Allen Iverson has been many things in his life. He was the No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year. He was a scoring champ and the MVP. He’s cultural icon and a Hall of Famer.
Now at the age of 45, Iverson has taken on a new role: Fan.
The 6-foot guard from Georgetown that famously cupped his ear to implore the Philadelphia crowd to get louder for over decade, is now experiencing the other side.
“Now I know how those people in the crowd felt when I had my hand on my ear and all that,” Iverson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff. “I'm those people in the stands now and I love it. I get a big kick out of it. When Joel [Embiid] is doing all that and I'm at the game, I feel just like those other fans that’s sitting in the seats.”
Just like Iverson did, Embiid feeds off the crowd in a big way. As the Sixers prepare to head to Disney World for the NBA’s attempted restart, the advantage of a home crowd won’t be a factor.
So how does a player that draws so much energy from the fans get themselves ready for that kind of environment?
Just focus that attention on the guys that you’re with, the coaching staff, and use them as that motivation,” Iverson said. “It’s just like the motivation that you get when you’re playing pick-up. You still want to win, you’re still into it. Still playing as hard as you can. It’ll be different but you’re just playing basketball and you’re playing with the same agenda, same thing, and that’s to win basketball games. So, you do whatever you can. And then you understand and realize that everybody else got to go through the same things you’re going through.
While his personality isn’t similar to Iverson’s, Ben Simmons and the Sixers legend do have a few things in common. They were both No. 1 overall picks by the Sixers and had to carry a lot of weight trying to take a franchise in ruins and bring it back to life.
Those parallels have made Iverson enjoy watching the All-Star point guard navigate his way through the league.
I think of myself coming into being a rookie with a lot of expectations,” Iverson said, “so that’s what makes me so much of a big fan of him because I know what’s expected of him and I know what city he plays in. It could be good or bad. If you don’t understand that they’re the most passionate and the best fans in the world, and they want to see you do well, but they can be tough on you at times because they want a winner.
“And it’s a lot to go into. A young person being put in a position to help a team win and it’s all on you. Not on the guys that’s there before you and older, it’s going to be all on you because of the talent. With the talent that God gave you, it’s supposed to be those type of larger expectations and I think he's built for it. He's proven he's built for it. You can’t make any excuses because we already seen that he's built for everything that the NBA has to offer. I'm just a big fan of him. I love cheering for him, just like the rest of the guys.
Iverson gets a great amount of respect from current players and he in turn shows them plenty. He seems gracious for every moment he gets to be around this generation of players around the league.
But the Sixers are still his team.
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