THEY say never meet your idols.
Luckily for Allen Iverson, he became an NBA legend like his idol Michael Jordan. But the Philadelphia 76ers institution revealed his first meeting with Jordan was far from the ideal meeting.
Speaking to Complex, Iverson was called the “swaggiest player in NBA history” by the interviewer Speedy Morman, but the 76ers legend had to prove himself to Michael Jordan when they first spoke to each other in 1997.
“The first time I ever talked to him was that year, playing in the rookie game,” Iverson said.
“I’ll never forget it, because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b****?’ I’ll never forget it. I looked at him like … ‘Alright, man.’”
It was similar to the first time the pair took the court together but Iverson was able to get some payback on his hero.
It was just 32 days later but Iverson remembers he had a nervous start.
“I got a lot of flak from my teammates. They were teasing me, ‘you’re not going to play your game tonight, because you playing against your guy, you not going to come with it’,” Iverson said.
“I was being this tough guy with them but then I walked out there and saw him and …”
“… All that went out the window,” Morman interjected.
Iverson continued: “I was a fan — that’s what I’ve always been. I’m thinking he glowing or whatever and I’m looking down and I’m like, ‘Damn, he’s got on the Jordans’.
“That was my guy, he was my hero but once they threw that ball in the air, you going to remember 23 tonight like you always have but when you leave here, you going to remember No. 3 too.”
That night Iverson made his first move towards greatness with a now iconic crossover on Jordan.
While the move put Iverson’s name up in lights and set the superstar towards his eventual career milestones of 11 NBA All-star games, a two-time All-Star MVP, league MVP in 2001 and a basketball Hall of Fame induction.
Iverson has previously said he didn’t think it was a big deal at the time but kids still come up and ask him about it.
He gets it with the YouTube generation and called himself a “YouTube head”.
“I always knew when I got to the elite I was going to try my move on the best so he was just a victim that night,” Iverson said of the move on Jordan.
“I remember one time I was telling him I went to Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how much I rocked with him and he said, ‘You wouldn’t have rocked with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that’.”
Iverson was a No. 1 draft pick for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 and played in the city for a decade before being traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006.
He also played for the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies before finishing where he started — in Philadelphia.
The franchise star for his tenure at 76ers, Iverson has fond memories of his time at the club.
Asked why he had such a bond with the city, Iverson replied: “Because I am the city.”
“There are a lot of guys in the league that are around people with the suits on and the earpieces in and when people see them, they’d be scared,” he said.
“I’m so different, I’m approachable for some reason, I don’t even know. Sometimes I’d be dumbfounded by it. I’d be like “why do people just feel like they can walk up on me all the time” but they feel just like I do about them.
“I’m you, I’m just an NBA basketball player, I come from where you come from. I go out there and I go hard every night and if you know this about Philadelphia, they give you are hard time if you don’t give it all. You can play bad but they can tell when you’re giving it everything you can night in and night out.”
With Aussie Ben Simmons seemingly following in Iverson’s footsteps with an NBA Rookie of the Year gong and breaking Iverson’s rookie assists record last season, Iverson has had a huge impact on the league.
His legacy even extends to the basketball sleeve, which helped him with elbow issues from falling over earlier in his career.
Simmons sports the sleeve and Kobe Bryant used to wear one but Iverson said it was LeBron James’ that confirmed his place in the NBA style Hall of Fame.
“I couldn’t believe Kobe did it but the first time I got excited about it when LeBron had the headband and sleeve,” he said.
“That’s my little guy, he was the guy who wanted to emulate me. So when I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh my god that’s dope’. And it was cool for him to do it and paying homage to me. He’s a colossal superstar.
“It was just dope because some of these little dudes respect you and respect what you made them think when they were creating their own game.”
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