Everyone was in a suit, except for one. Yao and Shaq even managed to find a tailor that could find their sizes. Allen Iverson wore jeans and a t-shirt, along with gold chains and a Yankees hat. He was the “except one”.
When the Hall of Fame finalists for 2016 were announced, there were already locks in the field: Yao, the greatest global ambassador the game’s ever had; Shaq, named to the 50 greatest players of all-time in only his 4th season in the league; Tom Izzo, in the hierarchy of college basketball coaches with 500 career wins and 7 Final Four appearances; Jerry Colangelo, a former executive of the year, and the mastermind behind the greatest Team USA teams since the Dream Team.
Not in the “lock” discussion, however, is Allen Iverson. Many are skeptical about Iverson’s chances at the Hall because of how he’s conducted himself off the court. Stephen A. Smith reported that many NBA friends thought Iverson was going to “drink himself into oblivion”, and he had been banned from almost every casino in Detroit or Atlantic City. Kate Fagan reported that he’s dead broke (it was later reported that Reebok set up a $32 million trust that Iverson couldn’t touch until he’s 55, part of their lifetime endorsement deal with him. It’s unclear if that deal has broken off).
The mere thought that Allen Iverson doesn’t belong in the Hall because of his off-screen troubles is absurd, asinine, and moronic. Iverson’s the greatest small guard in NBA history. He played his career at 165 pounds, yet dunked on half of the league. He won 4 scoring titles, averaged over 30 points per game in 4 seasons and 4 postseasons, including 31 points and 10 assists in the first round of the ’04-’05 playoffs. His 2001 postseason (the one where he stepped over Tyronn Lue’s soft self) was one of the best individual performances you’ll ever watch.
One of the toughest guys in the league, Iverson played 41 minutes per game. That’s unheard of nowadays, and is the 4th highest average of all time. He’s crossed Michael Jordan. He made 11 All-Star teams, and won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. He led a 76ers team whose second best player were some guys named Aaron Mckie and George Lynch, an aging Dikembe Mutombo and Toni Kukoc, and Eric freaking Snow. If that alone doesn’t garner your respect, and doesn’t convince you he’s an all-time great, you don’t know basketball.
Across all Hall of Fames, voting boards get uptight with counter-cultural guys. T.O. has the 5th most touchdowns of all time, and didn’t make it into the Hall of Fame because the voters think he’s a jackass. Which he is. But does being a jackass discredit the fact that someone’s an all-time great? Absolutely not. There are certain things that cannot be separated from the player, like Pete Rose’s betting on games he played in. However, it’s a Hall of Fame, a Hall of Great Ability, and a Hall of the Best that Ever Played. We cannot disallow some of the most unique talents we’ll ever see, simply because they didn’t handle their money well, or because they weren’t the best role models.
They don’t call it the Hall of Morality. There are already numerous guys in each Hall of Fame with not-so-great pasts. Ty Cobb was in the KKK and might have killed his parents. Cris Carter had issues throughout his career with alcohol, ecstasy, weed, and cocaine. Charles Barkely gambled away millions and was broke until he made a comeback on NBA on TNT. They were all the guy in jeans, surrounded by guys in suits, at one point or another in their lives. But they played the game as good as or better than anybody else in history. Don’t deny the great Allen Iverson the right to be amongst his fellow legends. Don’t shut him out. Don’t give up on him. This isn’t the Hall of Ethics. It’s the Hall of Fame, and you can’t tell me that Allen Iverson doesn’t belong there.