Even though Allen Iverson came out of the gates as one heck of an exciting player, not everyone was keen on him. One of those people is Dennis Rodman, who disliked Iverson’s predilection for jacking up shot after shot.
Respect the champions
Iverson was the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. On November 1 of that year, Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers met Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Iverson logged in just 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field. While the Bulls won 115-83, Rodman was irritated at Iverson for shooting too much.
"Iverson came in there thinking he was Jumanji and was going to control the whole forest and the wilderness," Rodman said, per The Baltimore Sun.
Rodman’s diss didn’t come out of the blue, nor was it solely due to Iverson’s horrendous shooting. Reports reveal that the Georgetown standout was jawing at the entire Bulls squad. He even had the nerve to diss Black Jesus himself, Michael Jordan. And the GOAT, who doesn’t back down from anyone, quickly humbled Iverson.
"He told me he doesn't have to respect anybody," Jordan said. "I told him he's going to have to respect us, if no one else."
Combining the pieces
This little episode contradicts what Iverson has said over the years about the Bulls, especially Michael Jordan. In his Hall of Fame speech, Iverson shared his thoughts on his first meeting with Jordan.
"I remember the first time I played against him and I walked out on the court," Iverson said. "I looked at him and for the first time in my life a human being didn't look real to me… I literally seen [sic] his aura. It looked like he was glowing. I can't stop looking at him. I'm looking at his shoes and I'm like 'Man, he's got on the Jordan's.' It was Mike. It was my idol. It was my hero."
The way Iverson described it, it’s as if he saw a living saint. It’s as if he saw Jesus for the first time. But the 1996 report painted a stark contrast to what followed. Maybe he was really in awe of Jordan and the Bulls. But then he was able to slap himself silly, to get back to reality. Yes, Jordan is your idol. But there’s a job that must be done.
Perhaps this is why Iverson struggled in that first game and took so many shots — at least according to Rodman’s standards. Perhaps this is why Iverson talked smack without really meaning to. Whatever the case, it’s an interesting story featuring three of the greatest players in history. They ultimately have respect for one another. And respect entailed giving one a much-needed reality check from time to time.