Allen Iverson’s Famous ‘Practice’ Rant Was Actually About Something Much Bigger Than Basketball: ‘My Best Friend Is Dead’

Allen Iverson‘s “practice” press conference will live on forever as one of the most entertaining sports rants of all time, right alongside Dennis Green’s “We are who we thought they were” and Jim Mora’s “Playoffs?” tirades. All three were spur-of-the-moment, emotional outbursts in response to one question or another. Green’s and Mora’s felt angrier more than anything else, and Iverson’s seemed, on the surface, to be frustration. In reality, it was about something much bigger than basketball.

Seven months before the infamous press conference, Iverson had lost his best friend in a shooting. The emotion that simmered in the background of his response to that day’s question understandably bubbled over. The real meaning behind his answer had nothing to do with the word he repeated 22 times.

Allen Iverson’s “practice” rant is one of most memorable sports moments of the last few decades

Allen Iverson sits courtside during the 2001 NBA Finals. Iverson's famous "practice" rant happened earlier that season.
Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers sits and watches the game from the sideline during the NBA finals. | JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

Allen Iverson played in the NBA for 14 years, played in the NBA finals, won the 2000-01 MVP, was a four-time scoring champion, and became a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer. The Answer will always be known for his toughness and refusal to back down from any challenge.

But Iverson’s off-court life also sticks in fans’ memories. At times, the 6-foot guard was considered selfish and a ball hog. He had controversial legal troubles before his professional career even got off the ground.

Maybe more than anything other than his 2000-01 run to the finals, AI is known for his “practice” press conference.

On the surface it seemed like Iverson’s rant was comical, but in reality it came from a place of pain and mourning

According to SI.com, Iverson was questioned about his dedication to practice and the possibility of a trade from Philly and proceeded to entertain everyone in the NBA world in the ensuing few minutes. And those minutes still live on.

But AI wasn’t there to entertain. At a mandatory press conference, he was asked a question that set him off, and he let months of privately-held emotions explode publicly in a way we’ll never forget. During the first few minutes of the rant, he said the word “practice” 22 times.

“We sitting in here–I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man.”

Part of Allen Iverson’s famous “practice” rant

That’s often where the sound byte ends, but it’s not where the press conference ended. Iverson continued:

“I’m upset for one reason: Cause I’m in here. 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.”

Iverson’s oft-ignored continuation of his “practice” press conference

The former Georgetown star wasn’t “talkin bout practice” at all. But for some reason, the rest of his emotional outpouring is often ignored.

Iverson’s “practice” rant should be remembered with compassion more than anything else

Was it entertaining when Iverson repeated the same word 22 times? Yeah, it was. Was that part of the press conference funny? Sure. But the second half of his response cannot be buried. There’s a reason Iverson’s reply was so emotional.

Most took The Answer’s remarks as selfish. It was just further proof he considered himself to be above the team and the organization. The human element of that day and the real reason he was emotional are almost always lost. Anyone grieving the way Iverson was at that time in his life could’ve broken down emotionally in the same way.

AI just happened to be a famous NBA star who broke down publically. Unfortunately, his despair at that moment is mistaken for hilarity and is remembered for the wrong reasons.

Statistics and awards courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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