Debunking The Myth Of A.I. As A Selfish Player

By Chris Murray
Updated: February 9, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — It has been well over a year since the Philadelphia 76ers traded Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller and some other folks who were part of the deal.

As popular as A.I. was in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, his detractors among fans and media would often claim that Iverson was a childish, selfish player who didn’t like to practice (we talking about practice) and took too many shots.

They also said Iverson couldn’t play well with others because he didn’t want to give up the ball. A.I. was accused of not being a good team player during his tenure in Philly.

And then of course, you heard some of the stories of Iverson’s off-court antics, his irrepressible mother, late night partying, and some of the questionable characters in his entourage.

Some folks in the Delaware Valley were put off by Iverson’s braids and so-called thug image. Since Iverson has moved on to Denver, a local, well-respected broadcaster here in Philadelphia who does a regular commentary on the local all-news radio station has often lauded Miller as being more of a team player than Iverson.

It always starts with “Iverson is a great individual player, but…” and then you know what comes next. When the broadcaster in question gave that same commentary on the radio about a couple of weeks ago, the first word out of my mouth was… “Stop!”

First of all, when you look at the latest NBA stats, Iverson — the so-called great individual player-is ahead of Miller in assists per-game and ranks eighth while Miller, a true point guard, is 13th . Iverson, a shooting guard, also has more overall assists than Miller.

Oh by the way, Iverson’s Nuggets (30-19) are 11 games above .500 while the Sixers (20-30) are 10 games below with their more team-oriented guard in Miller. The Sixers have been nowhere near the playoffs in the season and a half even with the best efforts of Miller.

Unlike Iverson who took a team full of role players to the NBA Finals in 2001, Miller has never taken a team beyond the first round of the NBA playoffs. And yet, folks persist in saying Iverson’s not a team ball player.

In Friday night’s win over the Washington Wizards, Iverson dished out 11 assists and took just nine shots while Carmelo Anthony poured in a career-high 49 points. But Iverson’s not a team player.

During his 11 years in Philly, Iverson — the so-called non-team player — played well over 40 minutes per game through all kinds of injuries. People in this town made former Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand into a folk hero busting up his nose for crashing into the wall at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Iverson busted parts of his body on a regular basis and always played through injury. In pro football, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is known as a wreckless, blood and guts player who takes a few risks to make great plays.

Iverson, an all-state quarterback high school, is the basketball equivalent of Favre (the football equivalent of Iverson). If Iverson were a white player in Philly with the effort that he put in on a daily basis, he would be an even bigger superstar than he was and you wouldn’t hear media types talking about a selfish ball player he is.

Iverson sacrificed his diminutive, oft-times injured frame every night over an 82-game season for an organization that never put enough good players around him to compliment his skills. Folks around these parts bought into the myth that he couldn’t play with other superstar players.

Again — look what he’s doing now in Denver.

The Sixers never had players outside of Iverson who were good as Anthony, an athletic power forward who’s a threat to score like a Kenyon Martin or a player who can consistently rebound and play the center position like a Marcus Camby.

The reason Iverson took so many shots during his time in Philadelphia was because there was no one else who could put it in the bucket on a consistent basis. Oddly enough, I was hearing folks saying that Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce was taking too many shots when they were struggling last year.

The Celtics then go out and get Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and now they’re a contender for the NBA Finals.

So please spare me all this Iverson is a selfish player or he doesn’t make others around him better nonsense. You see where the Sixers are without him and where the Nuggets are with him.

Case closed.