Uploaded on Oct 22, 2006
This may be the moment we look back on as the exact time and place where Allen Iverson finally got it.
The mercurial superstar of the Philadelphia 76ers had just been named Most Valuable Player of the 50th NBA All-Star Game. He had just led the Eastern Conference to the greatest comeback in All-Star annals and was physically spent.
Iverson was just miles from his hometown, minutes from his alma mater and in front of dozens of friends and family. There were a million emotions tugging at a very emotional man.
Oh, yeah, did we mention that Iverson was standing right next to NBA commissioner David Stern? Iverson has been called on to Stern's carpet several times, including twice this season. David's not exactly one of Allen's homeboys.
And when Stern offered a nice little pun about Iverson's rap music, it was as if Iverson didn't even hear him. As Stern handed him the MVP trophy, all Iverson could think of was one thing when he was asked to speak.
"Where's my coach at?" he asked. "Where's Coach Brown?"
It was a nice touch by Iverson to seek out Larry Brown, his coach for the past 3 1/2 seasons. For a player often described as selfish and immature, it was a giant step toward superstardom.
"It's special, and it's a tribute to my coach and my teammates," said Iverson.
"I've always felt that whether these guys know it or not, kids watch them and want to be like them and today was the greatest thing for basketball," Brown said. "There were so many lessons to be learned, from him in what he's accomplished."
It was a moment about a million miles removed from Iverson's rookie year, when Charles Barkley called him "Me-myself-and-Iverson."
It has been a long and bumpy road for Brown and Iverson. When Brown took over the 76ers in 1997, he was inheriting the NBA's problem child, a trigger-happy gunner with no respect for authority.
There have been countless clashes. Over shot selection, which Iverson still is learning. Over defense, which Iverson once considered an afterthought. Over playing time, which Iverson wants at all times. Over practices, which Iverson long considered optional.
This summer, the 76ers considered exiling Iverson to the Los Angeles Clippers. Maybe that was the moment. Iverson promised to improve his attendance at practice and be more understanding of Brown. He even asked for the captaincy to show his commitment.
Yeah, sure, Allen. We'll believe it when we see it.
But a funny thing happened this season. Iverson came to practice all the time. His shot selection and decision-making improved. He dug in on defense harder than ever before.
And the Sixers started winning. A lot. They won their first 10 games and have never really slowed down, despite a series of debilitating injuries. As they enter the stretch run, their 37-13 record is in the best in the NBA.
"I think you see in him, like you do in a lot of players, as they mature in the league off the floor, they mature on the floor," said Sacramento Kings coach Rick Adelman, who watched Iverson dismantle his Western Conference All-Stars in the fourth quarter. "They understand what it is all about. Allen seems to have done that."
No one ever has doubted Iverson's skills or his competitiveness or his toughness. It is what has stamped his game with superstar quality.
But there is more to being a superstar than playing at a level where your skill and desire are unmatched by anyone on the court. It also is determined by how you carry yourself off the court.
Iverson has no plans to unbraid his cornrows, surgically remove his tattoos or give up his secondary dream of being a rap star. But he does seem as if he finally is committed to accepting all of the responsibilities of being a true superstar -- something the NBA desperately needs.
"It's going to be beautiful for years to come," Iverson said of his moment.
Perhaps Iverson finally does get it, even if we don't quite get him.