Allen Iverson is an 11-time NBA All-star and NBA legend, but it appears that sometimes, he had the wool pulled over his eyes by his teammates.
The former 76ers man was known for his dislike of practice matches, but on the court, he was ultra-competitive and sometimes had to be bluffed to keep him sidelined. Nobody would want a prime Iverson sidelined if he were fit, but the Hampton-born shooting guard just wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to playing.
“(Iverson) didn’t wanna take a day off in games. Now practice, maybe, but games, he didn’t wanna take the time off,” said Billy King in a recent interview. “When he was injured and we knew he couldn’t play, we used to hide his jersey. Because he would come to the locker room looking for his jersey, we’d lock it somewhere so he couldn’t get it.”
It was a slick move by his teammates, but Iverson was not fooled. After finishing his career in Turkey, he started a career as a poker player and using the same skills he did around the felt, he often called his teammates bluff and came out on top. “One time, in New York, he found his jersey but didn’t have any shoes,” added King. “He was trying to send the ball boy to the Foot Locker around the corner. He said, ‘Just give me a pair of their Reeboks. I can play in those.’ Then, he pointed to an attendant (and said), ‘What size are you? Just give me those shoes,’ because he wanted to play so bad.”
Iverson wasn’t quite as keen on practise sessions, though; he often shirked practice. Iverson gave the world his thoughts on non-competitive action with his infamous 2002 rant after he had been accused of missing a practise session by 76ers coach Larry Brown. His press conference has become the stuff of legend, but his performances on the court more than made up for the brief moment he is often remembered for.
The Answer, as he was known, has retained his competitive edge after finally hanging up his jersey voluntarily, and one wonders if he approaches his poker playing as he did his NBA career, all-in during the competition but shirking practice. It certainly didn’t look like it in the 2021 WPT Spring Festival Main Event, where he lined up against top star Phil Ivey. It proves the competitive edge he once had is still there, even now. Whatever sport he takes part in, he has to be the best.
He could certainly be the best today, according to King. He led the NBA scoring four times and is currently 25th in the all-time chart, but King feels with the rule changes in the modern game, The Answer would be even higher up than he is right now. “With these rules, he would have been easily close to 40 points, because he would have gotten to the foul line even more,” King finished by saying. “Allen, for sure, would have easily averaged close to 40 points.”
If that is the case, imagine how many he might have scored if they hadn’t had to hide his jersey and shoes, or, dare we say, if he took practise as seriously as some of his peers!