On Monday, for the first time, Allen Iverson wasn’t The Answer.
He was receiving his.
The Philadelphia 76ers legend was chosen as an inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Iverson went among the trees, as per usual for most of his career, while being selected alongside big men greats such as Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming.
And suddenly, it is all justified.
The du-rag, the baggy jeans, the oversized throwback jerseys, the gold chains and, of course – “we talkin’ about practice?”
Iverson was never shy about doing things his way during his NBA career. Most of the time, his actions were met with criticism, and all of the time, he didn’t care. The Answer just kept on doing him, playing basketball the way he wanted to and representing the hip-hop culture while doing it.
The establishment that is the Hall of Fame could have fought this, at least for a year, to prove a point to Iverson and his followers: Don’t act the way we want you to and you’re going to pay the price for it.
It was right not to. The 6-foot-nothing guard impacted the league in so many more ways than making his peers look foolish on the court night in and night out. The league went as far as instituting a dress code at the start of the 2005-06 season, effectively banning styles associated with the hip-hop culture. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see who that was in response to.
Iverson embraced and embodied the City of Brotherly love from the first moment he became a Sixer on that June night in 1996. His will and his passion might have even exceeded his elite talent. That’s what Philly loved about the undersized superstar—no matter how outmatched he seemed, he always went on to defy the odds.
A.I. went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and later captured his lone MVP award in 2000-01. That same year, he brought the Sixers team to their first NBA Finals appearance since the Larry O’Brien trophy was brought home to the city in 1983.
In that championship series, Iverson and Co. faced a Los Angeles Lakers team touting his Hall classmate, O’Neal, and an 11-0 record in the playoffs. Just like time and time again, The Answer was counted out. And during Game 1, he proved again why counting him out was misplaced, going on to drop 48 points and shocking the Lakers with a 107- 101 victory—their only one of that Finals series.
Michael Jordan goes down in the eyes of many as the greatest basketball player of all time. All things included, and stature involved, even some of the current NBA stars believe Iverson deserves his own category.
Just ask The King.
“Pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player who ever played,” LeBron James said of Iverson back in 2013. “He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after MJ.”
Maybe Iverson never added a ring to his collection, but the guard captured the heart of a city and forced the league to react on a nightly basis.
For a Hall of Fame nod, it was never a question that he was The Answer.
Dennis Chambers is journalism major from Mullica Hill, N.J.. He can be reached at dennis.chambers@ student.shu.edu or on Twitter @ Dennis.Chambers_.