Paul: Iverson Had Biggest Effect On NBA Culture

Rowan Kavner Digital Content Coordinator

PHILADELPHIA - As two 6-foot starting point guards matched up against each other in Philadelphia, the 6-foot point guard prototype watched from above.

It took less than a second Monday night to see the impact still left behind in Philadelphia by Allen Iverson, who was shown on the videoboard catching the game from a suite between the first and second quarter. Immediately, the noise throughout the arena began to crescendo to a level unheard the rest of the night.

The mere sight of Iverson brought every 76ers fan to his or her feet, the standing ovation a recognition of the former MVP and 11-time All-Star's accomplishments in the city.

But Iverson’s impact went far beyond Philadelphia.

“I think he brought back the little, young, small, fast guards,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “Ish Smith and all these guys, I mean, there was a time where I was an average point guard size, and I’m big.”

Now, Rivers looks around at the multiple 6-foot point guards around the league, two of them playing in front of him Monday night in Smith and Chris Paul, and he sees a position which has somewhat diminished in size.

“They’ve taken the touch out, but Allen played during the touch era, when you could body and check, and he still was effective,” Rivers said. “Part of it is toughness. I don’t think people appreciate how tough he was, because he was small.”

If players don’t appreciate it, Paul’s the exception.

Iverson’s part of the reason Paul wears the No. 3 jersey, the other because he’s the third “CP” in his family, after his father and older brother. Six years after the final game of Iverson’s career, and a decade after his prime, he’s still rubbing off on players.

Part of it’s the five seasons averaging more than 30 points per game, the four scoring titles and multiple All-NBA First Team selections. But Iverson’s impact goes beyond that.

“I’ve always said Allen Iverson had the biggest effect on the culture of the NBA out of any player,” Paul said. “He started a culture. He started the arm sleeve, the tattoos, all that stuff. He’s the biggest influence in the NBA out of anybody.”

Paul watched everything Iverson did. He wanted to emulate the popular 76ers guard, from the crossovers and shots, to the swagger and even the hairstyle.

“I wanted braids, because AI had them,” Paul said. “I just loved the grit that he played with. He always played with a chip on his shoulder. I feel like I sort of do the same.”

It makes sense for a 6-foot point guard to try to imitate Iverson, but the Philadelphia all-time great had an influence on just about every guard of every size who watched him play.

As Jamal Crawford turned on his iPad before Monday’s game, the background behind it displayed a photo of Iverson going 1-on-1 against Michael Jordan.

“His impact was one that’ll be felt for generations,” Crawford said. “If you see him in person, a guy that little, that small, that was that good and could take a team like that to the Finals, it’s unbelievable.”

Crawford also mentioned the lasting legacy Iverson left behind going beyond the court. Crawford said Iverson made braids, baggy clothes and tattoos both acceptable and cool. He had a style all to his own, and anyone who watched him still remembers.

From point guards to shooting guards and forwards, to just about every player Iverson played with or against, they all remember how Iverson changed the game beyond his 26.7 points per game. Paul Pierce, who faced Iverson in both the regular season and playoffs, knows that as well as anyone.

“He was one of the smallest guys, but he had a huge heart,” Pierce said. “He changed the culture of the NBA.”