Allen Iverson, former Georgetown basketball player and NBA star, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.
Iverson is many things: a former NBA MVP, an NBA All-Star, a Philadelphia sports icon, an alleged thug, a pioneer of the modern game — and the list goes on.
He was also a Hoya. For two seasons, from 1994-96, Iverson suited up for former Head Coach John Thompson Jr. and led Georgetown to two straight Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA tournament, reaching the Elite 8 his sophomore year.
For all the controversy surrounding his career, from his arrest in high school to his early departure from the university to his infamous “practice” rant, Iverson polarized pundits and fans for nearly 20 years. His influence on the game’s style and evolution, however, has lasted far longer.
The Basketball Hall of Fame takes into account a player’s entire career, meaning Iverson’s accomplishments as a Hoya weighed into his acceptance.
In two seasons on the Hilltop, Iverson averaged 23 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game and 3.2 steals per game. Named Big East Rookie of the Year his freshman year and First Team All-American his sophomore year, Iverson was a star from day one.
Iverson’s presence at Georgetown was memorable from day one. Before him, no player had electrified the crowds the way he did. Sure, the team had Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) to anchor three trips to the National Championship in four years, but Iverson brought to Georgetown what was only found in recreational leagues and parks across the country: streetball.
Iverson’s style of play was flashy, relying on embarrassing defenders with crossovers and fancy dribble moves. Iverson also relied on his slashing and toughness in taking the ball to the rim, highly unconventional for a 6-foot, 180-pound guard.
And throughout his career, unconventional became the former Hoya great’s calling card. He attacked the rim with unique style and fearlessness. His relative smaller size did not matter.
Off the court, he dressed unconventionally, sporting do-rags, gaudy chains and oversized basketball jerseys, speaking with an unmatched candidness. The opinions of others did not matter to him.
Rarely could Iverson go anywhere without being both loved and hated, yet he never let it affect his play on the court.
Perhaps that is what is most charming about Iverson. He was tough, brushing off criticism as easily as he did his size limitations. In a sport traditionally dominated by the tallest of men, the smallest of them all holds the moniker of “pound for pound, the greatest player of all-time.” No other player made the most of what he had like Iverson.
His induction into the Hall of Fame is clearly justifiable just by looking at his stats — both at Georgetown and in the NBA. But his overall influence on the game of basketball is what has made Iverson a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the highest honor in a basketball player’s career.
Though Iverson has long since retired, his influence never will. For a player nicknamed “The Answer,” it is fitting that whenever a young guard of small stature breaks onto the scene, electrifying crowds with crafty moves and grit, there is no question as to whom he will resemble.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College.
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