Although his college heyday was 20 years ago, Allen Iverson — affectionately known as “The Answer” — has built a legacy that continues throughout the current Georgetown basketball program.
And as Georgetown gave to Iverson, he gave back to it in full — and more.
When Iverson accepted his induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last week, he included a special shoutout to the school and program that gave him so much.
“I want to thank Coach [John] Thompson [Jr.] … for saving my life, for giving me the opportunity. I was recruited by every school in the country for football and basketball, and an incident happened in high school and all that was taken away. No other teams, no other schools were recruiting me anymore,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “My mom went to Georgetown and begged [Thompson] to give me a chance, and he did.”
From donating and then appearing at the ground breaking of the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center in 2014 to meeting and greeting the fans who stuck with him through his incredible journey of going from a prison sentence that nearly cost him his career to boasting the seventh-highest per-game scoring average in NBA history, Iverson has enough on his plate that forgetting the little things almost seems necessary.
The crowds he deals with are easy to ignore and the media attention he has garnered over his career justifies a solitary life. But Iverson has done none of these things and has not been a solitary person.
As a kid, senior forward Reggie Cameron had the opportunity to meet Iverson before the idea of Georgetown had even crossed his mind. Junior guard Tre Campbell knew Iverson through family, with Campbell’s parents hailing from Hampton, Va., Iverson’s hometown.
“I think I was 6 or 7 years old; for some reason I had floor passes to a Nets and Sixers game. And right after the game was over … somehow I got close enough to Iverson and I was like, ‘What’s up Iverson?’ and he turned around,” Cameron said. “Nowadays, players are more interactive with fans, but back then it wasn’t pushed on the players to do stuff like that, so he stopped, turned around, and said, ‘What’s up little man?’ I had an Iverson jersey on … and he came, dapped me up and ruffled my hair a little bit, then he walked into the locker room. Ever since then I’ve followed Allen Iverson throughout his whole career.”
Little tidbits like Cameron’s chance encounter exemplify the kind of person Iverson is and was throughout his career. Campbell’s experience with the former Georgetown great is personal as well.
“Everything he’s been through; he’s just been through a lot of adversity, and that’s something I’ve been through, too, so I like that,” Campbell said. “He’s really a good person. My older cousin used to babysit him, so she used to tell me a lot of stories. I love him, man.”
Whether it was his childhood or his college and professional careers, Iverson left an indelible mark wherever he went. Moreover, his success as the Hoyas’ star guard — Iverson averaged 23 points per game, 4.6 assists per game, 3.6 rebounds per game and 3.2 steals per game over two years — bolstered Georgetown’s transformative reputation, as a school that accepts and welcomes anyone and everyone.
“I think [Head Coach John Thompson III] doesn’t discriminate on where you come from, or anything like that. And Big Coach [John Thompson Jr.] saw that Iverson was a good kid, a misunderstood, good person, and he is to this day,” Cameron said. “Georgetown recruits good people and wouldn’t have a player come here to tarnish their reputation if they’re not a good person and don’t have good character.”
Allen Iverson did more than just become a Georgetown great and an NBA legend. He became a cultural icon, producing on-court highlights that had kids aspiring to replicate his feats.
Often times his on-court play — the flashy crossovers and contested jumpers — led to criticism of him as an inefficient player. Even in the Blue and Gray, Iverson shot just 44 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from three-point range.
Nevertheless, statistical impressiveness was never Iverson’s calling card, instead dazzling fans and players alike with quickness and speed that more than made up for his small stature.
“I mean, everybody, whether you were a big man going to the gym or a little guy, at some point you pretended to be at the top of the key, crossing up Michael Jordan just like Iverson did,” Cameron said.
Standing at six feet tall and just 180 pounds — grossly undersized for an NBA player — Iverson has accomplished many feats, including the crossover on Jordan among many others, that seem to pass more and more into basketball mythos as time passes. What he did on the Hilltop and in his professional career has now extended beyond what words can express, his actions being the chief forbearer of his legacy.
“Just being in the gym where his jersey is up on the wall and just walking around on campus and being in the gym that he’s been in. … It was part of his past, getting him to where he is today,” Cameron said. “Sometimes you gotta think about it for a second. It gives you goose bumps.”