Iverson, Allen


Iverson, Allen
▪ 2002

      With his remarkable play during the 2000–01 National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season and a gritty, determined performance during the play-offs, Allen Iverson, a guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, forced the NBA and its fans to accept him as one of the league's elite players. Previously known primarily as a talented but difficult player with a checkered past, Iverson won the league scoring title, earned Most Valuable Player honours, and led his team to the NBA finals, all during a season in which he improved relations with his coach and developed a new reputation as a team player.

      Allen Ezail Iverson was born on June 7, 1975, in Hampton, Va. Growing up in poverty with his mother and two sisters, Iverson attended Bethel High School, where he led the school's football and basketball teams to state championships his junior year. At age 17 Iverson was jailed after being accused of starting a racially charged brawl in a bowling alley, but his conviction was later overturned owing to lack of evidence. He was offered a scholarship to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., where in two years he averaged 23 points per game and won two Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards before making the decision to leave school to play professionally. Iverson was chosen first overall in the 1996 NBA draft by the 76ers.

      Despite being one of the smallest players in the league (1.8 m, 75 kg [6 ft, 165 lb]), Iverson made a big splash immediately, scoring 30 points in his first game and, late in the 1996–97 season, stringing together five consecutive games of 40 points or more. He led his team with a 23.5 scoring average and won Rookie of the Year honours. His quickness and his signature crossover dribble often left even the best defenders helpless. His refusal to conform to a conservative off-the-court persona, however, such as that of Michael Jordan, made Iverson an outcast. His hip-hop-styled clothing, flashy jewelry, and braided hair were not part of the image the league wanted to promote. One NBA publication even went so far as to obscure Iverson's tattoos in a photo. An arrest after his rookie year (all charges were later dropped) tarnished his reputation further.

      Iverson led his team in scoring and steals in each of his first five seasons, winning the league scoring title in 1998–99 and being named to the All-NBA first team. During his first several years in the league, however, his clashes with 76ers coach Larry Brown over late arrivals to practice and other issues became as well known as his scoring prowess. He was portrayed by the media as a selfish, disruptive player. At the beginning of the 2000 season, Iverson released a controversial rap song from his upcoming album that contained derogatory lyrics about women and homosexuals, which further cast a negative light. As the season progressed, however, Iverson began to show a new side. He worked harder in practice, praised his teammates in public, and mended his relationship with Brown. The NBA, meanwhile, began to recognize that Iverson had a huge following of young fans who identified with his rebellious image.

      During the 2001 play-offs, Iverson staged one brilliant effort after another, averaging 32.9 points despite nagging injuries. During game four of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Iverson was elbowed in the mouth and knocked to the floor. He went on to score 28 points in a 76ers win, later admitting that he had swallowed the blood from his wound as he ran the court so that the referees would not force him to leave the game to be treated. The moment typified Iverson's season and helped to define a new image for one of the game's most talked-about players.

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ American athlete
in full  Allen Ezail Iverson 
born June 7, 1975, Hampton, Virginia, U.S.

      American basketball player known for both explosive play on the court and controversy away from the game. He became the first great athlete to be strongly identified with the hip-hop movement.

      Athletic success and controversy came to Iverson at an early age. At Bethel High School, he led the school's gridiron football and basketball teams to state championships his junior year. At age 17 he was jailed after being accused of starting a racially charged brawl in a bowling alley, but his conviction was later overturned because of lack of evidence. He was offered a scholarship to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where in two years he averaged 23 points per game and won two Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards before making the decision to leave school to play professionally. Iverson was chosen first overall in the 1996 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.

      Although he was one of the smallest players in the league, standing 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall and weighing 165 pounds (75 kg), Iverson made a big splash immediately, leading his team with a scoring average of 23.5 points per game and winning Rookie of the Year honours. His quickness and his signature crossover dribble often left even the best defenders helpless. Off the court his baggy clothing, flashy jewelry, and braided hair were not part of the image the NBA wanted to promote. During his early years in the league, he clashed frequently with coaches and team officials, was portrayed by the media as a selfish, disruptive player, and had several run-ins with the law. Yet he developed a huge following of young fans who identified with his rebellious image. Despite the controversies that followed him, Iverson proved his talent on the court, taking the league scoring title in 1998–99 and winning the scoring title, the steals title, and Most Valuable Player honours in 2000–01 while guiding the 76ers to the NBA Finals. In the middle of the 2006–07 season he was traded to the Denver Nuggets, where he was teamed with young superstar Carmelo Anthony (Anthony, Carmelo). Iverson was an extremely proficient scorer, and in 2007 he became the sixth fastest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points. Denver, however, failed to advance beyond the first round of the play-offs, and Iverson expressed a desire to play for a contender. Three games into the 2008–09 season, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons.

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Universalium. 2010.

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