Allen Iverson Hero

Allen Iverson Is My Hero Because He Was Passionate, Authentic, And Vulnerable

Seeing Allen Iverson in person was the closest I've ever come to seeing Jesus Christ come back to life.

"I didn't want to be Michael or Magic...I wanted to be Allen Iverson." " - LeBron James

Back in the days of dial-up Internet, I used to go on to the NBA website and wait minutes at a time for NBA games stats to refresh. In particular, I'd follow one player: Allen Iverson. I'd check what he did the last play, how many points he scored, assists he dished out, steals he had. I remember this used to be the highlight of my young childhood nights, and one night, I had the chills and could not sleep from something incredible he'd done: Allen Iverson scored 60 points on February 12, 2015, against the Orlando Magic.

I am a Philadelphia sports fan because of Allen Iverson. Even though I only lived in Philly for one year when I was really young, the Sixers are my favorite team in sports to this day - and to that, I owe one man, the man who made the biggest cultural impact on the NBA: Allen Iverson.

I was working a 7-hour shift at work the other day at my university gym as sports camps for kids were happening, and as I'm doing rounds around the gym, I hear a rumor from one of my co-workers.

"People here are freaking out about a famous basketball player."

"Who?" I ask.

"Allen Iverson."

No way, I thought. Someone probably just started a stupid rumor. There was absolutely no way Allen Iverson was actually in our gym, so I didn't get too excited because I didn't want to buy into false hope. However, I saw kids sprinting to the top floor of our building. Apparently, there must have been something there worth checking out.

And walking around the gym, I still didn't see him. Looking closer, there was one person sitting in the middle of the court helping coach the kids that stood out, and he was wearing a red bucket hat. I saw the tattoos, saw the chains, I saw the cornrows. It was actually him. It was actually Allen Iverson.

I stood there for 20 minutes in utter disbelief, completely unable to shut up to every spectator near me, pointing out the person to make sure I wasn't dreaming or hallucinating.

This was my hero, standing only 100 feet away from me. I held him to such status and influence when I was a kid that I never thought I would actually see him in person, and yet there Allen Iverson was, on the phone as he watched the kids play ball.

I had to go back to work for a little bit, but any downtime I had, I went back to the top floor, trying to get as many pictures as I could that weren't grainy and hard to see.

I stayed there intermittently, just staring at him play basketball and take pictures with some of the kids for three hours, still freaking out in utter disbelief. I could never get close enough to take a picture with him or try to talk to him, but just seeing Allen Iverson in person, on the phone, playing basketball with little kids, was the closest I've ever come to seeing Jesus Christ come back to life.

A player built like Allen Iverson should not have been a great NBA player - at 6'0" (5'10" probably without shoes), 165 pounds, A.I. did not have the size to compete with the greats of his time.

There was Kobe, T-Mac, Vince, but then there was the Answer. He was just differently from the rest. He was an iconoclast in not only the way he played the game, but how he carried himself. They called A.I. inefficient, a ballhog, a thug, a basketball player that didn't practice. And with each label, positive or negative, he gained my attention - because Iverson carried on and persevered, and never stopped playing every game like it was his last.

He would drive into the lane and take hits from two guys much bigger than him, and then come back the next play and do the same thing. He would dare to go head-to-head against the greats, like his famous crossover over MJ when he was only a rookie. And then there was one of the greatest shots in NBA history - the crossover and then fadeaway over Tyronn Lue that iced a memorable game 1 against the indomitable Lakers in the finals. If there was any athlete that was the epitome of heart, it was he.

He was David going against Goliath every single possession, and he did it while averaging 41.1 minutes a game his career. The only other NBA players to do so? The greats: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Bill Russell.

And it wasn't the fact that he was a great player - it was the way he carried himself off the court. Allen Iverson was just different - and inspired a cultural evolution of the NBA.

I don't think of A.I. as a hero in that he was perfect - in an objective analysis of his impact - he is as most humans are: an anti-hero. There was a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of mediocre, and what each depends on who you are and how you see things. I wish he would have agreed to extend his career by agreeing to come off the bench. I wish he would not have gambled as much on defense.

However, Iverson was the realest player to every grace the NBA, and that's what makes people love him. Bryan Arhem Graham of "The Atlantic" captures what made so many NBA viewers of my generation love A.I. so much:

"Yet even as he stumbled—and stumble he did—there was an authenticity to Iverson that made him a magnetic public figure. In an era of sanitized athletes with meticulously cultivated images, Iverson’s lack of filter made him an anomaly. He compromised for no one. Whether you loved him or hated him, you could not look away. "

As such, he was one of the most polarizing and divisive players in NBA history. He has been labeled the NBA's "most controversial superstar." I love Allen Iverson not despite all of his perceived flaws and misgivings, but because of them. Flawed, but accepting of those flaws, the fact that the city of Philadelphia and fans like myself loved him because he was so human.

But I believe, to my heart, that no player was more misunderstood as A.I. No moment of his career is more misunderstood than the infamous practice rant that many attribute humorously a lack of work ethic and immaturity.

What people forget (or maybe never knew), is that yes, without context, that's what it means. But the real story is much murkier once the details and emotions behind the story are known.

The team had just been knocked out of the first round of the 2002 NBA playoffs, a major disappointment from having gone to the NBA finals the year before.

And my gripe with the video now is that it only shows part of the interview, the most meme-worthy part. No one knows the detail that Iverson was still actively grieving the death of his best friend, Rashaan Langford. Only a few days before the interview, the murder trial for Langford's death began.

"I'm upset for one reason: 'Cause I'm in here. I lost. I lost my best friend. I lost him, and I lost this year. Everything is just going downhill for me, as far as just that. You know, as far as my life. And then I'm dealing with this. ... My best friend is dead. Dead. And we lost. And this is what I have to go through for the rest of the summer until the season is all over again."

And that captures another part of what made Iverson such an icon and beloved figure, and ultimately, my hero. Allen Iverson was vulnerable. He was vulnerable his whole career - tell me what athlete is open to the public with their flaws, tribulations, and shortcomings all the time? What athlete carries through those without shame and only acceptance of who he was, who made mistakes and didn't try to cover them up?

That was Allen Iverson. All heart. All the time.

Cover Image Credit: Ryan Fan

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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.


We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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Every couple years or so, there will be a talent like no other in the draft. This person will be tagged as the next great leader of a powerful dynasty or the leader of the NBA for a decade or so. Players such as Kevin Durant or Lonzo Ball. We are in the middle of witnessing something double that hype. The person I'm going to talk about has made the NCAA his playtoy and has torn up amateur defense after defense, leaving nothing in his wake of destruction. He has made himself into a nightmare with his supreme athleticism or his large body, creating mismatches everywhere around the hoop and all around the court.

Yes I am talking about Zion Williamson.

Zion Williamson is good. How good is he you may ask? He is so good that before even stepping onto a COLLEGE FLOOR, major celebrities such as Drake or Jay Z were at his high school games to get a look at the phenom that would come to dominate basketball for the next decade. Williamson is so good that he literally makes other college programs scout even harder to find a diamond in a rough which they can develop into half the player he is. That is how he knows he's made his impact on the basketball world.

In the 2018-2019 NCAA mens division 1 season, Williamson and another potential top 5 pick in R.J. Barrett have carried duke with the likes of Cam Reddish and other role players this season. They've formulated a game plan to bully their way to the basket and force defenders at the other end to play up to their strengths. This has allowed for them to pick up easy games against smaller teams but if the time comes, they can adapt to the 3 point shot too. Just look at the results of the round of 32 game against UCF, Duke was forced to switch to another game plan because they knew that their idea of getting easy baskets around the rim wouldn't work.

However, even more than a basketball player, Zion Williamson has been controversial figure for his surprising injury. The man who was compared too as being hit by a car suddenly seemed so human when his shoe broke and he was lying there on the floor. This first of all brought up the controversy of shoes put more importantly, should college athletes get paid? This was a serious question to ask as staying a amateur was always considered a bad idea. Why would you limit yourself to getting less money when you can go pro and get paid? And due to the NBA CBA in 2005, you risk not going to the NBA at all if you have an off-season in college. This can hurt your chances to get paid and affects how many players will continue going to the NBA if foreign leagues have spots open with actual paying jobs. As the summer moves closer, Zion Williamson will get his shot to show if he's that once in a generation talent he is expected to be.

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