Fifteen years ago today, Allen Iverson went on a rant that forever changed how we hear the word practice.
When someone says the word, whether or not you're a sports fan, a trigger goes off in your brain, and you say — at least to yourself — like Iverson said it back then.
But when I think about that press conference — and I was there, right outside the CSN control room, in the same area where Brett Brown speaks after games — I remember how there was so much more to that press conference than just practice.
Iverson was raw and vulnerable. He wasn’t up there to give the boilerplate season wrap-up responses. Not that he ever did. But this was different.
Let's set the stage.
A year earlier, in 2001, the Sixers were in the midst of their magical run to the NBA Finals.
Four days earlier, on Friday, May 3, the Sixers were blasted by the Celtics, 120-87, in a winner-take-all Game 5 at what was then called the FleetCenter.
Iverson’s relationship with head coach Larry Brown had been tumultuous and a constant topic of discussion. Brown clearly didn't approve of Iverson's truant attitude toward practice — and unlike his predecessors, Brown made his feelings known.
One day after being eliminated by Boston, Brown said Iverson had to attend practice like the rest of the team. Iverson wished Brown had kept his mouth shut. (Not one of Brown’s strong suits.)
So the two held a meeting.
Then on Tuesday, May 7, Iverson held his historic press conference. Brown was scheduled to speak the following afternoon.
So let's take a look at what else Iverson discussed besides practice. He said plenty more, and I bet most of you reading this don’t remember much of it.
When Iverson took the podium, the two topics of interest were Iverson's relationship with Brown, and whether or not one or both would be with the Sixers the following season.
"Hell yeah I'm coming back," Iverson said. "I'm not going anywhere, and Coach Brown isn't going anywhere.
"I don't have any problem with Coach. I love Larry Brown. People may not believe it, but I do. He's done so much for me. If there's no Larry Brown, there's no MVP Allen Iverson.
"I just let him know that I'm the pit bull in his yard," Iverson added. "If anybody tries to intrude, I'm going to be the one that's going to bite and protect his home. It's the same thing I've been saying since day one."
A year earlier, Iverson was the MVP. Brown was Coach of the Year. Crowds packed the then-First Union Center to see The Allen Iverson Show.
Iverson twice scored in the 50s as the Sixers eliminated the Toronto Raptors. Then he had three straight 40-point games as the Sixers ousted the Milwaukee Bucks to reach the Finals.
But now they were coming off a brutal loss to Boston. Brown had opened his mouth. And Iverson didn't like it.
"No question about it," Iverson said. "This is what happens when you lose, though. When you lose, there's a whole bunch of room for negativity. I don't do any talking. I don't run my mouth. If coach has any issues with me, I believe they're things I can control.
"I love him as a man. The coach — that's totally different," Iverson said. "Yeah, I like him as a coach. He's the best coach in the world. I can't say it enough. He's the best in the world.
"I love Larry Brown. That's my man. But in this situation right here, we're not as tight as I thought we were by this [stuff] happening right now.
"You go to the Finals, and then the next year, you're out in the first round. This is what happens. Everybody takes shots at Allen Iverson. It's unfortunate that I can't punch back.
"When we lose, this is what happens. When you win, everything is cool. When we win, I get the praise and Larry Brown gets the praise. When we lose, it's on me and Larry Brown. And that's something that I have to accept and deal with."
But Iverson felt he shouldn't have to deal with it. Everyone considered him the franchise player, but franchise players shouldn't have to be interrogated like this.
"You all wonder why I'm not the franchise player?" Iverson asked. "I don't feel like I'm the franchise player — look at this press conference. Look at what we're talking about. I'm the best player. I feel like I'm the best player in the world, but franchise players don't go through this. Franchise player's daughters don't have to go to school and hear, 'Is your daddy coming back? What's going on with your daddy and Coach Brown?' She's 7 years old, and that's what she's got to deal with.
"It hurts, because I know I'm better than that. I do all I can for this city, for this team, for this franchise, for my teammates. I don't think anybody in the world plays harder than me. For me to go through this is tough. I'm tired.
"Everybody in Philadelphia knows that I want to be here — that isn't a secret. Everybody knows I want to be a Sixer for the rest of my career. But I'm tired, and I'm hurt too."
He was hurt because he, as he liked to say, “played every game like it was my last.” (Which is why he sometimes didn’t practice.)
He was hurt because the Sixers’ season had just ended.
And what’s more, he was hurt because his best friend had recently died.
"I'm upset for one reason — because I'm in here. I lost my best friend. I lost him, and I lost this year. And then I'm dealing with this right here," Iverson said. "[Philadelphia] is where I want to be. I love this place. I love my teammates. I don't have any problems with Coach Brown at all.
Except Brown had problems with him.
"Coach has problems with me as far as lifting. I don't know what this thing is about me coming to practice — because I haven't been missing practice. But he has a problem with me. I don't have any problems with Larry Brown. I don't have a problem with this organization. I just don't want to go through this. I don't want to lose, and then, all summer, have to go through this. I lost. Me and my teammates and my coaching staff, we lost. But I'm the only one going through it. It's me. When we lose, I have to deal with it.”
And everyone else was on the beach or playing golf. Doing anything else but dealing with this.
"All of the rest of my team, all of the soldiers that went to war with me, are enjoying their summer. But look at me. Look what I'm going through.
"It's not just me. Yeah, I have some [stuff] that I need to take care of, but everybody does. But you don't talk about anybody but me.”
And franchise players -- Most Valuable Players -- players who “go to war for Philadelphia” shouldn’t have to go through this.
"I'm the MVP, and I have to worry about trade talk. I was honored with the MVP," he said. "The MVP — the best basketball player in the world. And when I lose, this is what I have to go through? When I lose? I can't win them all. I'm human. I'm just like you. I'm just like you.
“I'm not going to do it all right all of the time. Michael Jordan is the greatest player in the world. He didn't do it right all of the time. But he tried. He gave his effort, and that's all you can ask for."
The MVP topic begot another great quote. Asked whether it would behoove him to add some muscle to his frame, Iverson scoffed.
"If I build myself up and get a whole lot of muscles and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you're going to give me the MVP award automatically?” he said.
"I've been the MVP bony as hell. So, what do I have to do?"
One thing he shouldn’t have to do is answer questions about trade speculation.
"You're calling me the MVP," Iverson said. "The world called me the MVP. What are you talking about getting rid of the MVP for? To make the team better? If it's to make the team better, then I'm cool with it. I'm going to win wherever I go. I don't care where I go. I'm going to win regardless. You talk about making your teammates better — I'm going to make them better. Wherever I go, I'm going to win."
"That's all I care about. I've been in the league six years, and I have no title. [I have] a bunch of individual awards that don't mean anything. Yeah, I can tell my son I was an All-Star, but I never won a championship, and that's all I care about. I don't have a selfish bone in my body. I just want to win. That's all I want to do.”