Honoring the Answer: Iverson solidifies his legacy in the NBA Hall of Fame

On September 9, 2016, Allen Iverson was welcomed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Iverson was inducted as a member of the Class of 2016 alongside greats such as Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming. Iverson leaves a memorable legacy with his scandal-marked high school career, successful run as a Hoya under John Thompson Jr., and the raw athletic ability which made him an amazingly entertaining player to watch.

Since his childhood, AI was a remarkable athlete, dominating on both the football field and basketball court. As he neared his high school graduation, offers poured in from countless schools across the country for both sports. Unfortunately, an incident in a bowling alley in Hampton, Virginia led to Iverson receiving a 15-year sentence after being found guilty for maiming by mob. After serving four months in a correctional facility, Iverson was granted clemency for insufficient evidence in the racially charged trial. Despite the overturn of his conviction, schools rescinded their scholarship offers.

Fully aware of the talent and promise her son possessed, Ann Iverson reached out to Coach Thompson at Georgetown and convinced him to take a chance on Iverson. Luckily for both, Thompson offered Iverson a full scholarship; he eagerly accepted.

In his first year as a Hoya, Iverson won Big East Rookie of the Year and led the team to the Sweet 16. The following year, the Hoyas won the Big East Championship and reached the Elite 8. Iverson left Georgetown after two seasons to declare for the NBA Draft.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson with the first pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. In his rookie season, Iverson famously crosses over Michael Jordan, the athlete he referred to as his idol and hero in his induction speech. Iverson raised the stakes in Philadelphia and, with the arrival of coach Larry Brown alongside Eric Snow and Aaron McKie, the Sixers began improving and reached the playoffs the following season. In the 2000-2001 season, the 76ers advanced to the Finals against a legendary Lakers team featuring Bryant and O’Neal. Although ultimately losing the series 4-1, the team put up a fight and Iverson is remembered for his performance in the first game of the series where he dropped 48 and stepped over now-Cavalier head coach Tyronn Lue.

Iverson played as a 76er until being traded to Denver in 2006. He had short stints in Detroit and Memphis as well before returning to Philadelphia for his final season in the NBA in 2009. Iverson played one season for Beşiktaş in the Turkish league before retiring from professional basketball entirely.

As Iverson was honored last month, John Thompson Jr., Larry Brown, and Julius Erving joined him onstage as he delivered his acceptance speech. Acknowledging the confidence and bravery required to offer him a scholarship, Iverson thanked Coach Thompson for “saving [his] life.” Iverson told Larry Brown that it was under his guidance, advice, and constructive criticism that he became an all-star, an MVP, and a Hall of Famer. Iverson spoke to his nervousness succeeding Dr. J in Philly: “wow, those were some big shoes to fill with a size 10 foot.”

Although he spoke candidly and informally, Iverson still filled his speech with raw emotion, eliciting both tears and laughter from the audience. He thanked his mother for encouraging him to play basketball, a sport he initially called “soft” in comparison to football, only retracting that statement when he arrived at basketball tryouts alongside his football teammates.

Iverson continued, acknowledging his family, making personal statements to his aunts, uncles and five children. He shouted out his “boys at home” with a slew of comical nicknames. Cognizant of his roots and inspiration, Iverson mentions his appreciation and gratitude for Biggie Smalls, Jadakiss, 2pac, and Michael Jackson “for being [his] theme music throughout [his] career.”

Iverson thanks “his Georgetown family” including Mutumbo, Ewing, and Mourning and his 76ers teammates, specifically McKie and Snow, his “brothers from another mother.” He demonstrated his gratefulness for Stephen A. Smith, who “always kept it honest, kept it 1000” with him and acted as a big brother who both praised and critiqued his play.

Demonstrating his loyalty to Philly, he creditedd city network commentators Marc Zumoff and Dei Lynam, earning cheers from the Philadelphians in the audience. He later addressed the Sixer fans: “My relationship with [you] is like no other…y’all let me grow, y’all let me make my mistakes. [You] never jumped off the bandwagon [and] continued to support me like true fans are supposed to do.”

Lastly, Iverson thanked his high school sweetheart and mother of their children, Tawanna. He tearfully told her that they share his Hall of Fame status as she stood beside him and supported him.

From the retirement of his jersey in Philadelphia on March 1, 2014 to his Hall of Fame induction, Iverson is widely celebrated by those he played for, with, and against, and those who just had the honor of watching him play. Thank you AI for giving your all to the game and being The Answer for the Hoyas and the 76ers.

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