Grade A Certified

"Why Does Everybody Hate the Answer?" – by Matt White

Posted by Mr. Put On on July 13, 2009

Once again, Matt, our sports enthusiast and near-future sports column writer has an update and in depth look at the life of A.I. Many of us have speculated on his situation both in the NBA and in his personal life. In a very recent interview, Matt was able to ask some of the questions lingering in our minds– who better to give him the answers?

When you read the following stats about this unnamed NBA Allstar, can you tell me why the media describes him negatively and uses him as a scapegoat?

  • 2001 NBA MVP
  • 28-pt scoring average per game – 3rd all-time highest scorer behind MJ & Wilt Chamberlin
  • NBA Record holder of 3 straight years leading the NBA in steals, but never named to an all-Defensive team
  • 10x NBA All Star
  • 2x NBA All Star MVP
  • 3x NBA All First Team
  • 1996 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 4x Scoring Champion
  • Only Rookie in NBA history to record 5 straight 40 point or more games
  • Holder of 5 NBA Finals records (including in a 5 game series PTs scored, FG, 3P attempted)
  • Only 2nd player in NBA History to have multiple 50 or more point games in a series (MJ being the other)

After reading some of that impressive resume, you know which future NBA Hall-of-Famer I’m referring to.  Allen Ezail Iverson is his name and he’s continually proven all of his critics and nay-sayers wrong.  Iverson was arguably the leader of a NBA renaissance.

In a league where some of the biggest and brightest stars were beginning to reach their twilight, the 1996 draft class led by A.I. ushered the hip hop movement into the NBA. The, now, iconic 1996 Slam magazine draft cover featured the greatest talent influx in a single draft:

A.I. gave us a glimpse into his future by no-showing that event then! But let’s look back at some history.

The NBA was still popular when this class came in, but look at what they changed. Compare the league before the ’96 class, to post-class and post-brawl at the palace. Davis Stern and his NBA executives might as well have been wearing corn rows and getting tatted up too. Before Ron Artest jumped into the stands in Detroit, hip hop and the NBA were a match made in heaven. Hip hop and RnB acts were half time shows, and all-star game contributors. Rappers gave the NBA free advertising by wearing jerseys, rapping about their favorite NBA players, and featuring them in videos

Culturally, A.I. helped foster this marriage. He embraced what fellow 76er Charles Barkley had said a few years earlier, “athletes are not role models.” He didn’t change who he was once he starting making millions of dollars. He wasn’t concerned about whether he would fit into the status quo of the NBA. He stayed true to himself.

And guess what happened. We embraced him.

Reebok signed him to a life-time shoe contract. Kids nation-wide learned and mastered the crossoverafter seeing A.I. crossover MJ in a game. Kids changed their playing style to match his. Kids wanted to be like that little guy who wasn’t afraid to run down the lane get knocked down but still score. Before D-Wade made a Converse commercial A.I. was already doing it. When injuries required A.I. to wear a sleeve over his elbow for medical reasons, kids began to wear anything from socks to stockings on their arms to match their idol.

But it hasn’t been all peaches and cream for A.I. His famous head-butting with then-Coach Larry Brown put a damper on his image. He was labeled selfish and un-coachable. His response to a question regarding practice became legendary long before youtube. With all that negativity surrounding him what did he do? The one thing that he does best (even though he was one hell of a high school football player) and that was just play basketball. He continued to defy the experts and carried the 76ers to the NBA Finals where on the road they beat the previously undefeated LA Lakers. Even though they lost the series, A.I. captured the respect of a nation. That little guy from Hampton, Va never say die attitude was contagious and continues to this day.

I bet people outside of Hampton, Va don’t know that this week A.I., gave two young men a free ride to college. Through his charity crossover promotions, A.I. gives back to his hometown in several ways.  Iverson is running a two-day camp as well as hosting a softball tournament and celebrity basketball game, with all proceeds going to his scholarship fund. But that’s the side of A.I. people rarely report on.

Commentators say “he’s done,” “he’s slow,” and might as well go out to pasture and play ball overseas.Why? Why at 34 is A.I. “done,” but a player a year older, taken in the same draft, is considered “in his prime.”? Steve Nash, who, according to, has actually played in more games that A.I., is looked at as a free agent for next year.

A.I. = 886 games

Nash = 934 games

Could it be that Steve Nash spent the first few years in the league riding the bench while Iverson’s body took a beating? Just looking at the numbers in fact despite playing in more games Nash has logged 13,438 points in 29,012 minutes, while A.I. has logged 23,983 points in 36,719 minutes. I don’t get it. Maybe this is a question that A.I. can’t answer.


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