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Allen Iverson Claims NBA Introduction of Zone Defense Hindered His Dominance

Allen Iverson Claims NBA Introduction of Zone Defense Hindered His Dominance

Iverson's remarkable journey from rookie to NBA legend.

by Nouman Rasool
Allen Iverson Claims NBA Introduction of Zone Defense Hindered His Dominance
© Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

When the great Allen Iverson first played in the NBA, he knew that scoring wouldn't be as easy as he was doing in his college period. At a very modest six feet and only 165 pounds, Iverson's stature was quite minute by the standards of the league.

It left Iverson to even wonder about the validity of maintaining his same level of offensive play against such a larger cadre of competitors. Iverson, on the other hand, said that it was taken differently by his fellow basketballers as they were sure that such an athletic agility and speed could be an added advantage against defenders who were not as slick.

"I thought it was going to be harder for me, like in college," Iverson thoughtfully reflected during his honest chat on Club Shay Shay, "but my teammates just kept telling me that they don't play two-threes, and they don't play box-and-ones.

It's gonna be easy for you. It's just like one-on-one." Indeed, their predictions would be accurate as Iverson, with his rapid pace and agility in handling the ball, would repeatedly outmaneuver his defenders. In fact, it was through his scoring ability that he had 11 games with 50 or more points, inclusive of the 2005 classic against the Orlando Magic where he managed to walk away with 60.

Iverson's Scoring Mastery

In 1999, in the lockout-shortened campaign, Iverson earned his first scoring title in his third year, averaging 26.8 points per game. He then went on to win back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002, respectively, with averages of 30.1 and 31.4 points per game, while adding another feather in his cap in 2005, having a 30.7 PPG average.

However, later Iverson would regret the fact that it was defense in the NBA that seemed to change after he started rising in the rankings of scorers. "It was actually ironic that as soon as I started getting scoring titles and proving that a guy my size couldn't be stopped, they changed it to zone," Iverson said, perhaps even hinting at a conspiracy that may be out to try and restrain his domination on the basketball court.

The NBA's 2001-02 rule change, which allowed zone defense, was seen as a move to counter Shaquille O'Neal's dominance, leading to a dip in his stats post-2002. Despite this, Allen Iverson, "The Answer," secured a scoring title in 2005 and hit a career-high 33.0 PPG in 2006.

His scoring only declined when he joined Denver, sharing plays with Carmelo Anthony, and was further impacted by injuries and age.