of player I respect, Iverson certainly does not fit that mold and here is why...

Though I agree with Matt's assessment of Iverson's career achievements and hard style of play, I cannot get past the fact that A.I. has never won the championship. He only competed in the Finals once, in a season the Eastern Conference was clearly subpar. He has been a cancer for teammates and has been the leading contributor to team decay in both Denver and Detroit.

He is a bad influence on his younger teammates. Clearly, as a whole, Iverson make the players around him worse. Though his achievements in Philly are admirable, he clearly hurt the Denver Nuggets.

His stamp on the team was made clear after his departure. The arrival of Chauncey Billups had as much of a positive affect on the Nuggets as Iverson's arrival in Detroit had negativly on the Pistons.

Speaking of Iverson in Detroit, what a nightmare!

The Pistons have been, arguably, the most successful team in the Eastern Conference this decade. In 2008, the Pistons took the Celtics to six games in the EC Finals only to find them completely unravel one season later. In a coaching nightmare, made worse by Iverson's refusal to back up Rip Hamilton, the Pistons completely fell apart and out right quit playing towards the end of the season.

Champions such as Rip Hamleton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince QUIT playing? This uncharacteristic retreat from competition by these respected winners was led by the player making the most money.

A.I. collected 20+ million last season to basically tear apart a team that won 57 games the year before. All Iverson had to do was shut up, cooperate and contribute for ONE SEASON. Instead he cried and sat out the playoffs due to a (questionable)  injury. Did Hamilton complain? Of course he did! Do I blame him? No, I don't!

Rip Hamilton won an NBA title, he has been a big time contributor to Detroit for years and always did his job in a quiet and cooperative manner within the team concept. Why should a proven winner of this magnitude be forced to the bench by an aging prima donna in Iverson?

The result?

The Pistons finished with their worst record in years, they were the butt of media scrutiny (deserving so) all season long and were COMPLETELY embarrassed in the playoffs while waiving the white flag since the tip off of game one.

After making such a negative impact on these former champions, where was Iverson?

Home watching. He wasn't even on the sidelines trying to look like a team player.

I guess you get what you give. This offseason, Iverson was almost relegated to playing overseas. Can you imagine a former scoring champion being turned down by the entire league? Would you want him on your team?

I wouldn't. I would have rathered see Stephon Crybury return then have Iverson backing up Rondo. Call me crazy but I just don't want this guy's ego in the Celtics locker room.

What will Allen Iverson's legacy be?

I don't feel that Iverson can even be put into a category of non champions, such as Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkens, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Bernard King.

Despite never winning the NBA title, those legends were still winners. Their impact on the game has been a positive one. They consistently made their teammates better. Their short comings were few and rarely remembered in the context of their historical impact on the game they left behind when they retired.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Bernard King, etc. all defined a generation, changed the style of play in the league and left an indelible impact on the game.

Iverson also defined a generation, changed the style of play and left an impact on the game.

Unfortunately, for the era Iverson reigned over, his impacts were negative. Today the league, abandoned the MTV/WWE image that Iverson's image defined, has enforced a dress code for players on game day, enforced stronger in game rules regarding physical play, drug use and foul language. I would dare to state that, though not alone, Iverson's "style" had a direct impact on these rule changes/alterations.

All in all, Iverson's impact on the game is not a positive one. He will not leave behind a legacy that will be more defined by his negative attributes.

I would NEVER want A.I. on my team.

 

Speaking of Larry Bird, don't pass up your chance to win his autograph! NSS is GIVING AWAY a FREE Bird autographed photo in a plaque citing career stats and achievements.

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