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Theo Ratliff Explains Why Allen Iverson Was 'Right Up There With Kobe'

A fighter's mentality.
Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson

Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson

Being an undersized shooting guard for the better part of his illustrious NBA career, Allen Iverson was no stranger to injuries and often banged up. However, that didn't stop "The Answer" from getting out there and helping his team win. In fact, he even had three 80+ games seasons from 1997 to 2008.

As fans, we got to see Iverson often just shaking it off despite getting hit, hacked, and bumped multiple times by the opposing team throughout the game. But what most of us did not witness at the time was how AI endured a host of injuries and still dropped 30 or 40 points any given night.

Iverson and Bryant were cut from the same cloth

If there was someone who could describe how tough Iverson was, it would be one of his former teammates like Theo Ratliff.

Ratliff played with a prime Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers for four straight seasons. However, even the one-time All-Star center couldn't put into words how "The Answer" managed to make it through despite a wide array of injuries.

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One thing Ratliff can attest to was that Iverson's body and heart resembled that of the late Kobe Bryant, who famously tore his Achilles after playing almost 48 minutes in a series of games to help the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs in 2013.

"You're talking about a tremendous competitor," Ratliff told HoopsHype of Iverson in 2020. "To this day, I still don't know how he did the things that he did and how he was able to push through certain injuries. When he sprained his ankle, it looked like he broke his ankle, but then he'd be right back out here. His will and determination, and pain tolerance was right up there with Kobe [Bryant]. He was just able to will himself to do certain things. When we were down, we knew where to go. We'd find him, he'd find the ball, and he would just take over games. Just from his leadership on the floor, that helped us be at our best."

"We had a lot of guys who were just kind of journeyman guys who hadn't really stepped out and came into their own when we came over to the Sixers to play alongside him – guys like Aaron McKie, Eric Snow, George Lynch," he continued. "He helped push us and elevated our game and our status as NBA players."

Nobody can stop Iverson from playing

Ratliff's testimonial about Iverson's exceptional determination was echoed by former Sixers general manager Billy King last year.

According to King, no one from the Sixers organization can stop the four-time scoring champ from playing despite injuries, so they had to devise a plan to keep him sidelined. Shockingly, the team figured hiding Iverson's jersey, and sneakers might get the job done. So they did.

"When he was injured, and we knew he couldn't play, we used to hide his jersey," King recalled. "Because he would come to the locker room looking for his jersey, we'd lock it somewhere so he couldn't get it….One time, in New York, he found his jersey but didn't have any shoes. He was trying to send the ball boy to the Foot Locker around the corner. He said 'just give me a pair of their Reeboks. I can play in those.' Then he pointed to an attendant, 'what size are you, just give me those shoes,' because he wanted to play so bad."

Ratliff and King's memories of Iverson's strong will only prove that aside from being a Sixers legend, "The Answer" was also tough as a nail.

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