Allen Iverson was a definition of toughness and hustle in the NBA, which followed him throughout his entire career. Despite being only 6 feet and around 170 pounds, his presence overshadowed many taller and stronger players. His dominance lasted for over a decade until age, and injuries caught upon him, resulting in him retiring in 2010 playing for the Sixers that initially drafted him in 1996.
In one of the older interviews Iverson had with Stephen A.Smith, he talked about what it means to be tough in the league and why so many players lost that element in their game. Iverson played over 40 minutes per game for years, and you could always tell he was ready to do anything to win a game, either by scoring or making the right move at the right time.
Iverson believes players lost that intensity and dedication, which is often seen in their engagement on the floor on a nightly basis. He also perfectly explains the difference between what it actually means to play hard and how most players don’t understand that. Displaying passion and determination is something that is a true form of playing hard in Iverson’s mind.
“Playing hard doesn’t mean playing dirty like giving elbows, knocking people’s teeth, that ain’t playing hard. Playing hard is the ball right there, and you closer then me, but if I dive (for it), I can get it. That’s playing hard and that is what I do every night ….but it’s some guys that’ll look at that and say…man I’m not messing my knees up jumping on this ground for the ball. They probably think that they will do it the next play maybe or the next game. But for me, this happens every night.”Allen Iverson
If you had the opportunity to watch Iverson play for most of his career, you could definitely say he was a natural athlete and a respectful opponent. He tried his best to outplay any player on any given night and fought as hard as possible. Nowadays, players are making even more money, and it often seems their effort is not up there, especially during the regular season. However, it’s also fair to say Iverson and players like him are a rare breed who had to go through challenging life circumstances to develop that type of mentality.