The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Allen Iverson Made It to the Hall of Fame
He was late for his first official duty — a press conference. Of course he was. As fellow 2016 inductee Shaquille O’Neal joked, “You’re talking about the Hall of Fame?” Allen Iverson, straight outta Hampton, does it his way and always has. Scarcely six feet tall, barely 165 pounds, he was the scrawny, ornery heart of the 76ers from his 1996 first-overall draft pick, leading the team on that thrilling 2001 ride to the NBA Finals against the Lakers. He was a Sixer again on the day in 2013 when he retired from the game, having been let go, at that point, by the Nuggets, the Pistons, the Grizzlies. Everyone knew he’d stayed too long in the gym.
We didn’t care. Just like we didn’t care, not really, about the drinking and gambling, the nightclub scuffles, the troubles with his wife, high-school sweetheart Tawanna. All that only made him more like us, the underdog with a chip on his shoulder, a hoops Rocky fighting for respect the only way he knew how. Let the league change its dress code to try and warp him to its P.R. standards; cornrows and gold chains and tats, he refused to conform. And he turned his refusal into determination: “I had to overcome what they said about me,” he said at Thursday’s press conference. So he became the smallest player ever to be named the NBA MVP.
When he finally arrived in Springfield, an hour and a half late, he appealed to the reporters around him: “What’s wrong with being you? … With your flaws, your mistakes, with the way you look … the way you talk, what’s wrong with that?” It’s a question the residents of this city ask about themselves now and again. As sportswriter Michael Lee put it, Iverson was “the embodiment of Philadelphia’s defiant, independent spirit” — the sort of man who might, oh, say, spurn a king and start a revolution. “I don’t think there will ever be another relationship like the relationship between me and the Philadelphia fans,” The Answer said in Springfield. Neither do we.
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