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How Allen Iverson Changed The Game Of Basketball Forever

Saurabh Kumar
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Allen Iverson gestures
Allen Iverson gestures

Looking at today's greatest point guards - Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook - all have one thing in common, that is they are all lethal scorers. Out of the point guards named above, the lowest scoring average in this past season was 25 points per game, which is crazy.

But the NBA wasn't like this, especially in the modern day era. There was a time where a scoring point guard was frowned upon. A clear example of this was Allen Iverson, who in his first two seasons averaged 22 points and was looked upon like he was selfish

On-Court Impact

Critics like Skip Bayless even gave him the name Me, Myself and Iverson. In that era, the prototypical point guards were players like Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups who "won championships", but were never known for dynamic scoring averages. But if you look at today's era, and look at the last point guard to be a part of the championship squad i.e Stephen Curry, averaged 26.1 points in his Playoff stretch. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was also compared to Iverson when he won a championship back in 2016, averaged 25.2 the year he won the title.

While we look at the "ideal point guard" like Chris Paul, he wasn't able to get out of the second round until he came to Houston. Isiah Thomas of the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons said that Chris Paul is falling in this assist and turnover ratio thing where he is a very safe player, maxing out statistically in every box however he is unable to see Chris moving outside of those boxes to take extraordinary risks. This doesn't mean that Chris Paul is not great, it just means that his style of play isn't as effective in today's game.

In this era of basketball, all point guards have evolved into great scorers and Allen Iverson was a huge part of bringing out this revolution. His grit and relentless aggression inspired a whole generation of smaller guards. Just watching Iverson put countless players in his mixtape with the crossover, and watching a guard who is 6ft averaging 30 points in the modern day era with the Giants was just unheard of.

Now in the NBA, if your guard isn't averaging 25 or 30 points your team isn't winning, but when Allen Iverson was doing this in his first two seasons, they looked at him as if it was a bad thing and moved him to the two guard position.


But as great as Iverson was on the court, his impact off the court might be the bigger story. If we look at the stars in the 70's, the 80's and the 90's, most of these guys didn't have many tattoos. Sure Dennis Rodman in the mid 90's, covered his body and neck for the world to see, but when he did it people were questioning his mental health. Iverson inspired a whole generation as a symbol of hip-hop culture for the NBA.

His stylistic outfits with the baggy clothes that all the rappers wore, even his braids brought a more urban culture to a really old fashioned NBA at that time. He was also a rapper making commercials with Jadakiss. People like Mike Eric Dyson went as far as saying that Iverson was the Tupac on her basketball court and people said stuff like this because his influence was so persuasive.

Iverson popularized the modern day hip-hop revolution in the NBAEnter caption
Iverson popularized the modern day hip-hop revolution in the NBA

He had such an impact on the NBA, it forced the commissioner at the time, David Stern, to implement a dress code for the 2005 season. That was like a direct response to Iverson's influence on all the players. NBA players were banned from wearing sleeveless shirts, chains, and baggy jeans while conducting NBA business. Still, though Iverson's style popped like none other, no one ever wore sleeves before Iverson and even if they did it wasn't like Iverson. Chris Paul wears a sleeve just like Iverson did, saying that Iverson had the biggest effect on the culture of NBA out of any player. He started the armed sleeve, the tattoo all that stuff. He is the biggest influence out of anybody.


NBA Finals X
Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals

Now we might be wondering how his impact was different from players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. That was because all of these guys were above 6'6" and an average human doesn't grow up to be that tall, so Iverson was very relatable. In the last few years, a lot of kids fell in love with Stephen Curry, not because he was fast, he blocked shots, he dunked the ball out hard, they fell in love with him because he was having a crazy impact on the game as a small guard hitting long crazy threes.

That basically tells the next group of average size humans that make it to the NBA, they can have the same crazy impact on the game if they study guys like Iverson and Curry. Sure Iverson didn't invent cornrows, sleeve tattoos, and all that stuff, but he popularized it and made the younger generation of kids want to actually do that. Even in movies like Like Mike, they had the braids and they did crossovers that reminded us of Allen Iverson.

So NBA stars today like James Harden, Westbrook and Dwyane Wade rocking those crazy outfits, all of that stuff was popularized by Mr. Iverson. For guys like Damian Lillard, who off the court can be known by the rap name Dame D.O.L.L.A. we think of Allen Iverson as well who brought about this change.

Enter captio
The iconic crossover to the great Michael Jordan by the Answer

So when changing the game is concerned, he didn't specifically changed basketball on the court but also things like the interviews ("PRACTICE, We are talking about PRACTICE, not the game, PRACTICE"), the tattoos, the chains, the outfits everything. Allen Iverson changed the culture of basketball by just giving his best at whatever he did on and off the court. He was the true "the Answer" NBA was looking for.

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