As the Philadelphia Eagles took the field for Super Bowl 52, they were the underdogs. They stepped onto the field to the sounds of Meek Mill‘s “Dreams & Nightmares,” and walked off the field as champions.
In light of the underdogs’ historic victory, during this historic month, we are celebrating Philly’s greatest uncrowned champion, Allen Iverson.
Iverson managed to transcend above the game of basketball. In fact, A.I.’s style of play, his personal aesthetic and his attitude defined a generation.
Known on the court as “The Answer,” his influence also showed throughout Hip-Hop culture. Drafted in 1996, selected first overall by the 76ers, his crossover and fearless ability to drive to the basket turned him into one of the most prolific scorers in his draft class. In his prime, (96′-02′) he averaged 27.2 points per game. His crossover even worked against Michael Jordan.
Listed at 6’0 feet, he epitomized the meaning of an underdog. He always kept a fierce presence. Always willing to be himself. Even when pushed to conform to the rules of the NBA. As a result, in October 2005, NBA Commissioner, David Stern banned over-sized or baggy clothes, Timberland boots and excess flashy jewelry. Players dubbed it the “A.I. rule.”
When Iverson entered the league, players arms were visible and mostly bare. Over time, he covered his neck in Chinese symbols and eventually inked up his arms. When the league asked to him cover them, he used shooting sleeves. Soon after, players were showing off their painted arms, necks and bodies. Or covered by sleeves.
In the early 2000’s, afros and braids were commonplace on NBA courts, playgrounds and elsewhere. A.I.’s signature cornrows set a trend which was emulated by NBA stars such as Ben Wallace and Carmelo Anthony. Even Ja Rule once had braids. However, A.I. often got his hair braided during games. Sometimes, by his mom.
Iverson, a.k.a Jewelz was also good at crossing over into Hip-Hop, with songs like “40 Bars.”
In 2001, A.I. led the Sixers to the NBA finals, against Kobe, Shaq and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 would prove to be a spectacle as Philly handed L.A. there only loss in the playoffs. Highlighted by a 48-point effort from The Answer–as he “stepped over” Tyrone Lue after draining the corner three.
However L.A. would dominate the Sixers in the next four games. Kobe got the ring, but even he admits, “Allen Iverson pushed me to another level.”