Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Photo credit should read SCOTT OLSON/AFP/Getty Images /

35. Allen Iverson

  • Resume: 14 seasons, 1 regular season MVP Award, 7-time All-NBA selection, 11-time NBA All-Star, 2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year Award, 4-time NBA leader in scoring, 3-time NBA leader in steals, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, .425/.313/.780 shooting splits, 20.9 career PER, 99.0 win shares

We arrive at one of the most controversial NBA superstars of all time. For better or worse, Allen Iverson was the one who changed the culture and public perception of the NBA. He was an enigma. He was an inefficient scorer and an undersized guard, but he played with the heart of a champion and never backed down from anyone. Some only saw the corn rows, tattoos and baggy clothes. For those people, he was the problem. For the rest of us, he was The Answer.

Advanced statistics (and even not so advanced statistics, like basic field goal percentage) tell us now that A.I. was a bit of an inefficient gunner. But at the time, it was hard NOT to buy in to this tattooed Mighty Mouse attacking the basket and scoring among the tall trees because he simply wanted it more.

The legal and financial problems throughout his career (and even following his retirement) cast a sad light on his legacy, but in his prime, there were few superstars that kids wanted to be like more than Allen Iverson. During the 2000-01 season, he averaged 31.1 points per game, won his MVP award, popularized the shooting sleeve and carried a mediocre Philadelphia 76ers team to 56 wins and the NBA Finals.

You can focus on the bad moments if you want, but Iverson deserves to remembered for the great ones: the 48 points against Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals; the infamous dagger and stomp over Tyronn Lue in that same game; and yes, the legendary practice rant. He never got his title, but few players in NBA history had a bigger heart than this 6’0″ monster.