None of us are perfect. We all have our shortcomings and weak moments. We’ve all been vulnerable at one time or another.
For Allen Iverson, one of his more vulnerable moments occurred on May 7, 2002. It played out in a public setting as Comcast SportsNet aired the whole profanity-laced and tense press conference.
Looking back 18 years later, it’s proven to be one of Iverson’s more endearing moments to fans. Not just because of the practice rant, but because Iverson was wearing his heart on his sleeve. He was hurting on so many levels and didn’t care about letting it show.
While plenty of jokes are made about the infamous presser — even by Iverson himself — what was going on behind the scenes was far from humorous.
Iverson was dealing with a lot in his professional life. A year after playing in the NBA Finals, the Sixers were bounced in the first round by the Celtics. Boston finished the series off with a 120-87 drubbing. On top of that, Iverson was fearful then-coach Larry Brown was going to trade him — something that nearly happened before the 2000-01 campaign.
He was carrying an even heavier burden in his personal life. Iverson’s best friend, Rahsaan Langford, was shot and killed seven months earlier. The trial for Langford’s murder began just days before the press conference.
He was the 2000-01 MVP, a multi-time All-Star and scoring champ. He was “The Answer.” And his life was spiraling out of control.
I'm upset for one reason: 'Cause I'm in here,” Iverson said that day. “I lost. I lost my best friend. I lost him, and I lost this year. Everything is just going downhill for me, as far as just that. You know, as far as my life. And then I'm dealing with this. ... My best friend is dead. Dead. And we lost. And this is what I have to go through for the rest of the summer until the season is all over again.
One of the reasons that moment is looked on so fondly is because it was quintessential Iverson. He was brutally honest, pouring his heart out to the media in attendance and the cameras that were rolling.
It was a roller coaster of emotions. We laughed at his jokes. We felt the pain of his loss. But this is why we loved Iverson. He was real. He was authentic. It was a reminder that while our hero had his superhuman moments, he was still very much human.
If you've been watching "The Last Dance," you've seen what happened to Michael Jordan. His squeaky clean image was tarnished by reports of his gambling debts and a book that depicted him as a bad teammate. Iverson never had that squeaky clean image. Part of that is the incident in high school — even though Iverson's conviction was overturned. But the bigger part of it is that Iverson was always himself. He was never playing a role. The guy with the tattoos, cornrows and extra baggy clothes was who he was.
It was far from a flawless moment from a flawed man. But that’s why he was beloved.
It's home," Iverson said of Philadelphia during his official retirement in 2013. "I've been a part of this community for so many years. These fans are me. I am Philadelphia. When you think of Philadelphia basketball, you think of Allen Iverson. ... I'm going to always be a Sixer till I die.
Allen Iverson was far from perfect, but he was perfect for Philadelphia.
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