Michael "Air" Jordan is a legend, a myth that raised the ceiling of the NBA and made it reach several other countries. Jordan continues to rake in money off his shoe deals and retro limited releases, but his popularity during the 90s cannot be overstated.
He took the game far and beyond its usual parameters. Two trebles, multiple retirements and redemptions (and the way his teams collapsed the season after he left them) - they all stand as a mark of his legendary persona.
Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant won the Academy Award for best animated short film for “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem he wrote. His mentality, his competitiveness and his style of playing captivated fans all across the world. The man rewrote how basketball looked like in a post-Jordan era, fulfilling the alpha dog status that the league so desperately desired.
Shaquille O'Neal was a game breaker, a superstar who completely dominated his position all across the court. His 2001 Finals center opponent was Dikembe Mutombo, a former DPOY who Shaq torched for stratospheric numbers en route to the title.
LeBron "King" James is on the same route to immortality. Long after James retires, people will look at his 2017-18 Cavaliers and marvel how he took them to a Finals appearance. His 3-1 comeback to give Cleveland its first major title in 52 years is the stuff of legend.
However, few people have changed the inside workings of the NBA more than Hall Of Fame inductee and 2001 MVP Allen Iverson. Here's a look at 3 things that make Iverson one of the most special NBA champions of all time:
1. Few people can claim to have changed the NBA cultural landscape as much as Allen Iverson
The man redefined style in the NBA. Gone were the short shorts and the fit jerseys. He introduced baggy clothes to the NBA.
Iverson also popularized the cornrows and the tattoos. He started showing up in durags, and eventually made the NBA implement a dress code. Just look at this image:
That is not something LeBron or Bryant or even Jordan could have ever done.
The vitriol of hate and spite directed at James after he left Cleveland for the first time for South Beach was intense. It was not how you'd expect fans to accept the fact that their superstar was leaving because his front office couldn't find good supporting pieces.
However, when Iverson left, he was always welcomed back. Philly showed Iverson love in a way that only Jordan or Bryant ever received. (For decency's sake I'm forgetting about Jordan's Wizards stint; however, in that too he averaged 20+ points for two seasons).