When I was a kid growing up in Lakewood Washington playing basketball on the streets of countless elementary schools with kids galore, I remember mimicking that patented crossover that only Iverson could perfect and others could only dream to copy. The idea of his indestructible nature, his reckless abandon, tattoos, cornrows, accessories he wore, his style that was heavily copied in the 2000's and caused the NBA to create a dress code. He was the champ. The champ was here. Allen Iverson couldn't be mocked, imitated or recreated, but everybody could dream with his size and effort. How could this guy ever be denied as he was outscoring, out hustling, and out playing everybody no matter their size because Iverson wouldn't let anybody tell him otherwise. But his evolution lacked and his comeuppance never matriculated into that player we all dreamed he could be, because that's all it was, was a dream.
Can you imagine if Allen Iverson would have gotten out of his own way with his talent and grew a fundamental game that gave him the ability to pass the ball, think a couple steps ahead when plays developed, and knew how to gel with talent around him? He would have been the greatest player to ever live and potentially would have won multiple championships, won multiple MVP's, and would have stolen the image of the NBA and ran off into the sunset with a big grin on his face. The problem, Allen's heart was too big. He cared about the wrong people for too long, his loyalty (A.K.A. lack of change/couldn't leave his comfort zone) was so large that he never adapted to acknowledging people at the level of his personal talent, but instead he surrounded the same type of people in his life through and through (which is really hard to rip, but he had too many of them). This is not to say Iverson wasn't an individual with a big heart, but that's literally all he played with and all he had. He never played with his head, he played with his full-blown heart, night in and night out and it made him the player he was. But, a hint of brain usage in his life may have kept him in the league another 5-10 years as a productive player but who's to say he would have had the same outcome?
The question of ability and potential was so high on Iverson's side that ever since he crossed up MJ, you could say his legend was born and that his name became bigger than his size. Iverson was an unbelievable player, but those of us who know basketball knew he could have been better when it came to his evolution. His passion, intensity, effort, toughness, grit, dedication was all something he put on display, but the evolution of his craft never changed, and that's what will always keep true basketball fans wondering in the "what if" category forever.
Iverson wasn't large enough to play a shooting guard, but his play was and his stubbornness to change his style of play wouldn't allow him to play the point guard position. Allen Iverson rarely dunked, he rarely made a fundamental play, he just dove to the floor for loose balls, made a street ball industry thrive with revenue for numerous years, and he did it all on a level of professional basketball on it's highest stage.
We will never see another A.I. and knowing that a guy who was 6'0 tall led the league in scoring 4 times in his career, that should tell you the maximum potential a body that size can truthfully fulfill among the trees of the NBA.
Hall of Fame for A.I. is guaranteed, but what could have been with a small evolution factor... who knows...
See you next week!