Allen Iverson, the revered icon of the NBA and the 2001 league MVP, recently made headlines with his definitive stance on the ongoing debate about the greatest basketball player of all time. During an engaging session on Rachel Nichols' Showtime series "Headliners," Iverson, known for his indelible impact with the Philadelphia 76ers, placed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant at the pinnacle of his list, categorizing them as the top two, ahead of other legendary figures including LeBron James.
Iverson, expressing his admiration, stated emphatically, "I've never seen nobody as competitive as him but Mike. When you talk about your favorite players or the best in the world, I say Mike, I say Kobe, you know what I mean? And then everybody else."
This perspective gains further weight considering Iverson's deep-seated respect and competitive history with Kobe Bryant.
"I say Mike, and I say Kobe, and then everyone else." - Allen Iverson tells me on this week's Headliners that Kobe needs to be ranked right after Jordan in the "best ever" debate.
Their journey began together in the celebrated 1996 Draft class, where Iverson was the first overall pick and Bryant, astonishingly, was picked 13th by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Reflecting on this, Iverson remarked with a hint of admiration and disbelief at how the draft unfolded, indicating that he would have chosen Bryant for the 76ers if he had the chance.
Their on-court rivalry was nothing short of legendary, clashing a total of 38 times during their illustrious careers. Bryant, with his Lakers, often got the better of these duels, winning 24 out of 38 encounters, including a dominant 8-1 record in playoff matchups.
This rivalry was highlighted in the 2001 NBA Finals, where Bryant's Lakers triumphed over Iverson's Sixers. Despite the competitive imbalance, Iverson consistently showcased his talent, averaging 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game against Bryant, who himself posted impressive figures of 24.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game in these matchups.
Iverson's Unwavering GOAT
Despite acknowledging LeBron James as the "total package" and arguably the best all-around player in basketball history, Iverson's loyalty to Michael Jordan as his personal greatest of all time (GOAT) remains unshaken.
He credits Jordan with inspiring his basketball journey, admitting to being starstruck and nervous in his presence even today. "He gave me the vision. He made me want to play basketball. He's my everything," Iverson shared, echoing the sentiments of the famous 'Be Like Mike' campaign.
The GOAT debate in basketball, a topic of endless discussion and subjective viewpoints, is enriched by Iverson's clear stance. While many fans and analysts may diverge in their opinions, Iverson's respect and rationale, shaped by personal experience and admiration, hold a significant place in this never-ending conversation.