NBA fans love a good debate. The ultimate one: Is Michael Jordan or LeBron James the greatest player of all time? As the Lakers star’s case strengthens, the debate will only heat up. Even former players are wading into the fray. Hall of Famer Allen Iverson recently shared his take. Let’s recap his NBA career and recent pick for GOAT.
Allen Iverson’s NBA career
The 76ers selected Iverson with the first pick of the 1996 NBA draft. Iverson wasted no time, averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game as a rookie. Iverson continued to improve over the following years, averaging a career-best 33 points per game in the 2005-06 season.
Despite his prodigious numbers, Iverson could never manage to get his teams a championship. In December 2006, the 76ers decided to cash in on him, trading Iverson to the Nuggets for a cache of players and picks. Iverson spent parts of three seasons in Denver, before wrapping up his career with stints in Detroit, Memphis, and then Philadelphia again.
During his career, Iverson earned 11 NBA All-Star selections, three All-NBA First Team selections, and one NBA MVP award. The four-time NBA scoring champion led the league in steals three times. Iverson posted career averages of 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game. In his first year of eligibility, he entered the Hall of Fame in 2016.
A surprising take on the GOAT
Iverson’s legacy as one of the best guards to ever play gives him a unique perspective on the GOAT debate. He recently voiced his opinion during an appearance on The Fat Joe Show. He declared that he felt James had a stronger case as the greatest ever.
His exact words were: “As much as I love Michael Jordan, man, LeBron James is the one. He’s the one, man. That motherf—– is the one.” His opinion quickly sent shockwaves through the NBA community, with fans and pundits alike expressing their surprise with Iverson’s selection.
Iverson’s unique position as judge
Iverson’s opinion may seem like nothing more than a “hot take,” designed to stir controversy and get people talking. Yet Iverson sits in a unique position with regard to the two players in question. He faced off against both Jordan and James many times during his career.
Between 1997 and 2003, reports Insider, Iverson faced Jordan on 13 occasions, coming away with six wins. At that point, Iverson was in the first half of his career and was arguably at his peak as a player. In the second half of his career, he faced off against James on 18 occasions, coming away with a 10-8 record.
In other words, Iverson fared better against James than Jordan. This may make his take surprising. Yet Iverson’s experiences in other regards may influence his opinion. Consider that Iverson never won a title. That may make him more lenient when comparing James’ three championships against Jordan’s six — a common argument for Jordan’s superiority.