Allen Iverson is widely regarded as the “pound for pound” GOAT in NBA circles. Despite being under six feet tall, the Philadelphia 76ers legend was a fearless driver and scorer during his legendary playing career.
Since he was small, Iverson got knocked down a lot by opposing big men who tried to intimidate and scare him from coming near the basket. However, former Sixers forward Toni Kukoc says there was nothing anyone could do to prevent the 11-time All-Star from getting to the rim and finishing in heavy traffic.
Allen Iverson’s main objective was to always get to the rim
Kukoc, who had the privilege of playing with Iverson and Michael Jordan during his career, told Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports that Iverson is one of the quickest players in NBA history and always had his foot on the gas.
“I mean, you can talk about other guys being fast, but just his size and the way he moved through the people, he looked even faster,” Kukoc said. “So just the ability, because now guys very rarely want to go in the paint, and they want to shoot threes, and they want to dribble the ball all over the place, but AI was different. If he could find a way to the rim, that was his first choice. He would rarely just settle for the shot and the era that we played with people who would foul you very hard if you were in the paint. I’m pretty sure that there were guys that would try to leave a mark, so he would second guess should I go in there or not or should I shoot the ball from outside. But AI was willing to go in and try to score layups and then get dunks and then get himself on the free-throw line. To me, one of the best players that I’ve ever played with.”
Iverson was an average mid-range shooter. He shot 40.4% on shots 16 feet from the basket to the 3-point line for his career. However, during his prime with the Sixers, the Hall of Famer was always in attack mode and had one thing on his mind: get to the basket and finish amongst the trees.
Allen Iverson was a relentless driver
Iverson didn’t care that he was short. He had a big heart and excellent touch around the basket, which helped him become one of the top scorers in NBA history. The Georgetown product won four scoring titles and is seventh all-time in points per game at 26.7.
During his MVP season in 2000-01, Iverson put up 31.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game and led the Sixers all the way to the NBA Finals. He shot an incredible 65.6% at the rim, which is impressive considering he was small in stature and putting up shots against centers.
Iverson played through several injuries during his career. Pain never stopped the Answer from giving it his all and doing whatever it took to win a game. The Sixers icon was a reckless driver in terms of the way he attacked the rim and how vicious he was getting to the basket and finishing in traffic when no one thought he could get there. Those are traits former Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose took from Bubba Chuck.
Derrick Rose: AI gave me freedom to play recklessly
Before the start of the 2020-21 season, Rose told his agent, BJ Armstrong, on the Pushin’ Thru podcast that Iverson gave him the “freedom” to play recklessly during his younger days with the Bulls before he tore his left ACL in 2012.
“AI gave me the freedom to go out there and be reckless,” Rose said. “You know what I mean? Where it’s like, I’m giving my all bro. Me and AI, like the way we attack the rim, is kind of different.”
During the 2010-11 season, Rose averaged 25.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to the best record in the NBA. He won the MVP is still the youngest MVP winner in NBA history. However, since winning his MVP, Rose has undergone four knee surgeries. He’s no longer a superstar in the NBA or a violent driver due to the knee surgeries.
Despite all the injuries, though, Rose is still one of the better guards in the league. He no longer plays recklessly and has more control in his game after understanding his body more. The Chicago native averaged 19.4 points and 5.0 assists in the 2021 playoffs for the New York Knicks while shooting 47.6% from the field and 47.1% from beyond the arc.
Iverson and Rose attacked the rim at will and didn’t care if their bodies paid for it during their younger days. Their style of play never resulted in a championship, but it netted them an MVP and the respect of their peers and teammates.