Evolution comes quicker than people realize.
The spark that comes with it, that catalyst that was such a force of nature the entire system was changed, often gets overlooked at the beauty that comes after. The beauty that is Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and so many other amazing scoring guards shines in the glow of the spark that was Allen Iverson.
The most polarizing player of the last 25 years in terms of greatness, there is a heated war that has waged between the camps of “I watched him play with my own two eyes; I know I saw greatness” and “when you look at the analytics Iverson was a bad volume shooter and was not a great player”.
Neither side wants to give an inch to the other out of spite. Because of this divide, the basketball community tends to forget the legacy that Iverson gave the game.
When you think of Steph Curry’s game no one will blame you for not thinking about The Answer. But if you listen to Curry talk, Iverson was one of the biggest inspirations to his game growing up.
“Low-key, I’ve always wanted to be like Allen Iverson”, Curry said at the 2017 All-Star game.
What Allen Iverson was able to do scoring the ball while being on the shorter side of the NBA unlocked a different path for young prospects looking to find their way on the basketball court. Instead of being shoehorned into strictly a playmaking role, if a player showed the talent to put the ball in the basket then they were encouraged to do just that whether they were 7’1 or 6’1.
Like a video game that unlocks a new ability set once you level up enough, players 6’3 and under suddenly had all these new possibilities they could master and change how the game is played.
One of Steve Nash’s biggest regrets is that he didn’t shoot more often; I wonder if he had seen Iverson growing up if he would have been more willing to take those wide-open shots he turned down.
The year before Iverson came into the league, there was one player listed 6’3 or under that finished in the top 15 of FGA per game. During the 2020-21 season, there were seven.
Allen Iverson changed the game of basketball as we know it.
Some players, like Kyrie Irving or Russell Westbrook, have attributes that you could take from Iverson himself as a basketball player. Others, like Steph Curry or Dame Lillard, may not have similar-looking games – but when you look for the inspiration behind their games, he is right there.
In a league that was played inside the arc among the giants, Iverson was fearless and inspired a generation that changed the game. If you ask me about greatness, I think The Answer speaks for himself.