Perhaps he shouldn’t adopt Allen Iverson’s approach to practice, but Michael Carter-Williams could learn a lot from the guy whose No. 3 was raised to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center, both about the game of basketball and how to thrive in the city of Philadelphia.
The Sixers tried to keep their focus on the Washington Wizards on Saturday, but the distractions were evident. There was the expanded media presence. There were the celebrity guests and a packed and passionate Wells Fargo Center, something the Sixers haven’t seen all season. All of this, of course, was to acknowledge one of the organization’s all-time bests in Allen Iverson, and for an evening, the current Sixers’ struggles were secondary.
Iverson never won a championship for Philadelphia, yet he is in rare revered air in a city that is as title-hungry as they come. He is embraced, loved and applauded for his time in Philadelphia, while some of his contemporaries that had similar success (Donavan McNabb) are marginalized.
The reason that A.I. resonates with, and is so well-respected, by the Philadelphia fan base is simple: They never had to question how much he cared.
His original rookie Reebok may have been called "The Question," but when it came to his drive, determination and dedication, there wasn’t any. Sure, the Sixers might lose, but if you secured a Wells Fargo Center seat during Iverson’s tenure with the team, you were going to see a show.
You know those days where you just don’t feel like doing your job? Iverson didn’t have those.
He would have played 48 minutes a night, every night, until his body broke down, if his coaches allowed him to. He hated coming out, and was consistently among the league leaders in minutes played per game. In fact, he led the league in that statistic a ridiculous seven times, second all-time only to Wilt Chamberlain’s eight. His effort was evident to anyone who watched him, and he played with pride.
That type of drive goes a long way in Philadelphia, and in the NBA.
Iverson’s small stature and frail frame are well-documented, and if you didn’t know better you might not believe that a guy of that size dominated a sport predominantly populated by guys the size of Shaq. But he did, and Iverson’s drive and determination demonstrated that attitude and approach can more than make up for lack of a specific physical tool, and that is something that any young player, especially one who is trying to follow Iverson’s footsteps in Philadelphia, should follow.
“It’s definitely inspiring,” Michael Carter-Williams stated after the Wizards game in regards to the support shown for Iverson throughout the evening. “It definitely inspires you to work hard and to do everything you possibly can to get the love that he had. The whole ceremony, it would definitely be nice to one day have that.”
Carter-Williams is having an excellent rookie season considering his circumstances. He was blessed with the size that Iverson wasn’t, and he has a chance to be something special.
Certain areas of his game, however, need great improvement, and some nights he is still sure to struggle. It is on those nights that Carter-Williams can learn from No. 3.
Iverson had plenty of nights where his shot wasn’t falling, or the defense was taking him out of his game (something that has already started to happen to Carter-Williams), but he continued to battle, and that made him an infinitely better player. If Carter-Williams can channel that aspect of Iverson into his own game, it will go a long way toward making him the best possible player he can be in the league, and in endearing himself to a city that is notoriously tough to win over.
While his career may have been complex, Iverson’s explanation for the adulation that the city has for him is simple: “I gave everything I had on the basketball court, and the people of Philadelphia appreciated it.”