When you think of some of the players that gave the most problems to their defenders, you have to put Allen Iverson‘s name at the top of that list. AI was a menace on the court, using his slight frame of 6’0″ and 165 lbs to run endlessly around the court and exhaust his defenders. To add to that, his unlimited repertoire of moves, crossovers, and shots made him a nightmare for any defender, no matter how great he was. Just ask Michael Jordan.
But MJ wasn’t the only great to have his difficulties keeping up with AI, as former NBA players and legends Paul Pierce and Tracy McGrady described last year on ESPN’s The Jump how it felt first-hand guarding Iverson and what they would try to do to stop him.
“I didn’t match up with him, but I knew I was in situations in pick-and-roll where I switched out on him. I’m not gonna lie, I was scared to death — I could play defense and all, but I knew I couldn’t slide my feet with Allen Iverson. Every night when you looked at the ‘SportsCenter’ highlights, he was crossing somebody up. All I know is when I switched on him, I was gonna give him that ole defense — I’m gonna let him do his move and I’m gonna let him go. Hopefully I can send him to the baseline because I was not trying to slide my feet with that guy. I didn’t want to end up on anyone’s ‘SportsCenter’ highlights. Period.”Paul Pierce, The Jump
A lot of guys had a similar mentality when they saw AI in front of them. They knew the probability of stopping him was low – it was all about not ending up on SportsCenter. That just makes the number of highlights Iverson graced us with over the years even more impressive. (Also, we have to give props to the guys who didn’t think about ESPN and actually tried to stop Bubba Chuck.)
“I actually had to guard this guy, and you know it was one game he was killing us in Philly, he was killing our guards, and Doc gave me that look like it’s your assignment now. The dude never stops running, so I gotta score, and I gotta slow him down. I was so tired after that game I was the last one in the shower…but he was a joy to compete against.”Tracy McGrady, The Jump
Even though they were never straight matchups, both Pierce and McGrady had to switch onto Iverson numerous times and give it their best to guard him. It was so rare to see such a small player dominate the game as AI did, but when you had that kind of skill with the ball mixed with unmatched toughness and athleticism, it created a problem on the court that wasn’t easy to fix. These statements from great NBA players just further prove how good Allen Iverson was.