Former NBA great Allen Iverson retired yesterday, making official what most of us sports fans have known for at least the last two years: dude was done.
I normally would look back on a superstar’s career and extol the athletic exploits of such an athlete upon his/her retirement. Though with Iverson, his career from my point of view could be summed up with two words: what if.
What if Iverson embraced the coaching he received (notably from Larry Brown during Iverson’s prime with the Philadelphia 76ers) that would have made him arguably the greatest player in NBA history? What if Iverson put in the work – notably by attending practice – what also would have made him the greatest?
For the record, I am a HUGE fan of Iverson. He was one of the two best small players (the other being Isiah Thomas) to play the game. I admired his courage and willingness to put a team on his shoulders and take them to the promised land. The Sixers team that played the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals would have been a lottery team without Iverson.
For his career, Iverson averaged 26.7 points per game, 2.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Check out Iverson’s other career accomplishments:
- NBA Most Valuable Player (2001)
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1997)
- 11× NBA All-Star (2000–2010)
- 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2001, 2005)
- 4× NBA scoring champion (1999, 2001–2002, 2005)
- 3× NBA steals leader (2001–2003)
- 3× All-NBA First Team (1999, 2001, 2005)
I think that even with the aforementioned accomplishments, Iverson should have accomplished more. When Brown coached the Sixers, he pushed and propped Iverson into being the best – but Iverson was usually not but so receptive to it. Keep in mind that Iverson was never one for believing in practice, let alone going to practice. Remember this gem (which also happens to be one of my favorite press conference meltdowns)?
I could also go on about how Iverson cost himself tens of millions of dollars by tatting himself up and portraying himself as being “thugged out”, but that would focus on the ancillary stuff instead of what matters most.
Iverson had the game to be the greatest baller of all time. He had the will to be the greatest of all time. He had the heart to be the greatest of all time.
Iverson didn’t have the DISCIPLINE to be the greatest of all time. If he had Kobe’s discipline and work ethic, Iverson would easily have at least two NBA titles, not to mention a greater legacy.
But for now I am left to wonder, “what if?”
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