Standing barely 6 feet tall, Allen Iverson was usually the smallest player on the court at any given time. But from his iconic and deadly crossover to his notorious off the court antics, Iverson transcended the sport and became a cultural icon of the late 1990s and 2000s.
Born and raised in Virginia, Iverson took his talents to nearby Georgetown where he exploded onto the national scene. Averaging 23 points per game across his two seasons, Iverson still holds the highest career scoring average in Georgetown history. After a breakout sophomore campaign that saw him average 25 points per game, the Philadelphia 76ers took Iverson with the first overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft.
In the NBA, Iverson would go on to have one of the most decorated careers in NBA history. Over his 14 years in the NBA, Iverson was an 11-time all-star, 4 time NBA scoring champion, the 2000-2001 MVP, and the 1996-1997 Rookie of the Year. Although he never led his team to an NBA title (not that he had much help), Iverson still holds the second highest career postseason scoring average, a testament to his clutch play. However, stats and accolades alone far from tell the full story of AI.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Iverson Almost Played Football for Notre Dame
Not only did Iverson dominate the hardwood during his time at Bethel HS in Virginia, but he was also one of the state’s (and nation’s) premier football prospects. Playing both QB and DB, Iverson led his team to a state title and AP player of the year his junior season. He pulled off the exact same feat with Bethel’s basketball team just a few months later.
During his standout Junior year, Iverson threw for 14 touchdowns, ran for 15 more, totaled 2,204 yards of offense, and picked off 8 passes on the other side of the ball. A true two-way star, one rival coach even went as far as to say that Iverson was a more dangerous matchup than Michael Vick.
One of the top football recruits in the nation, Iverson drew heavy interest from a number of premier programs. Notre Dame stood out from the pack and Iverson admittedly had an eye for the legendary gold helmets of the Irish. His first choice had been to play football there. However, an incident in high school caused the Irish to back up on their interest in Iverson, leading him to play basketball at Georgetown. Speaking of the incident…
2. Iverson Was Involved In A Fight That Nearly Ended His Career
On Valentine’s day in 1993, police reported that Iverson was involved in a brawl at a bowling alley and was subsequently charged with 3 counts of maiming by mob for his involvement. At just 17 years old and one of the top football and basketball recruits in the nation, the incident made headlines across the nation. Despite video from the encounter proving inconclusive, witness testimony was enough for the judge to hand down a 15-year sentence on Iverson.
Iverson served 4 months of the sentence before being granted clemency by the state governor, Doug Wilder. The indicent sparked fierce debate as Iverson was booked based on an archaic, post-civil war law that gave the state the ability to charge him for simply being in attendance of the altercation. An appeals court would later overturn the ruling due to insufficient evidence in 1995.
In the fallout from the incident, Iverson lost interest from a number of top programs, including his first choice of Notre Dame. With Notre Dame out of the mix, Iverson turned his full attention to basketball and the rest is history.
Iverson could not be reached for comment.
3. Iverson Once Unintentionally Pranked Larry Hughes
During Larry Hughes’ 1998 rookie season, he and Iverson were walking through the 76er’s players lot and came upon Iverson’s Bentley (one of many for AI). According to Iverson, Hughes’ eyes got massive and he said something along the lines of “Yo AI… I have to get me one of these.”. Without thinking twice, AI handed him the keys and told him the car was his. Larry tossed his bag in the car and took off.
The story gets better the next day at practice when Iverson came up to Hughes to ask him about his new ride. Hughes was apparently furious at Iverson and under the impression that Iverson had been pulling a rookie prank on him.
What happened was that AI being AI, he had a guy who routinely filled up his gas tank for him (so that he didn’t ever have to worry about it). The car was a little low on gas that day and Hughes had decided to take a bit of a “scenic route” home through West Philly in order to show off his new ride. Being that Larry was a rookie and didn’t have much experience driving a Bentley, he didn’t notice the gas meter running low and eventually ran out of gas on the streets of West Philly. Hughes had to spend almost half the night with the car before help arrived.
4. Iverson sees a lot of himself in Russell Westbrook
“I’m the biggest 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. Just a guy that’s going to bring it every single night.”
Despite the affirmation from Iverson, basketball analysts have long compared the heart of the two players. Neither is a pure shooter, yet both found ways to average over 30 points per game in a season (in Iverson’s case, he did it 3 times). Although Westbrook tends to rely more on his raw athleticism compared to AI, watching Russell relentlessly attack the basket and will his team to victory has always felt somewhat Iverson-esque.
5. Iverson Is Secretly An Avid Cartoonist
Beneath his braggadocios persona and incredible athletic achievements, Iverson has a creative side. In his article with the Player’s Tribune, Iverson let the world in on the seldom known fact that he is an avid artist. Despite his persona off the court, Iverson was never much of a talker during games and said he used art to keep his edge on the court.
Particularly fond of cartoons, AI said he would draw up his opponents or those who “did him wrong” in cartoon form. Iverson loves to put his enemies worst features on blast and the art enabled him to get a mental edge without engaging the premier talkers (Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Reggie Miller, etc.) of his era.
Even with his playing days nearly a decade in the rear-view mirror, Iverson still finds himself using cartoons as a creative outlet. According to the man himself, “Nobody out there was (or is!) wanting to be on the wrong end of my pen.”