Iverson's point during his infamous practice rant was simple - he leaves it all on the floor every time we play, “and you talkin' about practice??” As athletic as he was, and he was one of the most athletic players ever to play in the NBA, Iverson was still 6'0" (if we're generous) and played at 165lbs. That's not the kind of body you'd expect to take a lot of punishment on a nightly basis.
“Usually, when little fancy guys come in there, I put them on their [butt]. I did that to Allen every time, and he kept coming back. He showed me he wasn’t afraid of the contact, showed me had heart, and it showed me he wasn’t scared.”
Shaquille O'Neal, NBC Sports
The numbers back it up - during his Philly days, AI averaged 9.3 free throws per game. His highest average was in his 10th season in the league, at age 30 - 11.5 free throw attempts per game. That's not even the most staggering information about AI's passion for the game. In his ten years with the 76ers, AI averaged over 41 minutes per game and led the leagues in minutes per game five times. He is 4th all-time in minutes per game! To make it even crazier, AI averaged 45.2 minutes per game in the playoffs.
It's no secret Iverson had to do a lot for his 76ers teams. He had one of the weakest supporting casts at the time (and maybe ever). But he didn't play that many minutes just because the team needed it - if it were up to him, Iverson would play 48 minutes every game.
Every time I took Iverson out of the game, he would motherfu** me. If you think about it, 82 games, I'm taking him out twice a game - that's 164 motherfu***** a season.
Larry Brown, The Book of Basketball 2.0
AI just couldn't help it. No matter how tired he was, no matter how much punishment Shaq or someone else would have ready every time he attacked the rim - not being on the floor was a personal insult for him. And they were talking about practice....