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One Answer, Many Questions: Allen Iverson’s Undeniable Impact on Society

If you are in touch with popular music, you’ve probably heard Post Malone‘s current hit “White Iverson.” If you haven’t, I urge you to take a listen (I’ve inserted the music video below). When a friend texted me about this song, judging it solely by the title, I expected to listen to it once, laugh, then never listen to it again. But, about 30 seconds into the song I realized that I was really in to it. I can’t deny it’s a banger, but it got me thinking.

This song, coupled with a brief thought uttered by Jalen Rose on his Radio Show, Jalen and Jacoby on ESPN Radio, caused me to start thinking about Allen Iverson and his impact on society. Rose brought up that Steve Nash was able to get a post-retirement job in the NBA right away as an adviser to Steph Curry for the Warriors while Iverson is left in the cold.

But before we get into that, let’s just take a moment to step back and look at Iverson’s impact on society, hip-hop and of course, the game of basketball.

Iverson’s most lasting impact on the game will most likely be his introduction of the shooting sleeve to his uniform.  iverson sleeve

For a while he was the only one wearing the accessory, and like most other things he did, it was controversial and it set a trend. Now stars from LeBron to Blake Griffin are seen rocking the sleeve and manufacturers now include built-in elbow pads to the sleeve. You can’t watch an AAU basketball game without seeing sleeves all over the court.

He can be largely credited with saving Reebok as a respectable basketball shoe company for nearly two decades. The company had been in a sneaker drought for years after the Pump lost its shine, but Iverson’s line of “Answer” and “Question” shoes were the coolest kicks out there when I was growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s. The proof of his impact can be found in Reebok’s very tangible decline in popularity in the basketball community after Iverson’s retirement. Reebok even reintroduced his most beloved pair of sneakers back in 2012. 

iverson shoes

A collection of Iverson’s shoes posted to Pinterest by user “Raheem 3”

Even something as basic as Iverson’s choice of the number three for his uniform has left ripples still running through the game. If you see a dynamic guard on the court in the amateur realm, there’s a good chance he’s wearing the number three nowadays, just as a great small forward is likely to be wearing 23.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Let’s get back to “White Iverson,” I think it’s amazing that a player who debuted in the NBA in 1996 and retired in 2010 has enough staying power to be an immediately recognized name by the majority of society. The title of the song paints a picture that is easy to imagine before one even listens to the song. I figured it would entail a white rapper bragging about “ballin'” while he wears a sleeve. I completely underestimated it.

In the music video, Post Malone can be seen rocking Iverson’s trademark hairstyle, cornrows. This is just yet another example of Iverson’s impact, many players and fans imitated his hairstyle. He streamlined cornrows. And when he paired it with the headband, it was mimicked in the NBA for years.

Post Malone was able to fit in a plethora of Iverson references into the song like, “I need this money like the ring I never won.” Malone’s decision to market himself as a white Allen Iverson was genius and it paints the picture that he is a hard-working, scrappy guy willing to do anything to make it when it seems like he shouldn’t have a chance. The last name “Iverson” has become a synonym for defying the odds.

I’ve never seen an athlete as tangibly distraught about never winning a ring as Iverson is. He was fiercely competitive and at an even 6’0″ tall he was an inspiration to watch. I could write 2,000 words about how dumb it is to require an athlete to have a ring to be considered great, but I won’t put you through that.

He’s a big reason for the NBA’s dress code, some even call the code “the Iverson rule.” David Stern outlawed baggy clothes and flat bill hats as sideline and post-game attire in 2005. Most saw this as a direct shot at one of Stern’s best players, Iverson. Iverson was known for showing up to post-game interviews in retro jerseys, flat bills, baggy jeans and bandannas. It was his style and he wore it well, but Stern was concerned about the image it created for his league so he made a change and now NBA players dress like runway models for Tom Ford at the post-game.

Iverson wearing a puffy blue coat and a throwback Mariners hat at a press conference.

Iverson wearing a puffy blue coat and a throwback Mariners hat at a press conference.

No athlete, other than maybe Michael Jordan, has had a bigger influence on hip-hop than Iverson. He’s had such a big impact that Complex was able to compile a list of “The 40 Best Rap Bars About Allen Iverson.” Iverson jerseys were about as big of a staple in rap music videos as a bottle of Dom Perignon in the 2000s. “The Answer” even had a beef with Jay-Z in 2006.

However, towards the end of his career and after retirement, rumors bout alcoholism, gambling addictions, divorce and bankruptcy have swirled around Iverson. I obviously don’t know Allen Iverson, but he seem like he needs someone to give him another shot.

What Jalen Rose was hinting at, I think, is that while Nash was able to find a job right away, Iverson is left job-less while his career is very similar to Nash’s, if not better. Iverson has been a source of controversy for his entire life, whether it’s due to the way he dresses, his brash style of play, or the legal troubles that date back to his high school days. You can’t tell me that he couldn’t help an NBA team as a “player development consultant” like Nash is doing. It’s very obvious that the team he put on the map after years of irrelevancy, the 76ers, need help right now.

It’s a commonly held belief that the first person to start a trend is the one who suffers. It’s the classic case of a trailblazer, Iverson cleared the way for dozens of NBA players in the 2000s and it scared David Stern. It’s very easy to argue that he has been unfairly blackballed by the NBA and it angers me to see this happen while he clearly needs help.

While the “White Iverson” song is catchy, it perfectly encapsulates how society views the estranged star now. The song is amazing because due to the title that includes Iverson’s name, one expects it to be a joke, when in actuality the song has demanded to be taken seriously due to its undeniable greatness.

And if that doesn’t perfectly encapsulate the story of Allen Iverson, I don’t know what does.

1 Comment »

  1. Wow! Alex! What a great piece!

    I dig the song as well.

    Iverson is Bobby Brown now. It’s tragic. No stability, no mentors, no guidance. I wonder where John Thompson was during his periods of undesirable behavior?

    The list of black pro athletes is so long who start at the top and end up discarded.

    Worse still, young black athletes see sports as their only way out of poverty.

    Jalen Rose is dead wrong on Black Lives Matter and I’m not going to read his new book. He gives the people what the want, but, that isn’t who he is. His foundation and school speak for themselves.

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail

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