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Iverson: End of an Era

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:42pm

There's an old cliche that says you never know a good thing until it's gone. Now we know.

He enters the League in 1996, a 6-foot shooting guard with a troubled past. He lacks the size for his natural position that the pass-first mentality for the position people say he should play. It doesn't matter. He proves right away that he deserved to go #1. The way he slices through defenses and finishes at the rim. The way his 160-pound frame takes contact from giants a hundred pounds bigger and shrugs it off. The way his heart never lets those beatings force him to miss a game.

Years later, fans still remember watching the rookie go up against the greatest basketball player that ever lived. Watching him rock the living legend with a baby crossover before catching him with a big one and hitting a fadeway. We didn't know it then, but in that one play, Allen Iverson told the world he wouldn't "Be Like Mike." He would be AI. [img_assist|nid=4694|title=Allen Iverson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=372|height=296]

His hair grows. He covers himself in ink. He wears du-rags in post-game press conferences and downplays the importance of practice. He shoots too much. He is a nightmare for men sitting in NBA offices that want to market superstars as role models. And because of that, he becomes more than just a role model.

The numbers and accomplishments pile up. Six years into his career, he already has three scoring titles; two steals titles; and an MVP. His resume speaks for itself. Then, you see that he is one of the smallest men on the court, and as a child, you suddenly believe that you can do anything. You watch him carry a team of role players to the championship round, dropping 50-point games in the playoffs, even beating Shaq & Kobe in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. You see him step over Tyronn Lue after burying a jumper from the corner, and you get chills. His unlikely superstardom makes you believe you can overcome anything.

The best part is that, for all the good that he is doing (perhaps without even the man himself realizing it), the NBA tries to change him. They make his crossover illegal. They add zone defenses. They institute a dress code. Because some players run into trouble involving drugs and weapons (Iverson's past includes both), the NBA is worried about its image. Stricter fines and penalties are created. Clean superstars are pushed to the forefront while others aren't marketed. Yet Iverson stays true to himself; in a League where everything is changing, AI remains unchanged.

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