Allen Iverson’s feelings about practice are well known. When it came to games, however, things were different for “The Answer.”
Former Philadelphia 76ers GM Billy King said the team would get creative so the star point guard wouldn’t play through injury,
“(Iverson) didn’t wanna take a day off in games. Now practice, maybe, but games, he didn’t wanna take the time off,” King said on the “Audacy NBA Show” this week. “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.”
King joined the Sixers in 1997 a year after Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. He quickly learned about Iverson’s passion when it came to game time – how far A.I. would go to suit up.
“One time, in New York, he found his jersey but didn’t have any shoes,” King recalled. “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.”
In 2002, coach Larry Brown famously called Iverson’s practice habits into question after a first-round playoff loss to the Celtics. It led to a rant cemented into NBA history.
“We’re sitting here, I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re in here talking about practice,” Iverson said, using the word “practice” 22 times in his answer.
Whether he needed to rehearsal time is up for debate. His relentless attitude and fearless demeanor contributed to a career that saw him earn 11 All-Star nods, the 2001 MVP award, and induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
After his stint with the Sixers, Iverson went on to play for the Denver Nuggets (2006-08), Detroit Pistons (2008-09) and Memphis Grizzlies (2009) — before he returned to Philadelphia for one last run with his hometown team from 2009-2010. His reunion with the Sixers was cut short due to a personal matter at the time.
Following a brief stint in the Turkish basketball league, Iverson announced his retirement from pro basketball on October 30, 2013.