Today the face of the NBA is LeBron James. He is easily the best player in the league and is still entering his prime. He is turning into a icon and is arguably the most popular athlete in the world. James is putting up amazing statistics and is about to win his second MVP and many people are predicting that his Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA Championship this season.
The NBA loves it, everyone loves LeBron, retired legends praise him and the media loves him too. It seems like they are sometimes trying to say he is the greatest to ever play the game and he rarely gets negative press. David Stern loves it because the best player in the league is a dancing, smiling, marketable icon who can make him millions of dollars for many more years. The last player that was treated this good was Michael Jordan and even he did not get this much love.
But remember how badly the player who bridged the gap between the Jordan and LeBron era was treated? Remember how badly Allen Iverson was treated.
After Michael Jordan retired Allen Iverson became the face of the NBA. He would go on to become the leagues best player for many years. He would go on to have one of the best careers in NBA history and became a first ballot hall of famer and now is arguably one of the 20-25 greatest players to ever play the game.
He was one of the most exciting players the league had seen. He became one of the most popular players ever and for many years the league was his. But David Stern and the league didn't really like this. Iverson was too hip-hop for the league.
He was a cultural icon and he changed the league forever. Iverson was the first superstar to have cornrows, tattoos and hip hop clothing on. He made it okay to be yourself in the NBA and everyone followed his lead because if the best player in the world was doing it then they were too.
Before Iverson you did not see players with cornrows and tattoos and players who wore hip-hop clothing everywhere. Iverson would come to games with all eyes on him and he would be wearing titled hats, doo-rags, chains, throwback jerseys, and baggy jeans.
This didn't sit well with David Stern because now the face of the league was a guy from the ghetto who looked intimidating. Players all across the league started to dress like Allen Iverson and people all across the world followed.
Stern and the rest of the league executives thought Iverson was too thug for the league. Iverson would go on to become one of the biggest trend setters in the history of sports and to this day players still follow what he started.
Iverson's cultural impact was so dominant that Stern had to enforce a dress code on the league banning baggy jeans, doo rags, chains, throwbacks and other hip hop clothing, the same attire AI debuted when he came into the league.
Iverson also spoke his mind all the time. He did not care what the media thought about it or what the executives thought about it he spoke his mind and he kept it real.
This didn't sit well with Stern either because Iverson was the face of the league and he wasn't acting the way Stern wanted him to. Stern wanted Iverson to be an angel that everyone loved and Iverson wanted to be himself so if Iverson didn't like practicing he would say he doesn't like practicing and if he wanted more minutes he would tell his coach he wants more minutes, he did his own thing and spoke his mind every time.
Problem was, the league couldn't do anything about it because Iverson was making them a lot of money and was the best player in the league. But when Iverson was put into a situation that didn't work for him they chewed him up and spit him out.
It was kind of a revenge thing because when Iverson was one of the best in the league they couldn't do anything about it but if his stats were down and the media was blaming him for his teams failure than they could banish him and that they did.
That is why Iverson is on his third leave of absence in a year from his team because the league and the media brainwashed people into thinking that he is cancerous to have on the team and has slowed down.
This lead to a loss of respect from the entire league and coaches believed that Iverson needed to come off the bench and needed to have a reduced role when really he should be the No. 1 or No. 2 option. Two years ago the coach would have adjusted to Allen Iverson and made a winning group but now they sit him on the bench because they think he can't play.
Do you think this would ever happened to LeBron James?
In his first seven years Iverson accomplished, if not more, than just as much as LeBron James but he was never this hyped or this marketed.
Despite having a higher ppg average at this point in his career, more awards and honors Iverson was never put in the greatest player ever conversation like LeBron already is, he was never praised by former legends like LeBron is and he was never appreciated this much.
All Iverson had was his shoe deal with Reebok and an endorsement with DAP body spray because companies didn't want a tatted up, hip hop "thug" representing them. LeBron on the other hand is already one of the richest athletes ever in just his seventh year.
It is clear the league loves LeBron and they hated Iverson. But Iverson made his style mainstream and made himself one of the most marketable players in history despite the league not supporting him.
His greatness wasn't recognized as much as LeBron's is and sadly it may never be.
Iverson is arguably one of the 20 greatest players to ever play the game and even though the analysts and executives know this they probably never want to say it. ESPN bashes Iverson every week when they quietly hide his career stats when showing LeBron's and other great players.
Last season in the playoffs they put up a chart comparing Chauncey Billups and Allen Iverson's playoff production even though Iverson didn't even play in the playoffs, Iverson's stats all read zeros and Chauncey's stats where shown as what they were.
They made Iverson look like a bad player with this chart and made a joke of him even though Iverson has a much much better career then Billups does. The picture can be seen here: http://www.nbarumors.info/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/comparison.jpg
It is sad what was happening to this guy when he was the face of the league and it is sad what is happening to him now. Just because he wasn't an angel for the league like LeBron James is and just because he spoke his mind the league destroyed his career.
Iverson didn't win a championship and he was criticized for it by his seventh year in the league, LeBron also is still searching for that championship and if he doesn't get it there is no way they will treat him like Iverson.
LeBron James would still be in the G.O.A.T conversation if he did not win a title because the media loves him. Stern and the NBA executives are probably happy that the Iverson era is over because their plan worked they ruined one of the greatest careers in NBA history.
It is evil and cruel because Iverson made the league millions of dollars but they disrespected him and gave him bad press and coverage in his contract year. Stern may have had something to do with the demise of Iverson and nobody will ever know. Even the referees were told to not give Iverson calls when he was in Denver, now how pathetic is that?
Iverson still managed to go down as one of the 25 greatest players in NBA history despite going through such harsh treatment. It is too bad it had to end like this for one of the games greatest players and one of the biggest cultural icons ever. But Iverson's impact will always be felt and he will be headed to the Hall Of Fame in about six years after he officially retires.
Pretty sad because he could still be leading a team into the playoffs if he was in the right situation, he could still be leading the league in scoring and still be an MVP candidate but it won't work with these GM's and Owners.
Many may be brainwashed to forget about Iverson and if LeBron James goes onto have as great a career as Iverson's he will probably be considered one of the 10 greatest players to ever play which is unfair.
But remember before there was "King James" there was the "Answer" and the "Answer" did what he wanted and he did it his way and although his way may not be working today he still kept it real.
What the league did to Allen Iverson is tragic and no player should ever have to go through it. Just like his tattoo says "Only the Strong Survive" and though he may be down right now oh boy did he survive.
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