Looking Back at Allen Iverson

With the news that Allen Iverson is going to announce his retirement, I thought it would be cool to take a look back at one of the most intriguing players in league history.

I want to begin back in the 2000-2001 season. With everybody you can think of rapping (and later producing), Allen decided to get in the rap game:

It's not great, but not too bad. And as you would expect, a bunch of people were pissed off at Allen's artistry, including now former Commissioner David Stern. Why were these folks mad? The President of Racial Unity Asa Khalif said:

"Allen Iverson will not admit to the fact that he used the word f-----, that he was disseminating against homosexual men and women. He will not admit to the fact that he disrespected women in his album.

The controversy faded away as Iverson didn't drop his album & went back to focusing on basketball. He had a solid 23 points on Opening Night as the Sixers took apart the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. I remember that game, not because of the action on the court, but everything else surrounding that night. I was 10 and just getting into watching sports full time (I was strictly into the WWF & rap music at that point), and the Patrick Ewing trade was a shocker to me. I'd always watch the playoffs, and every time the Knicks went down, Patrick Ewing would get all of the heat. From the newspapers, to the sportscasters on the news, to Star and Buc Wild on HOT 97 (remember them?), everybody basically said the Knicks would turn it around if they got rid of Ewing. They eventually did, and this is something I'll never forget, the NY Daily News had a backpage that blared out: "SEE EW LATER!!" After Opening Night, the "We Want Ewing" chants and giant Ewing faces in the Garden crowd told a different tale.

Getting back to Iverson, he ended up having his best season. Let's dig into his numbers:


Allen Iverson in 2000-2001

Games Played


Minutes per game


True Shooting percentage


Assist percentage


Rebound rate


Turnover rate


Usage rate




Win Shares per 48


Even though this was Iverson's best season individually and team wise, it wasn't all happy go lucky. Prior to the start of the season, Allen and Larry Brown got into one of their usual battles, although this time it looked like Iverson was finally gonna get shipped out. There was a deal that would've sent Iverson to the Pistons in exchange for Jerry Stackhouse (who would've returned to his original team), Glen Rice, and Christian Laettner. However, that deal didn't happen and the two had to go back to each other. Fast forward to the spring, and after an MVP season for Iverson and Coach of the Year for Brown, they were the subjects of a profile piece by Sports Illustrated that featured both of their mothers.

If you remember Iverson's style of play, he was fearless going to the basket and loved midrange jumpers. One of the most impressive things about Allen was his ability to get back up after being knocked down (on and off the court). He was fearless attacking the basket, as he was fourth in the league in field goal attempts in the restricted area, trailing only Shaquillle O'Neal, Antoine Walker (!!!), Tracy McGrady, and Karl Malone. As you would expect with someone who got to the rim as often as AI did, he was fourth in the league in free throw attempts (trailing only Shaq, Stackhouse & Paul Pierce).

One other thing you probably remember about Allen was his extremely high usage rates. With the amount of time Allen had the ball in his hands, you can reasonably say that he was a bit of a ball hog. However, when you take a look at that Sixers roster, you can see why Iverson had to have the ball in his hands all the time. George Lynch & Theo Ratliff were excellent defenders bu not worth much offensively, Aaron McKie was OK, Eric Snow wasn' much of a scorer, Toni Kukoc was meh at that point in his career, and when he came over from Atlanta, Dikembe Mutombo wasn't a player you could consistently throw the ball into down in the post and expect success. Iverson led the league with a 35.9 usage rate (He led the league five times in that category and finished in second on two other occasions). He did keep his involved though, as he averaged close to five assists a night.

Iverson was not and was never seen as a good defender, but he was always had active hands. He picked up two steals a night and averaged that same amount throughout his career. There isn't that much defensive data on AI's early years, but I always remembered the Sixers being solid when he was on the court. And my memory was right, as the Sixers maintained their defensivde excellence with and without The Answer. Also, it never hurts to share the court with Lynch, Mutombo, and Ratliff.

After their run to the Finals in 2001, the Sixers tried like hell to improve their roster and get back to contention. Along the way, this happened:

Iverson continued his scoring barrage, winning the scoring title two more times and finishing in the top five two other years. Unfortunately for him and the city of Philadelphia, the Sixers never made it back to Championship contention and Iverson eventually got traded.

How was Allen against the Nets? Since we're asking, let's take a look:


Allen Iverson vs. the New Jersey Nets

Games Played


Minutes per game


Effective Field Goal percentage


Assist per game


Turnovers per game


Rebounds per game


Field goal attempts per game


The Nets and Sixers were nevergreat at the same time, but the backcourt matchup was always intriguing. During his tenure in Philadelphia, the Nets, at various points, featured: Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in the backcourt. Iverson was also good for Nets business (long before the days of reversible jerseys), as the Nets saw slight upticks in attendance when he played at the Continental Airlines Arena, and in some cases, they had thousands more people in the building than regular.

Allen in the record books

Here's where Iverson ranks in some important statistical categories in Sixer history:

1st in points per game (technically, he's tied with Wilt Chamberlain), turnovers, usage rate, three pointers made and three pointers attempted

2nd in total minutes, minutes per game, total points, free throws made and free throws attempted

6th in total Win Shares and PER

How do people see him?

Well... it's complicated. If you're like me, and by me I mean a person that values efficiency in my shooters, then you're supposed to loathe Iverson's game. He was third all time in Usage rate, trailing only Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade. Despite that, his True Shooting percentage was only 51.8 percent, which is pretty piss poor. The vest summation of this critique in my view comes from Chris Yeh, contributor at the Wages of Wins network, who wrote:

Despite The Answer’s many accolades, which include the NBA MVP and being named the 5th greatest shooting guard of all time by ESPN in 2008 (he beat out Clyde Drexler and Reggie Miller, who ought to be rolling over in the graves at that slight), his true destiny is to be the answer to the following question:

"Which so-called NBA superstar is the clearest example of the Yay Points hypothesis?"

Others hold a more positive view of Allen. They respect his game, honesty, and appreciate the odds he has had to overcome throughout his life. Lang Whitaker at writes:

Still, to judge Iverson’s career on wins and losses is to completely miss the point. Part of the story of Iverson was that the story was never solely about basketball. For so many sports fans, particularly of my generation, Iverson was a walking representation of the audacity of hope. Almost everyone who considered him could find something identifiable in him; we have all had the odds against us at some point. We were too short, too skinny, misunderstood, outmanned, outmaneuvered … whatever. Every time Iverson took the court, he was overcoming improbable odds. For all the remarkable things about him, perhaps the most remarkable was that he was so applicable to so many different situations.

For many people of my generation, even if we weren’t Sixers fans, it was hard to root against Iverson.

And Bomani Jones, at the time writing for the mothership:

That's why, no matter how boorish he could be or how self-inflicted his problems were, I rooted for Iverson on the court, and why I will continue to do so in life. He earned what he had, and he had a chance for even more. The short, skinny underdog who played harder than anyone in recent memory could be king, and he nearly did so without compromising personally or professionally. Even if that made him a jerk, it was one worthy of respect.

Even as he heads into retirement, we shouldn't forget the impact Iverson had on the NBA. He was able to revitalize a dead in the water Philadelphia team and turned them into a steady playoff contender. He was the most ball dominant player I've seen in my years watching the NBA on a consistent basis. He also pissed off the league offices at every turn, and that always grades out as a positive in my book. Although not directly caused by him (my best guess is here), the NBA put in the dress code to make themselves look more respectable in the eyes of the fans and media that covers the Association. Whether you loved or you hated him, Allen Iverson always made you want to tune in and see what he was gonna do next. I have a feeling we'll be just as intrigued the day he makes his Hall of Fame speech.

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