Iverson in Memphis?

 The Best Player From The Best Draft Ever

Laying in bed at 11 in the afternoon recovering from Mono might not be the most thrilling way to start off an article about one of the most exciting and best NBA players of all time but the man is going to Memphis so maybe it is fitting.  So as I lay and look up and see an Allen Iverson poster where he surrounded in red like he is running at light speed and the countless magazine covers on my bed room walls, I reflect.  Every picture shows a man with great talent who plays hard since that was the only way he knows how to play.

As I look around and can’t help but smile, I was a freshman in high school in 1996 when one of the greatest draft classes of all time came to the NBA.  Even Slam Magazine proclaimed this a few years ago, ’96 Draft The Remix! Allen Iverson The Best Player From The Best Draft Class Ever.  There might be that other fellow in LA but look at his teammates over the years and compare.  Allen Iverson made it to the promise land, the NBA Finals, my senior year of high school and I felt that we made it there together.

Allen Iverson is a natural born leader.  I took a friend of mine to his first game as a Denver Nugget against the Golden State Warriors a few years back and she knew right away, he was running the team.  Just the way he was walking and talking it was clear.  He was the man. 

He was a free agent this season.  I knew he would not get his customary $20 Million salary any more.  But I thought he would get at least $10 Million starting for a champion contender.  Instead he just signed with the bottom of the standings Memphis Grizzlies for $3.5 to come off the bench? 

The man is what 6 feet, 180 pounds soaking wet on a good day?   What more could he have done?  One of his most famous lines is, “I play every game like it is my last” and boy does he.  Like his first signature shoe I have a Question that won’t be repeated.  Why didn’t Allen Iverson get any love this summer? 

Let’s start with how Iverson grew up.  He didn’t grow up in the nicest place in the world.  He grew up in Newport, Virginia.  There is a reason he has a Newport Bad News tattoo, he isn’t Lil Wayne, he experienced all the Bad News he talks about.  But the man does have structure in his life.  He learned a lot from John Thompson during his 2 years at Georgetown.  Then later with Larry Brown as his head coach for most of his time with the Philadelphia 76ers.  And let’s face it if you look like a little kid playing street ball with a bunch of tough inner city kids you aren’t going to be soft so Iverson always had to go hard.

Are people still holding his personality against him?  So he isn’t the biggest fan of practice in the world.  “We talking about practice”, priceless.  People shouldn’t be grilling someone like Iverson about practice to begin with. 

Is it that the man has the guts to stand up for what he believes in?  Back in 1995 when David Stern came up with the Dress Code, Iverson was the loudest critic.  He said that it “would not change a person’s character regardless of what type of clothing they wore”, and that “associating hip-hop styles of dress with violent crime, drugs, or a bad image is racist.” Iverson also said that the advertising of many prominent NBA sponsors, such as Nike, Reebok, Puma and Adidas were heavily influenced by hip-hop culture.

Or is he too real?  I get the inspiration to fight the world everyday by looking up at my second Iverson poster where he says, “There’s gonna be a million people that love Allen Iverson.  There’s gonna be a billion people that hate Allen Iverson.  Concentrate on the ones that care about you and keep on steppin.”

Oh, he is too old now?  Allen might not be in his prime anymore, but he will take the Grizz to the playoffs this year.  They have had the talent before AI but now they have the Answer.  He will direct the team, set the tempo, install the intensity that Memphis has been lacking.  Just look at this team, Iverson and O.J. Mayo in the back court, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph at the forwards, Marc Gasol at center.  Off the bench they got Mike Conley setting up teammates , Darrell Arthur rebounding, Hasheem Thabeet the defensive menace.  So this summer when people are talking about a cultural phenomenon in Memphis they won’t be talking about Elvis.  “Welcome to the 2nd Round of the NBA Playoffs Memphis, Allen Iverson is the building” (Crowd goes wild).

In case you forgot all of his accomplishments here is a quick reminder

  • NCAA Big East Rookie Of The Year (1995)
  • 2× NCAA Big East Defensive Player Of The Year (1995, 1996)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (1997)
  • NBA All-Star Rookie Game Most Valuable Player (1997)
  • 1997 NBA All-Rookie Team
  • NBA Most Valuable Player (2001)
  • 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2001, 2005)
  • 3× All-NBA First Team
  • 3× All-NBA Second Team
  • 10× NBA All-Star
  • 3× Steals leader (2001, 2002, 2003)
  • 7× All-NBA selection
  • 4× NBA scoring champion (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005)

Farhan Latif writes exclusively for CloudFantasy.  Email him here.

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