Today is the birthday of NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. In honor of this day I wanted to take some time to talk about what his career meant to me personally.
As a little kid growing in Orange Mound, one of the worst neighborhoods in the city of Memphis, I had no positive influences growing up. I looked to sports to somewhat fill that void. Athletes such as Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning, and Derek Jeter had a tremendous impact on my childhood. As great as these respective athletes were, none of them had a bigger impact on me than Iverson.
A.I was the voice of the hip-hop generation. A brash man who wore cornrows, baggy shorts, and tattoos. His style and attitude represented kids like me who come from these inner-city environments. He was someone who I could immediately identify with.
Iverson gave me an abundance of memories growing up as a kid. The game one explosion against the Lakers in 2001, the double cross on Antonio Daniels, and the 55-point performance against the Hornets just to name a few. It was safe to say I idolized this man. Not just for his exploits on the court, but his demeanor off it. He was the one thing that many of us struggle to be in this society, ourselves. Right or wrong he never shied away from who he was. That’s something that I myself have always admired. Watching him taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin.
Iverson also taught me other life lessons. With him being barely 6 feet tall and weighing maybe 165 pounds, he was a David among Goliaths on the court. Despite being outmatched in every physical manner on almost a nightly basis, he never once backed down. A.I taught me to never give up no matter the odds. With me being a rather undersized guy pretty much my entire life, I was able to relate to his challenges on the court. When I played I took the same mentality he had, fearless. Even in my everyday life I still use what he taught me growing up.
One of the happiest days of my life was getting a chance to meet him as a freshman in high-school when he was briefly a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. I briefly told him my story and got him to sign my poster of him. He told me, “Thank you so much for supporting me, it means a lot.” Hearing that from someone who I looked at as a big brother or father figure meant the world to me.
All in all I just want to say thank you Mr.Iverson. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for showcasing what it means to be courageous on the court. Thank you for teaching me life skills that I still carry today. Thank you for giving me memories that I still cherish now. Thank you for just being you. Happy birthday.