Stepping it up
Already acclaimed Iverson strives even higher in playoffs
Posted: Thursday May 20, 1999 09:36 PM
ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- Allen Iverson emerged during the course of the regular NBA season as the league's most exciting player.
Many -- most notably Iverson himself -- would take it a step further.
"I just don't want to accept nothing else, nothing less," he said. "I just feel like I'm the best player out there."
The 6-foot Iverson, who in his third NBA season led the league in scoring at 26.8 points per game, is averaging an even better 28.5 in the playoffs. Iverson's unshakable belief in his own talents has always been a major part of his persona.
But while leading the 76ers to their first winning season and playoff appearance in eight years, he came to understand that the postseason is where one goes from good to great.
"People get recognized for their talents in this game," said Iverson, "but you don't get the credit that you really deserve unless you win, and that's going to be important to me."
Iverson's move this season from point to off-guard made him even more dangerous. He has the freedom to rub off screens, create scoring opportunities from outside and leave defenders in the dust with that mind-blowing crossover move as he penetrates through a land of giants.
"I can tell sometimes, I could just jab at a guy," said Iverson. "And the way he jumps back, I can tell if a guy fears me or if he just can't handle me."
Iverson says he knows he hangs a lot of people up because of his image -- hair in cornrows, shorts slung precariously low on his 160-pound frame. But he also knows that people love to watch him play, and the NBA needs new stars now that Michael Jordan's become a fond memory.
"I know it's crazy to even dream about accomplishing all the things he's done in his life, but some of those things -- as far as getting rings and how people feel about you off the court -- I mean all those things, you want for yourself. I hope I get the opportunity to even do
Iverson is a tough guy for even teammates to know. His best friend in the 76ers organization may be owner Pat Croce, who says with fondness that his talented guard is not someone you can talk to about change. That, Iverson's had to learn through the painful experiences, from his four months in jail as a teenager, to his brush with the law for handgun and marijuana possession, to his open-air feuds with coach Larry Brown.
"I made mistakes in my life, and I'm gonna continue to make 'em," said Iverson. "I feel like a mistake is only a mistake if you do it twice. I just don't want people to feel like I'm some bad guy and label me the bad boy. I'm not the bad boy of the NBA, by far."
Iverson is the father of two young children. He also remains fiercely loyal to his boyhood friends from Virginia, and to his mother who not only attends home games but traveled and stayed with him on some of the 76ers road trips this season.
"That's the way I am," said Iverson. "I'm a family man. I love the people in my family. I love when they come down from Virginia and spend time with me.
"They're the most important thing in my life, and I cherish my family."
Three years into a pro career filled with plenty of growing pains, Allen Iverson's not only looking spectacular.
He's become the heart of a 76ers team and the toast of Philadelphia.
"I'm just going to play every game like it's my last, and we'll see what happens."
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