LeBron James and host of other current NBA Stars will tell you that their favorite player growing up wasn’t MJ; they wanted to be like AI. No athlete of the early 2000s was like Allen Iverson; and in retrospect, thank gawd for it.
The V-A product galvanized Philadelphia (them Philly fans could be ruthless to AI though), peaked interest in the post-MJ NBA, and inspired millions of people that they can be what they want to be… and do it on their terms. Iverson’s impact on basketball went beyond the ‘X’s & ‘O’ of on-court performances; Iverson changed the way basketball players fundamentally looked and acted.
- He was small, tiny, in stature compared to his ‘great’ contemporaries.
- He had braids… with an influence so penetrating that even Khwai Leonard still rocks cornrows.
- He flaunted ice… heavy jewelry… bling so flossy Bird Man would quiver.
- He took the baggy clothes movement and cranked it up to 1-trillion. The tallest of tall tee’s, the deepest of sags and above all, the baggiest of NBA hoops shorts.
- He rocked (then gaudy) tattoos, spoke the way he wanted to and maintained that same energy from day-1 to day-1,000.
1990’s basketball was ruled by transcendent fun & family-friendly big-men. What could a 6’0″ guard with tattoos and an ‘IGDAF’ attitude do amongst giants?
Go around them… pull-up in their faces… or drive unapologetically square into their chests’! Just look at the sheer size difference between The Answer and Shaq Diesel – any other 6 foot player wouldn’t stand a chance but AI feared NO ONE. Pound for pound he’s the greatest NBA player in league history.
The Answer always shined (well, shined up until the Memphis/ Detroit days) but the 2000-01 NBA season was without a doubt AI’s peak. Exactly eighteen years ago today (yes, long enough to start buying tobacco) Iverson capped off his prolific ’01 campaign by receiving the NBA League MVP trophy. The ’01 version of Iverson had all the best moments highlighted by his MVP award and lone Finals appearance. In honor of his MVP season lets take a look back at this monumental time for the Iverson and the 76’ers.
Lets start with the hardware. As we mentioned above, Allen Iverson won the 2001 NBA MVP award, yay! Who AI beat to win the award was just as amazing as the trophy itself though.
The top-3 MVP contenders were: Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan and Shaq. All deserving potential winners and future Hall Of Famers; but AI still won the award handedly with 93 first place votes compared to Tim Duncan’s second place total of 18 first place votes. Four of the five MVP hopefuls that year were bigs (forwards or centers). AI not only won the award as the lone guard, but in doing so became the shortest and lightest (6’0″ 165 lbs) MVP in NBA history.
In February of the 2001 season AI won All-Star Game MVP too. Two-thirds of the league’s MVP awards went to Iverson that year, but unfortunately the most satisfying MVP trophy, the Finals MVP, went to Shaquille O’Neil of the Los Angeles Lakers.
With a stellar regular season in the books Iverson and his Philadelphia 76’ers shifted their focus to the Playoffs. The Sixers’s First-Round matchup wasn’t anything spectacular as Philly routed the Indiana Pacers; but the Second-Round came correct with the drama. Top seeded Philly dueled with the formidable Toronto Raptors in a NBA Hardwood Classic of a series – instant classic ‘ish. Duel best describes the series because Allen Iverson and Vince Carter (of the Raptors) went blow-for-flow from start to finish.
Sadly, we just don’t see 1 vs. 1 scoring duels in the NBA anymore. Focuses on passing, shooting and versatility has left the days of ‘glory ball’ in the past; every good team has 2-3 really good players, so 1 vs. 1 is all but extinct. Peep the game-by-game numbers though, they’re bananas:
- Game 1: 36 points for Iverson – Toronto W
- Game 2: 54 points for Iverson – Philly W
- Game 3: 50 points for Carter – Toronto W
- Game 4: 30 points for Iverson; 25 for Cater – Philly W
- Game 5: 52 points for Iverson – Philly W
- Game 6: 39 points for Carter – Toronto Win
- Game 7: 20 points for Carter; 21 for Iverson – Philly W
With the Raptors slayed, Iverson’s Sixers outlasted the Bucks in another 7 game series to reach their first NBA Finals since the mid-80s. Unfortunately Allen met the unbeatable Lakers, the team that swept every opponent on their way to the Finals. Iverson came out swinging with 48 points in a Game 1 victory! No other team in the Playoffs could beat the Lakers even once, so AI’s win reaaaaally speaks to his greatness and grit. But, you know… the Sixers got clapped and lost the next four games to L.A. in a row. Season over – at least he got this iconic moment:
AI lead the league in steals (2.5 per game) and scoring (31.1 per game) too. For anyone who said the Sixers legend couldn’t play defense we implore you to peep the steals numbers. We’ve covered the big plays and trophies of Allen Iverson’s 2000-01 season but haven’t said much about his footwork.
Reebok’s Iverson series enjoyed a lengthy run from 1996 to 2014. The line famously had two parts – the Answers and Questions so there’s over 20 different numbered Iverson sneakers and heritage models continue to release now in 2019. Throughout the 2001 season AI rocked (arguably) his most widely loved sneakers, the Answer IV. The instantly recognizable kicks commonly feature duel-tone leather uppers for an unmistakable look. Reebok’s key cushioning system known as DMX gives the Answer IVs nice bounce and cushioning.
Back in ’01 the sneaker landscape was much more diverse and the Answer IVs were one of the most viable hoops kicks on the market. Allen’s relatability and skill on the court put Reebok on the map, and to this day the Answer IVs remain a fan favorite. Just look at all the moments we covered – the IVs were on-foot in almost every feat from ’01.
Real ones remember Ai’s face in the center of the outsole with the tagline “only the strong survive.”
From fingerbands to cornrows – tattoos to crossovers… all of it, everything, comes together to form the one and only Allen Iverson. Question many things about Allen, go ahead, but never… ever… question his passion, heart or greatness. Happy MVP anniversary, OG. Thank you for that amazing season.