In life, there are some things that are an absolute certainty. For some people, naming a favorite book or a favorite teacher growing up evokes memories despite those instances likely being in the rearview mirror of their lives. However, it is rarely a desire to go back to those times. It is more of a recognition of the things and forces that helped shape how people view the world.
That favorite book sparked, or contributed to, an intellectual awakening, the seeds of curiosity being planted in a fertile mind. That favorite teacher led to a passion for learning, learning in a conventional or unconventional setting, a formal or informal matter and, perhaps, led to becoming a teacher later down the line as well. In terms of the game of basketball, there is one player who played the game and completely revolutionized the approach in the lives of then-teenagers to the now-mid 30s crowd, and that player is Allen Iverson.
Initial memories of Allen Iverson and a basketball court go back to 1994 when he was a member of the Georgetown Hoyas during middle school years, between 13 and 14 years old. Iverson came along at the perfect time. Still recovering from the highs of being enamored with all things Michael Jordan, while realizing that Jordan was one year into his retirement from the NBA, the possibilities were wide-open for a basketball player to come along and capture imaginations the way MJ possessed them for years. However, those possibilities were relegated to NBA players. To think a college player would be the one to snatch the mantle of imaginations of 7th and 8th graders the way MJ did was unthinkable. Yet, that is exactly what happened.
Back then, only one kid in the entire school had the Nike Georgetown Hoyas Iverson jersey, and there was no amount of money in the world any of my classmates could throw at him for him to give it up. For those two years of middle school, watching Iverson’s every move on a basketball court became a priority, damn near an obsession. At 12 and 13 years old, seeing someone so small be so dominant was a sight to behold, and while there were other small players who dominated the game, there was not one who did so and looked so damn cool while doing it. It wasn’t a case that other players were not authentic; it was simply watching Iverson and realizing that not only was he authentic, he was unapologetic while doing so, and this was pre-braids and pre-ink Iverson (well, he did have the bulldog tat). By the time Iverson got to the NBA, there wasn’t much else he had to do to make the youth of the mid-90s followers of his game. We were sold well before then.
There are pieces on the internet singing the praises of Allen Iverson, and rightfully so. Wide-ranging pieces such as the ones from Justin Tinsley and Marc Spears provide perspectives that only can be captured by being in close proximity by either growing up in a shared location or being able to interact with him as a professional. This is more of a recognition and an appreciation for the basketball player who did the seemingly impossible: become the voice of a generation through his game, a champion for the underdogs, a player who fans saw a little bit of themselves in. it’s no surprise when defense of Iverson is so widespread, even to the point of the seemingly absurd.
Allen Iverson changed the game for the better, changed the way the game is viewed, and left it in a better place than when he came in. Just like a favorite book changes the way one reads literature, the way a favorite teacher changes the way one can learn, Allen Iverson changed the way to view the game of basketball. By playing the game the way he did and being so authentic while doing so, it allows fans not to be concerned when critics play up his shortcomings on the court. Besides, those shortcomings allow for people to understand the basic concept of humanity and not overly criticize his on-court flaws because, from the time he stepped foot on the campus of Georgetown to his final call in 2010 with the Philadelphia 76ers, he was so damn real.