Allen Iverson’s memorable NBA journey began at one of the most substantial NBA drafts ever. The 1996 NBA draft didn’t have a top-class of the 1984 or 2003 NBA draft, but it featured many hidden gems, some of whom became the all-time greats – #13 Kobe Bryant, #14 Peja Stojakovic, #15 Steve Nash. Being selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the #1 pick wasn’t a surprise for Iverson.
I don’t need to explain what Philly fans are like. Their photo is in the dictionary next to “tough crowd.” No one knows it better than Iverson. He didn’t just have the burden of being the no.1 pick; he came from Georgetown. The fans did not give him a warm welcome at first.
“It was hard on me from what I endured in my life. So it probably didn’t even register, and bothered me, like it would anybody else, that I was the #1 pick. It didn’t bother me. ‘Man, I’m in the NBA, and I just got out of jail!‘ You know what I mean. I’m making millions of dollars; I’m taking care of my family. Tawanna is straight, and my daughter is straight.”Allen Iverson, All The Smoke
They saw a savior in him and demanded an instant trip to the ‘promised land.’ The 21-year old point-guard fresh out of Georgetown couldn’t deliver in the era when the league was still ruled by the big man like Olajuwon, Ewing, and Robinson. It took Iverson a couple more years to make a full adjustment to the pro-style, before making the 76ers regulars in playoffs and eventually leading them to the 2001 NBA finals, which they’ve lost to the mighty L.A. Lakers by 1-4.
“So it was like: ‘Man f**k that shit!‘ And then, you know what God does, and great coaches do, what Larry Brown did, and great teammates do, they helped me get to where we ultimately end up becoming.”Allen Iverson, All The Smoke
Over their together’s tenure in Philly, The Answer developed a special relationship and a lifelong bond with one of the last remaining basketball teachers in the game, Larry Brown. It was Brown, together with the 76ers teammates such as veteran power forward Derrick Coleman, who both regularly watched on A.I. daily, and provided him with some sound advice at some of his life’s critical crossroads.
“How is he not involved in any organization at all. And he wants no money. He wants his voice to be heard, to help. He went around in life; everywhere he at, airports, you know wherever he is at, and people walk up to him and say: ‘You’re Allen Iverson’s coach!‘ And he loved that feeling.”Allen Iverson, All The Smoke
The 2001 NBA MVP also served as a great ambassador of the game. In 2010 Iverson signed a one-year deal with the Turkish powerhouse Besiktas, with whom he played a total of 10 games in European cups. His teacher, the only coach ever to win NBA and NCAA championship title, Larry Brown, followed his student’s path east, to Europe. In 2018, he joined the Italian Lega A team, Auxilium Torino.