As Allen Iverson stood on the stage after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2016 class on Monday, he was by far the smallest ex-player on there with Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming standing alongside him.
He was accustomed to going up against bigger guys throughout his 15-year career, but what he lacked in size, he made up for in heart and toughness.
There's no doubting Iverson's place among the elite players of the game and he deserves to be recognised as such. During his time in the NBA, Iverson was widely respected for being one of the fiercest competitors in the league.
Despite not winning a championship, his accomplishments in the game speak for themselves. An NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year and a four-time scoring champion are just some of the most notable achievements of Iverson's illustrious career.
He might not have secured a ring, but as was always the case with Iverson, he went down trying. In 2001, he almost single-handedly carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA finals, ultimately falling to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal's L.A. Lakers in the year he was deservedly crowned MVP.
The Georgetown product created many memorable moments on the court, from his crossover on Michael Jordan as a rookie to his legendary step-over on Tyronn Lue. With his six-foot stature, he inspired many players who weren’t blessed with size to take up the game of basketball.
Larry Brown, Iverson’s coach at the Philadelphia 76ers, described the impact the point guard had on kids all over the country.
“It’s almost like this Steph Curry thing going on now,” Brown said, per the Daily Press. “Allen had that kind of impact on the normal-sized kids all over the country who figured, ‘Hey, here’s a little guy who’s tougher than anybody and tries harder than anybody. … I can be that. I can do that.’ I can’t tell you how many times I went to a game and he did something I’d never seen before.”
In an interview with ESPN on Monday, Iverson described himself as only he can: “I wasn’t a point guard. I was a killer.”
Kobe Bryant, a future hall of famer himself, testified to that statement.
"He'd attack from the beginning of the game to the end of the game," Bryant said, via CBS Sports "He's a player that I always had to pay attention to. He always had me on my toes. There's not another player that did that. I mean, he kept coming.
"Most competitive player I ever faced, without question. Oh, my God, he was relentless."
The Answer averaged 26.7 points-per-game which ranks seventh in NBA history, with his 24,368 total points putting him 23rd all-time. No player with his size or smaller has ever scored more.
Speaking about his legacy during the announcement ceremony, Iverson said: “Playing every game like it’s your last. Giving everything you’ve got. Loving your teammates. Loving your coaches. Loving your fans and giving them everything you’ve got.
“That might be the only game they ever get to see Allen Iverson play. So I took it like that and I approached the game like that. I wanted to make sure I put on a show for that one person that might never get to see another game again.”
This epitomised Iverson as a player and what he stood for.
Fighting back tears several times, Iverson said he never thought about this moment, as he was just busy enjoying his time on the hardwood.
“All I was thinking about was being the best player I could be, being an MVP. I never thought about life after basketball,” Iverson said. “I didn’t want the Hall of Fame to come because I wanted to play forever.”
His relationship with the Philadelphia faithful was special and in 2014 he was rightly honoured by the franchise by having his jersey retired, his name hanging in the rafters alongside Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks.
Tributes flooded in on Twitter yesterday for the former 76ers star, with players past and present quick to congratulate him on an honour he richly deserves.
The admiration his peers had for him is the clearest indication for just how good Iverson was and why he is a Hall of Famer.