The Basketball Hall of Fame last night announced that Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Allen Iverson will each be inducted as part of the 2016 hall class. While there are hundreds of all time greats who have been inducted into the hall for the past 57 years, these three stand out as individuals who appealed to groups that had not been represented in any professional sport before. Yao introduced NBA basketball to billions of Chinese citizens and made the game global. Shaq was a dominant big man in the mold of Wilt and Kareem but could run the floor, sell rap records and be marginally funny. Iverson was the one who broke the mold though.
Although Allen Iverson is being inducted into the hall based on his ability to dominate on the basketball court and his jaw dropping statistics, his impact as a cultural icon is what will keep his name in the minds of his fans forever. Iverson was unapologetic when it came to his love for and expression of hip hop culture.
Iverson’s style was his own. He arrived at arenas looking more Method Man than Michael Jordan. The long white tees, baggy jeans, throwback jerseys and durags were something that the casual NBA fan in 1996 was not used to seeing on a budding superstar. The genesis of the Iverson era also coincided with the release of some of hip hop’s most creative/innovative albums in 1996. All Eyez on Me (2Pac), It Was Written (Nas), The Score (The Fugees), ATLiens (OutKast) and Reasonable Doubt (Jay Z) all dropped in 1996.
While Iverson’s rookie year was an introduction for most to what a professional athlete who loves hip hop culture looks like, he was still on a team that only won 22 games. Also, in the middle of the Michael Jordan era, everything else can seem small. It was not until the second MJ retirement and the development of a winning organization did attention turn to Iverson and his different approach to everything.
By 1999, the Sixers were a playoff team with a credible coach, Larry Brown. At this point, Iverson is on a national stage and stays there for the next ten years. He ultimately becomes league MVP in 2001 and steps over the Cavs coach later that season in the NBA Finals.
However, even though Iverson’s star is rising, his hip hop style becomes an issue for owners and NBA commissioner David Stern. In 2005, the NBA instituted a league wide dress code which basically ruled out everything in Iverson’s closet. The impact Iverson had on NBA style was seen a threat to the brand and profitably of the NBA. Even though his talent and leave it on the floor mentality was selling out arenas around the country.
After 2005, Iverson did not win much as a member of the Nuggets, Pistons, Grizzlies and one final stint with the Sixers. However, his legacy remained intact. Current NBA superstars like Stephen Curry and LeBron James all look to Iverson as a reason to play as hard as you can each game. Iverson’s willingness to express himself make it easy for Melo, KD and Russ to openly express their love for hip hop music and culture. This is something that MJ, Scottie or Chuck could never relate to.
The induction of Allen Iverson into the Basketball Hall of Fame equates to the induction of hip hop into the hall. Cant wait for his speech.
Speaking of Jordan…
This season’s version of the NBA playoffs have already featured the elimination of the western conference’s top seeded San Antonio Spurs, a 46 point game from the Orlando Magic’s All-Start center Dwight Howard and a 40-foot three-point bank shot from the Atlanta Hawks sixth man scoring machine Jamal Crawford that helped eliminate Howard’s Magic. The Boston Celtics swept the injury depleted New York Knicks while Kevin Durant lead the Oklahoma City Thunder over the New York Knicks, I mean Denver Nuggets. The championship contending Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers also advanced to the second round.
At the beginning of the season I predicted the south beach marriage of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would lead the Miami Heat to a championship this season. That prediction was looking pretty bad when the Heat started the season 9-8 and lost their first three match-ups against the defending eastern conference champions, the Boston Celtics. However, the Heat won their last regular season game against Celtics pretty convincingly and now lead the squad from Bean town 2-0 in their eastern semifinal best of 7 series.
The Heat have looked super human and the Celtics have looked their age. While Miami moves up, down and over the court at will, the Celtics have looked…..old. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are all fighting injuries while Rajon Rondo has looked disinterested on defense the past two games.
The Heat will capture this series in 5 games and will defeat the Chicago Bulls in the eastern conference finals. As long as Carlos Boozer continues to play poorly, the Bulls will have no chance to reach the NBA finals.
As soon as LeBron James announced his decision to join the Miami Heat, Cleveland began burning his jersey and slipped into a deep depression. The majority owner of the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, felt just as betrayed as LeBron’s former fans. So, he got out his laptop and wrote this very spirited letter to Cleveland Cavalier fans (and LeBron). ENJOY!
Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;
As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.
This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.
Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.
The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.
There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.
You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.
You have given so much and deserve so much more.
In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
You can take it to the bank.
If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.
Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.
Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.
This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.
The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
Sleep well, Cleveland.
Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….
I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:
DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….
Thanks to Duane Rankin and the NABJ Sports Task Force for sharing this letter with me
Cleveland Cavaliers free agent forward LeBron James has decided to play with the Miami Heat next season. James says his heart remains in the Cleveland area and noted how much he appreciated the love and support they showed him for seven years. James also mentioned that is was time for a change and that the opportunity to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is a great one. The opportunity to win a championship with two other All-Star talents is something that was worth more than the extra money James could have received if he stayed with the Cavs.
James broke the news on ESPN during his hour-long special titled, “The Decision”. Leading up to the show, ESPN Insider Chris Broussard reported that most of his sources had James joining the Heat. The show also brought James a lot of criticism regarding the attention he was seeking by drawing out his decision and making it into a dramatic movie.
When James joins Bosh and Wade in Miami, his scoring and overall dominance will have to take a hit to keep the other stars happy. The max contracts that the all three demand will make it difficult for the organization to fill the Heat roster with capable NBA players. However, the Miami Heat will be the super-team of the NBA. James feels he, Bosh and Wade’s talents could lift each other up and eventually lead them to multiple championships.
The verdict is still out on whether or not the Heat will be championship contenders this upcoming season. The mental toughness of James and Bosh in long and tough playoff series is still up in the air. However, what we all should do is applaud James’ commitment to winning which obviously out weighed his desire to “get paid”. Also, James never compared himself to Kobe Bryant or Micheal Jordan, we did that. James joining the Heat is a reflection on his commitment to winning, which is something we can use to compare him to MJ and Kobe.
As an NBA fan, I am excited to see what the three All-Stars can do. As a die-hard Knicks fan, I AM UPPPPP-SETTTT!!!!