LeBron James Says Michael Jordan Inspired Him but Allen Iverson Was 'The God'

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2017

3's Company player/captain and coach Allen Iverson, center, kneels on the sideline during the first half of Game 3 in the BIG3 Basketball League debut, Sunday, June 25, 2017, at the Barclays Center in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

LeBron James, who has long cited Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson as his two basketball idols when he was growing up, called The Answer "the god" when asked to describe the Philadelphia 76ers legend's impact.

"He represented what black kids were all about, and he resonated with every inner-city kid in the world who had a struggle," James told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. "Michael Jordan inspired me, and I looked up to him, but he was out of this world. A.I. was really the god."

Iverson, 42, scored two points in his return to the floor Sunday in the debut of Ice Cube's BIG3 three-on-three league. He is a captain of the 3's Company team.

"Sky's the limit. Obviously you see the debut," Iverson said of the BIG3, which will have its television debut Monday night, per the Associated Press (h/t CSN Philly). "I didn't even expect it to be like this, and then obviously guys that's retired now, to see the outcome of this situation right here, probably are going to get that itch."

Sunday was the first time fans saw Iverson play organized basketball since an aborted stint with the Sixers during the 2009-10 season. (He also played briefly for Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League in 2010-11.)

It marked a return to the spotlight for the Basketball Hall of Famer, who has generally kept his profile low in his post-NBA life. Rumors about his finances and allegations of alcohol abuse were boundless during those years, but Iverson has remained a beloved figure in basketball circles.

"I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI," Kobe Bryant wrote in the Players' Tribune. "I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find."

There was no bigger draw in Brooklyn on Sunday than Iverson, who was likely responsible for a sizable portion of the crowd. It's clear that even six years after he finished playing, his cultural impact will not be going away anytime soon.