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Little Big Man: Allen Iverson Retires A HOF Pound-For-Pounder

Former Sixers G Allen Iverson
Latest posts by Bogar Alonso (see all)
Former Sixers G Allen Iverson

May 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia 76ers former guard Allen Iverson before the start of game six against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Fin. Allen Iverson has decided to officially retire from basketball. Confronted with the sunset of his career perhaps no other tidbit sums it up as well as the following. Little big man Iverson remains the shortest and lightest player to ever win an MVP. He gave up a whole three inches and twenty-five pounds to Derrick Rose, the latest 6’3”or shorter recipient of the award. To further put that into perspective, the median height and weight for award winners is 6’9” and 220 lbs. Iverson was 6-foot and 165 lbs, at best.

His lack of size only helped add to his legend. Like a dizzying cross of MJ, DRose, and Tiny Archibald, AI couldn’t just hang amongst the trees, he could cut through them like a chainsaw. And although his field goal percentages don’t tell it, he was perfectly capable of sinking a shot from anywhere on the hardwood. Though undersized, when he did, he also had no qualms with stepping over you after the fact.

A near-invincible Lakers team had no answer for The Answer in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals. (Though Tyronn Lue was actually a feisty defender that limited his shots at times). But you get the picture. Not only could Iverson duke it out with the big boys, like in the case of Shaq and Kobe, at times he had no problem outscoring or outplaying them. Wet dreams are made of what Iverson’s career could have been like if he had been drafted by the Lakers or the Spurs.

There’s no question that Iverson deserves to have his jersey retired in Philly and his name tacked on to the others already commemorated in the hall. But some of his one-time magnificence has been marred over the years by dwindling stats and a sullied reputation.

In 2008, he lost some of his thoroughbred speed, which is clearly evident in the droppage of his stats. But the speedy guard who played with the heart of a giant and the motor of a river rapid didn’t take kindly to anyone suggesting he might have lost a step or two.

There are plenty of other stories to tell on why his career became such a maddening cyclone into oblivion but much of it has to do with how he played. To the criticism of many, he often tried to do too much on the floor and too little to get his teammates involved. Most likely that was a side effect of the very thing that made him so transcendent: the refusal to be outdone by circumstance.

Instead of trusting his teammates―though it has to be said that that 76ers lineup he took to the finals had no right competing with that Lakers squad―he’d shoot 30-plus times in a game. He wouldn’t let the circumstance of playing with subpar teammates impede him. Instead of tipping his hat to Father Time, and taking a bench role later in his career, he refused, with a tinge of murder on his tongue. Even the circumstance of time wouldn’t out-will him.

Yet it would be a tragic mistake to let the last five or six years bog down a special career. This is an 11-time All-Star. A former league MVP. Someone who was Player of the Week 23 times. Has a career usage % that only trails MJ and Dwyane Wade. Is 9th all-time in steals per game. Holds more Win Shares than Vlade Divac, Mark Jackson, Dennis Johnson, and James Worthy. Hasn’t played for three years and already notched more total points than Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Tim Duncan have. As a true ironman, has averaged more minutes per game out of anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, or Oscar Robertson. And though it’s one of his biggest knocks, his player efficiency for his tenure is better than that of other era-defining points Steve Nash and Bob Cousy.

And the icing on the cake: he ended up with the 6th-best PPG ever, with 26.6, or 1.14 better than Kobe, and depending on how LeBron finishes his career, it might end up being higher than his too. He was, simply put, one of the best pound-for-pound players to ever to do it, even in spite of himself.

Below are two tables. The first shows arguably his best year statistically against the best years of other petite points. It would seem, that despite his insane scoring average, his best wasn’t as great as the best from the other four. (Especially considering that in Tiny’s time half of the stats weren’t tracked).

Player

Yr

FG%

FT%

3P%

RBG

STL

BLK

PF

TO

AST

PPG

Chris Paul

‘08-’09

50.3

86.6

36.4

5.5

2.8

0.1

2.7

3.0

11.0

22.8

Tiny Archibald

‘72-’73

48.8

84.7

N/A

2.8

N/A

N/A

2.6

N/A

11.4

34.0

Isiah Thomas

‘84-’85

45.8

80.9

25.7

4.5

2.3

0.3

3.6

3.7

13.9

21.2

Tim Hardaway

‘91-’92

46.1

76.6

33.8

3.8

2.0

0.2

2.6

3.3

10.6

23.4

Allen Iverson

‘05-’06

44.7

81.4

32.3

3.2

1.9

0.1

1.7

3.4

7.4

33.0

But when ranked for career value, Iverson looks to rank only behind Chris Paul. And Chris Paul, unlike Allen Iverson, hasn’t let the ship of his career yet sail into the horizon.

Player

FG%

FT%

3P%

RBG

STL

BLK

PF

TO

AST

PPG

Chris Paul

47.3

85.8

35.6

4.3

2.4

0.1

2.4

2.4

9.7

18.3

Allen Iverson

42.5

78.0

31.3

3.7

2.2

0.2

1.9

3.6

6.2

26.7

Isiah Thomas

45.2

75.9

29.0

3.6

1.9

0.3

3.0

3.8

9.3

19.2

Tim Hardaway

43.1

78.2

35.5

3.3

1.6

0.1

2.3

2.9

8.2

17.7

Tiny Archibald

46.7

81.0

22.4

2.3

1.1

0.1

2.3

2.7

7.4

18.8

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