Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 at 11:23 am  |  16 responses

Can’t Knock the Hustle

The Allen Iverson cover story from the iconic SLAM 32 (March, ’99).

SLAM: Do you think you deserve $100 million?

AI: Do I deserve it? Yeah, I think I deserve it. I don’t know if that’s what I’ll ask for, but I think I deserve it. I think I deserve more, you know, that’s just who I am. I feel everybody deserves whatever they want, really. Whatever the franchise feels they need or want to give you, they should give it to you, you know? And that’s real. They got enough money to give people whatever, you know what I’m saying?

I think the crazy thing about this lockout [is] when you look at guys like Kevin Garnett’s salary, pshhhh, Kevin Garnett—I think—should have gotten more than what he got. And they’re able to pay him that, you know. All that money the [owners] got and they’re getting off of us, it shouldn’t be no problem—nobody’s salary. They pay Kevin Garnett what they know they can pay him. They give him this money, and everybody’s beefing, when number one he deserved it and number two they felt like he deserved it. And they felt like they had to give it to him, so what’s wrong with that? I don’t see anything wrong with that.

SLAM: Who did you start out watching when you first followed basketball?

AI: Zeke. Michael [Jordan], of course, but Zeke was always my man. I loved Isiah.

SLAM: Did you like the Pistons?

AI: Nah, I was always a Bulls fan, ever since Michael got there. I remember one time the Knicks beat ’em, and I damn near cried—I had tears in my eyes.

I was a Bulls fanatic. Because I love Mike, I love Pippen, I love Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong and Paxson, Luc Longley, Cartwright and I just loved the Bulls, and now that I play them I hate them. Because I remember Scottie Pippen when the Knicks used to beat him all up—and you know they used to try to treat him like he was puss—and then now, for them to talk shit to me on the court while I’m playing? I still love Pip today and Mike and Dennis Rodman, ’cause they great basketball players. Then to hear the way they talk shit on the court, I’m like, “Dog, I remember when you didn’t say shit on the court, you know you was so humble and you wouldn’t say nothing on the court and now even you talk shit?”

SLAM: When did you start playing basketball?

AI: I think I was like nine or 10 years old. I always thought basketball was soft. Now I come to find out I was outta my mind, playing against Shaq and Barkley and Kevin Willis. Charles Oakley. Serious. I never wanted to play it, when my mom bought me some Jordans—I came home from school, she was like, “You going to basketball practice today,” and I was like, “I ain’t playing no basketball, it’s soft. I don’t want to play no basketball, I don’t like basketball.” I’m crying all the way out the door, she pushing me out the door. I got out there and seen kids that was on my football team and, um, I just enjoyed it. I came home and I thanked my moms, and I’ve been playing basketball ever since.

SLAM: What was your home court growing up?

AI: Newport News [VA]—Anderson Park, that’s where like it first started. And then Hampton [VA]—Aberdine Elementary School, ’cause that’s where I watched my uncles and my uncles’ friends, the people I thought that were sooo nice, so cold on the court. I watched them, and I had to play right after school—in the 8th grade or 7th grade—when it was blazing hot, like 105 or something like that. Then they came at five, six o’clock when the sun is going down, and they ran. I could never play with them, ’cause they would never let me. I guess they thought I wasn’t good enough, I was too young. And then, ninth or tenth grade, they want to pick me first—“Yo, I got AI.” It was just a great feeling, man, because that’s where I always wanted to play. [Before] they hollering at me to get off the court and they screaming at me because I was trying to play while they were playing. And then to go back and be able to play against them and kill them.

SLAM: Is there any one who you really learned the game from?

AI: Coach [John] Thompson. He the one that really taught me how to play basketball. I still don’t know it like I want to know it, but he gave me a clear picture of how to play it.

SLAM: Are you up on your NBA history? I know your rookie year was the NBA at 50, so you were at All-Star Weekend with all those guys…

AI: That was crazy, playing the rookie game and looking in the stands and seeing Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain—I was like, oh my god. Doc—Doc! It just felt crazy. I was like, I’m gonna show in front of these cats tonight. It ain’t gotta be scoring, it could be everything else, but I just want to perform for those guys. I was so hype, it was showtime and it was fun. It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Red Auerbach—my coach—during the [rookie] game at halftime, he was like, “I don’t know what you out here doing, Allen. People came here to see you score; you ain’t have to prove no point. I understand you out here passing—and I respect that—but put the ball in the hole, too. Everybody want to see the whole game.” ’Cause I wasn’t trying to take over the whole spotlight and shine and score 30 points and all that, I was just dishing crazy, and he was like, “This half I want to see you score.” I was like, “A’ight,” and that’s what I did. In the second half, I started scoring.

SLAM: So he was actually coaching out there?

AI: Coaching. Really coaching. He was talking to me during the game, and at one point I just blacked out, I couldn’t believe he was coaching me—it felt so good man. I wanted to, right there, scream up in the stands—“Mom, did you see him talking to me? Did you see him coaching me?” I mean, he was one of the greatest coaches ever, and just for him to say something out of his mouth to me was enough. Even if it was not coaching me, even if he was just speaking to me, it would have made me feel good, but he was coaching me. I felt like crying, because I felt like I really did something in my life for me to be on the sidelines with him coaching.

SLAM: Talk to me about Doc a little bit.

AI: Doc was Mike in his time. Everybody was like—there will never be another Dr. J, da da da. That’s how crazy this thing is. Nobody ever thought there would ever be anyone better then Doc or like Doc. Or Magic, and then come Mike. It’s crazy, Doc started all that. Mike did some shit that Doc never did and vice versa, but Mike took it to a completely different level.

SLAM: What was it like playing against him for the first time? How different was it from just seeing him play?

AI: It was just wild. I can’t even remember the feeling. Just me being on his court, playing against world champions and the greatest basketball player in the world. I wasn’t out there crazy in awe or anything like that—’cause that’s just not me. I’m in the same profession you are and I respect you and what you did for your family and team, but once we get on the dance floor, I’m in a whole ’nother mode. I might feel different if I meet you before the game in the hallway, but once we get on the dance floor, I’m a do my thing and I’m not going to be in awe of nobody. But it was a crazy feeling just playing against him.

Really the only guy that flipped me out when I was on the same court with him was Sprewell. ’Cause if I could be any other basketball player, I would be Sprewell. What he did was foul, everybody know that, and I would never do no shit like that. I mean, I guess he just flipped out and snapped and he’s going to learn a lot from it and he’s a good dude, ’cause I know him as a person. But as far as talent, if I could be any other player, I wouldn’t be Michael Jordan, man. I wouldn’t take Michael Jordan’s game, I would take Latrell Sprewell’s game. I love the way he play. I love the way he play and he hard, hard on the court. You know, he might talk shit to you, he might not. He might give you 30 or 40 with a regular look on his face, like, “Whatever. This is what I do. That’s the way I play. I don’t gotta talk shit, ’cause I do this. I do this nightly. I don’t have to talk no shit to you to prove nothin’ to you.” But Spree, man. Spree’s something else.

SLAM: What is it? What is it about his game?

AI: Energy. He can play the whole damn game. He got pride with his game, you know, And he just hard. When I look at him I see myself, ’cause he don’t care who you are, he just go at you. He go right at your chest, crazy, hard. He can shoot, he can run, he can dribble, he can jump. He’s smart, he know the game.

If not Sprewell, if I had a choice, it would be Shaq. I don’t think nobody could beat my team 10 to 15 times if Shaq was on my team. Never. I mean, that guy has talent that’s just unbelievable. He’s unbelievable. If I played with him, I don’t think nobody could beat me. I don’t know if you beat me in a series, but you won’t sweep me. That’s why I look at [the Lakers] and I’m like—Utah was a great team, Karl Malone, John Stockton did great, but you got Shaq on your team. How can you live with yourself knowing you got swept and you got Shaq on your team? Shhhh…

SLAM: If Mike steps and the Bulls are no more, who’s the next squad?

AI: Who do I think? Really, in my heart? Philly. I’m not gonna say nobody else, ’cause I don’t believe that. I just believe it’s my time. I believe it’s our time. Philly was always one of the great teams. I think it’s time for that to come back.

SLAM: How bad do you want that?

AI: More than anything in the world. [Pause.] Anything. I think that’s the only thing that gonna separate me from a great player. Great players win, man. I’m not a great player. I’m nowhere near a great player now, ‘cause I don’t know the game mentally like I should. But I’m learning, believe me—I know so much more then I knew when I was a rookie, and great players win. You can be a great player, [but] if you lose, you lose. You can have the greatest stats ever, but if you lose, you lose. Ain’t nothing better than winning. When I win, then I get the respect I deserve. Until then, I’m just another basketball player. The average player, you know.

SLAM: What do you want your NBA legacy to be?

AI: Titles. I gotta have titles. Hopefully I can play, like, Robert Parish years, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar years. Hopefully. I don’t wanna go until I get some titles. And not just one. I want titles. Plural.

SLAM: Add some gold to that platinum?

AI: No doubt. Add some gold. I need it, man. I’m hungry—I’m starvin’—I’m starvin’ for success. That’s what I want now. I love lookin’ at my mom and sayin’, “You made somethin’. You made somethin’ outta me.” I love that. So I’m starvin’ for success. I mean, I wanna be good. I want to be somebody.

SLAM: How important is the individual stuff—MVP, scoring title, that sort of thing? You wanna be remembered as the best player in the game? The best point guard?

AI: I wanna be remembered as the best player in the NBA. I want to be the best, the very best. And with the company I’m keeping right now? With the guys I’m playing with? Boy. That’s a huge statement. With the talent that we got right now in this league, with the Shaqs and Grant Hills and Latrell Sprewells and Gary Paytons and Tim Hardaways and Penny Hardaways. [Pause.] That’s a big statement, but I’m willing to try and back it up. I want to be the greatest basketball player. With Michael Jordan, that’s some big words, but that’s the challenge of my life. Maybe people won’t consider me to be the best, maybe some will. Who knows? I mean, the sky’s the limit.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    So great. Thank you Russ and Allen—then and now.

  • ToldUso

    F him. Never liked the guy. Should be the poster boy for a “when keeping it real/hood goes horribly wrong”
    He ain’t talking bout practice, that’s why Kobe is still relevant as a senior citizen and AI, well, isn’t.

  • KevinJohnsonFan

    Easily my favorite issue of SLAM. Favorite player.

  • KevinJohnsonFan

    So angry at a man you don’t know to say “F him”. And who honestly cares about you liking him or not? Hilarious. SLAM has always been good to AI. He’s the poster boy for being authentic when others want you to change so that you’re a better “role model” for their children. He’s a poster boy for being himself when others wanted him to be like Jordan. He’s a man now who needs help with his problems and needs to be a better man and better father more than anything else. Kobe’s relevancy now is about a lot more than practice. AI is 3 years older than Kobe first of all. Second of all, Iverson’s natural gifts were such that he didn’t need to practice to perform which ended up harming him a little bit. He was one of the best athletes the NBA had ever seen. Kobe practiced, worked on his game and turned himself into what he is. AI is a top 50 player and top 10-15 SG of all time because of his talent alone. AI will always be relevant. Very few NBA legends have been loved in the way that AI was/is. Kobe doesn’t generate the same level of interest that Iverson does now and he definitely didn’t while he was trying to be like Jordan and AI was just being himself. SLAM could put AI on the cover next month for no good reason and it would fly off the racks quickly.

  • Rockwell

    This is an entertaining read even after more than a decade passed (damn, can’t believe I’ve been a hoophead for that long). Slam was the best for being able to get candid, insightful answers instead of stock cliches out of the athletes it covered. Just read the Washington Post profile that showed how broke and troubled AI really is. Hopefully he’ll be able to channel the heart and determination he showed on the court to getting his life together.

  • NickDePaula

    One of the my favorite interviews then and just as amazing of a read now. Perfect sense of how great he wanted to be at that stage, but also how much he knew he had to still learn as well.

  • Xena

    LOL. It`s funny how so many people have bought into that bias, one-sided WaPo piece. I guess the saying holds true here: “There`s a sucker born every minute.”

    I understand now more than ever why Iverson has that “Only The Strong Survive, defensive” mentality. He has to protect himself from the ignorance of society.

    Great dig up by SLAM.

  • logues

    so mad that i didn’t get the questions when they released. was being tight with my money at the time but shoulda just got em anyway… hopefully they release again next yr

  • KevinJohnsonFan

    John Thompson, Pat Croce, Larry Brown, Aaron McKie are all in that story. None of those guys would say anything against AI that wasn’t true. Wasn’t a biased one-sided story. I’m a huge Iverson fan and have been since Georgetown. At a certain point, it’s time to stop thinking he’s the victim and start realizing that he has a problem. Iverson doesn’t need to protect himself from an ignorant society. He needs to get help for his alcohol problems. People have tried to help him and he has declined. The problem isn’t society. It’s him.

  • Xena

    Everyone should be required to take a Journalism course in high school because people don`t understand the concept of credibility in terms of sources used to support a claim.

    The article is pure SPECULATION. Why? Because there is no valid to support any of the claims.

    Thompson and McKie didn`t give the interviewer any relevant or recent information about Iverson.

    Thompson: “What I think about Allen Iverson is in my heart.”
    McKie: “For all of the small people, he gave all those people hope.”

    Croce and Brown, by their own admissions, have not even been in contact with Iverson.

    These are the little details that hurts the credibility of sources because if you have not been in RECENT contact with the subject of the piece then all they can do is make assumptions. Assumptions are not facts.

    Other sources that were used to support the article include Roshown McLeod, George Lynch, and “a person close to Iverson, who spoke on condition of anonymity”.

    Are these sources credible?

    McLeod came over to Philadelphia in 2001 in the Mutombo trade and played in one game with Iverson. Now more than a decade later he`s being used as evidence. The second source, Lynch gave his own interpretation of Iverson but he has not seen him in X amount of years since he has not been in contact with him either. And the lack of credibility of the “a person close to Iverson, who spoke on condition of anonymity” source is self-explanatory.

    I would also like to point out a few other noticeable features concerning the piece: (1) Allen and Tawanna were NOT used as sources; they were NOT interviewed (2) the article was not written in an objective manner; it included the writer`s and others` baseless opinions of Iverson (3) SOME of the information in the article can be proven to be inaccurate (4) most of the quotes in the article did not include links to the sources from which they originated nor dates by which the quotes were given and (5) a few of the quotes (ones in which I know the source of origin) were taken out of context in order to paint a picture of Iverson that satisfied the writer`s perception of him.

    The rules of journalism state that articles should be both objective (without bias) and accurate. The credibility of sources is contingent on how RELIABLE the source is, how RELEVANT the information is to the CURRENT situation, and how RECENT the information is relative to the CURRENT situation. The article does NOT follow these regulations.

    I am a student of Communication. This has given me the opportunity to study Journalism which is one reason why I know the article to be at least partially unreliable.

    By my own admission, I am biased in favor of TRUTH and of Iverson. But that is because I am in the know in terms of Iverson`s CURRENT situation (at least more than the average person). I know through personal contacts (including family and friends who have been in RECENT contact with him) that he is in a much better place than some people want the public to believe.

    Another person who is in the know includes Twersky who writes for SLAM and has done the some of the most recent interviews of Iverson. You can follow him on twitter @TTwersky.

    To be clear, I am not trying to be conceited or omniscient by flexing my intellectual muscles. I am just trying to make a point. Iverson has not been open for interviews outside of the ones he does for Reebok yet the media continues to post updates about him. Since Iverson has not been doing interviews it is leaving him vulnerable for inaccurate reports such as these.

    In modern-day society, people are thirsty for information and the media is filling in the blanks that Iverson is leaving available. But the truth is the media is just as much in the dark as the majority of the public. The only difference is the media has the power and means to issue and disseminate their perception of Iverson in the form of writing. But it`s up to the public to differentiate fact from fiction and filter out the inaccuracies so we can arrive some where near the truth.

    Ultimately, no one will know the truth about Iverson until Iverson himself tells his story. So, be patient. And be objective.

  • KevinJohnsonFan

    If it is a biased article, then at some point, Iverson has to come out and dispute these claims. Because he can’t keep sitting back and letting his fans think he’s on his way to destruction. He needs to sit down with Stephen A. Smith, Twersky or someone else he trusts and answer questions. The last time he was seen was at the Bobblehead night in Philly and Dei Lynam interviewed him. He said he just wants to be a good father and he talked a little about a return to the NBA. He tweeted in November that his story would be told. With the amount of loyal fans he has, me being one of them, he needs to let everyone know what’s going on. Because like you said, he doesn’t do much of anything anymore interview-wise outside of Reebok for the release of some of his old shoes, so anything that is written about him at all, we read. We have nothing else to go by.

  • Xena

    I agree. Iverson needs to set the record straight but he`s going to do it when he`s ready and obviously he`s not ready to do so. So, people need to be patient. When he`s ready, the top choices will probably be John Thompson, Twersky or one of the other public figures/media personalities on a short list of people that he trusts. However, I do not believe Stephen A. Smith is someone in which he will confide. We`re not in 2006. We`re in 2013 and Smith will probably not be getting a call from Iverson because Smith likes to act as a double-agent.

    But yes I do understand that most people have nothing else to go by except for what the media feeds them. I am just trying to encourage people to use some common sense and critical thinking of an inquisitive nature when reading current articles about Iverson.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    I like this person.

  • z

    I think im in love with you lol. Perfectly said. Your intellectual muscles are like Schwarzenegger’s real muscles.

  • ish

    yeah it would be nice if he did speak up, but we all remember what happened he spoke up. nobody even knows what the interview is about but they flipped it and said the guy didnt practice. so whats to stop them from flipping what he has to say now since now it seems that they are even more hell bent on dogging him out as much as possible

  • underdog

    It’s a classic interview. But one of the last questions, where AI said all he wants to do is win titles made me sad. Yet another HOF player retiring without a ring. Man, AI is going to be the definition of heart for a long time.