How Iverson’s grueling path to the NBA made him an icon

Iverson has become one of the most recognizable and famous NBA players of all time but most don't understand how close he was to lose his career before it even started.

Allen “The Answer” Iverson is someone almost every NBA fan has heard of, He’s a legend that changed the game forever and some say he was before his time as a player. When you think of him you think of hard work and determination but that doesn’t go for just his professional career, it goes for everything he’s gone through in life.

  Allen’s life didn’t start easy by any means. He was raised by a single parent in his mother who was 15 years old in Hampton Virginia where drugs and crime were an occurrence every day. He didn’t have many people to look up to besides his mother. He had a father figure for a time in Michael Freeman but that didn’t last for long since Freeman got arrested for dealing drugs.

Despite the circumstances that might have held him back, Iverson made the most of what he had. He was an outstanding multi-sport athlete and eventually lead his high school to the Virginia state championships in both basketball and football, bringing home Associate Player Of the Year awards for both sports. He had a bright future and many scholarship offers were in his grasp until a bowling alley brawl threatened to destroy his future.

Iverson runs into a major problem

In February of 1993, Iverson and his friends went to a bowling alley where they got rowdy and upset some of the other patrons. Some words were said and soon a brawl broke out between Iverson’s group — all black — and another group — all white. When the police got involved they arrested only the black youths. Iverson, perhaps the most well-known athlete in the city, was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison. The group of whites claimed that he had hit a girl on the head.

Iverson denied starting the brawl: “For me to be in a bowling alley where everybody in the whole place know who I am and be crackin’ people upside the head with chairs and think nothin’ gonna happen? That’s crazy! And what kind of a man would I be to hit a girl in the head with a damn chair? I rather have ’em say I hit a man with a chair, not no damn woman.”

Nobody that was in the other group was sentenced to any type of punishment. There were many rallies held in Hampton by Iverson’s supporters and the African American community. He was soon granted clemency by Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder, and the Virginia Court of Appeals eventually overturned his conviction in 1995 for insufficient evidence. Iverson was finally free and able to continue his promising career in basketball.


In the star-studded 1996 NBA Draft, Allen Iverson was drafted with the first pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. Allen didn’t have many expectations to carry the team to the playoffs  as they finished with a 31-51 record, but Allen himself did great for himself by winning Rookie of the Year and slowly elevating himself to the top of the NBA. Iverson and company made the NBA Finals a couple of years later. They had the task to beat the Lakers with dominant duo Kobe & Shaq, but it did not happen. At least they can say they won a game in the series.

We all know how great of a playing career Iverson had. He finished as one of the greatest scorers of all time. His accolades in the NBA include him being an 11-time All-Star, 4-time Scoring Champ, 1-time MVP, and 3-time All NBA First Team. If you’ve ever watched any crossover highlights on YouTube, you definitely saw the infamous “Iverson crossover” that he had on Jordan which left some speechless. Most former NBA players have stated that he hands down had the best handles and crossover and no one comes close. Current players like Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas have implemented some of Allens moves in there own repertoire.

Being an amazing ball handler and scorer isn’t the only reason Iverson has legendary status, he also changed style in the NBA forever.

Lasting impact in the NBA


Iverson was a game changer on and off the court and that includes him being called by some at the time “an anti-cultural hero.” Allen was the first NBA player to bring the cornrows and hood look into the NBA, and he even made a rap album which Commissioner David Stern forced him not to release due to its profanity.. The NBA changed the dress code in 2005 and implemented the “Iverson rule” which demanded that NBA players come into the games in a suit and tie instead of copying Allen and wearing baggy clothes and do-rags. Many NBA players have recently thanked Allen for taking the shots and rough times for the modern players being able to do what he couldn’t. Now almost everybody has a tattoo or an arm sleeve. Allen was somewhat ahead of his time.

The ending to Iverson’s career was sad to say the least. He went to China because he didn’t want to be a bench player in the NBA. He was on an amazing Denver Nuggets team with Carmelo Anthony and company but sadly the results didn’t meet the expectations. There were also issues in his personal life. His ex-wife accused him of holding their kids hostage and having a gun. It’s like Iverson was always in a problem his whole career — with the police, the league, or even his own family.

Iverson has left a tremendous impact on and off the court. Although some bash him for never winning a championship, you can’t deny that he left everything out on the court every single night. A kid raised by a single mother in Hampton Virginia did what most kids couldn’t, he made it out of that situation and made millions. AI will forever be remembered for what he left behind on the game, and the lasting impact his career gives those kids in bad situations hope to keep working hard so they can make it out of the tough times.

Image: Wikimedia

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