With the launch of Ice Cube’s 3 on 3 basketball league, The BIG3, a number of former NBA players of yesteryear have been brought back into the spotlight, none bigger though than Hall of Famer and current 3’s Company player/coach, Allen Iverson.
Lee Jenkins joined The Jim Rome Show Monday on CBS Sports Radio and talked about his latest Sports Illustrated piece on Iverson and how the under six-foot superstar star captivated generations of fans including current NBA All-Stars by his play and never changing who he was as a person.
“I think Iverson always just kind of kept his shoe in kind of that inner-city community and sort of pop culture, young African-American culture,” Jenkins said. “So I think you have so many young players who Jordan seemed out of this world as far as what he’d accomplished, as far as the Madison Avenue appeal, and the way he sort of shaped a little bit of his image to appeal to the greater population, whereas Iverson was still very much spoke to kind of who they were growing up and kind of what it was sort of to play on the playground, play in the neighborhood and you have so many players now, (John) Wall especially, but so many of these young point guards who grew up and that was kind of the guy that they idolized.
“I mean there’s a big Kobe contingent too, but I think when you ask the young point guard who in many ways dominate the NBA right now, define the NBA, you know who affected you, who really influence you when you were young, there’s a great deal of votes for Iverson.”
It’s not just current players that hold Iverson in such esteem. Current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, whose playing days are best remembered by being a victim of the former Sixers guard’s Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals crossover and step-over play while Lue was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be forever grateful for that series his Lakers won in five games.
“I always think of the step over too, but when Lue looks back at his career, he said his contract was about to expire after that season. He felt like he might not even be in the NBA anymore and because he was assigned to Iverson, because he did a good job in defense in that series, that play not withstanding, that that’s the reason the Wizards gave him a deal,” Jenkins said . “I didn’t know that. I didn’t really realize that about his career, but he thinks that all these things that have happened, the career in Washington, the coaching success he’s had, obviously the championship in Cleveland is sort of all due to the mystique Iverson had at that point, the difficulty of guarding him. It’s not as though he shut him down or anything in that series, but the relative success he was able to have, I mean, he felt it changed his whole career. Now is coaching something that Iverson’s going to be able to do?”
Most athletes at some point in their career adjust to different roles on teams when their body starts to slow. Jenkins said Iverson, much like anything, was not going to change.
“I really believe he could have reshaped himself as a sixth man, as a guy who just scored off the bench. You look at Vince Carter, he’s still playing. You look at Paul Pierce, he played forever. Why didn’t Iverson do that?,” Jenkins said. “Well, I don’t think he could have brought himself to not start, to not be the guy, and the alpha, and the game was going to change. They didn’t want to run iso every time, and I don’t think he wanted to change. I think that was this is who he is and it made for an electric career. Will it make for a glorious post career? You don’t know.”