Thursday, 18 August 2011
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
We're talking about Allen Iverson.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for" Allen Iverson-2006
In 2007 legendary DJ and producer DJ Jazzy Jeff released ‘The Return of the Magnificent’. On a track called ‘Practice’ featuring the lyrical skills of Hip-Hop artist J-Live, Jazzy Jeff used a vocal sample of Allen Iverson’s press conference rant in 2006 regarding the topic of practicing. You remember don’t you? ‘Were talking about practice’. The track is around four years old, the sound bite five, but even when listening to the classic album today Jazz brings Allen Iverson’s infamous practice rant back to life like he was back there sitting in the press conference with the rest of the reporters. As good as J-Live is lyrically on this song, just like he does his opponents A.I. owns this track and he does it without even stepping in the booth. David Stern won't be able to censor this hip-hop, 40 bars or not. This is Jeff's house and anyone telling him different will be shown the exit the same way he was shown in 'that' TV show he starred in alongside 'that' movie star. Besides Iverson’s words here aren’t gay-bashing...there practice bashing. Allen Iverson isn't down with practicing because his game and his passion are always ready to go at any given moment.
With that being said however as hot as this track is the sample is now years old, the track feels dated right? The two people surrounding this press conference are now not in a verbal war but have long since parted ways. Larry Brown has since taken the helm of many different teams. As for the other figure, well what once was the unimaginable is now NBA history. Iverson left Philly for another A.I. to lead the way with dunks not crossovers for the Sixers, before coming back and then popping over the pond to Europe. If you've been in a deep slumber or frozen in time, let's get you up to speed, this cold as ice A.I. is now a free agent as the NBA are now sleeping on him, believe it or not.
Iverson has logged time in Denver, Detroit, Memphis and Turkey by way of a brief, beautiful reunion and redemption in Philly. A.I. made dreams come true by returning to the Sixers. We all remember how it started, Allen Kissing the Philadelphia 76ers logo on the court, so much heart and so much passion but then, we all know how it ended. A little underwhelming right? Plus besides that 2006 press conference means nothing now right? Larry and Allen are friends again, helped by on court loyalty in Detroit and commitments to the world-wide game of basketball in the Olympics. The practice-bashing didn't amount to much more than comments causing reporters to write for maybe a week at best, right? WRONG!
You see Jazzy Jeff isn't a fool. You don't win the first ever rap Grammy without having vision. A loyal Sixers fan like Jeff will always remember Allen Iverson's personal history right? Well yes but a hardcore Philly hoops fan like Jeff will understand what A.I. is all about.
"But we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for"
They say practice makes perfect, but when what most practice and train for is what you love, then its not a case of practice, it’s a matter of what you live for. 'I love this game' is the slogan. Allen Iverson embodies this. You can't train for something that's always been in you, something that is still within you when most people clock out. This is not the millions, the mansions the cars, the revered hip-hop lifestyle or the job itself, not to Allen Iverson, this is his life. How can you possibly practice for something you've been doing since as early as the neighbors being woke up at 3am in the morning to the sound of a young Iverson palming the rock can remember?
"I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game,"
Forget the bowling alley accusations, which have nothing to do with what you love and watch A.I.'s every move on the court for. Oh he didn't finish college right? A dropout like Kanye, John Stockton went to college why not A.I.? Still however with no disrespect to the great Stock, the question is what the hell does a degree have to do with how 'The Answer' majors in playing the game. Besides Iverson logged two seasons as a Georgetown Hoya and was even a star on the gridiron as well as the hardwood. Most people don't know that, they'd rather focus on the negative and the multi-talented Allen didn't look to the NFL because he's rather focus and be in the NBA. Get it? Why spend time critiquing Allen Iverson the NBA player, based on being arrested for carrying marijuana and a concealed weapon. His personal life belongs to him and unfortunately the press, how he plays basketball and his dedication to the game belongs to the court. Why procrastinate over the incident in 2002? We do not know the full story, so therefore we know something that's next to nothing. Still however we do know that there are not many players in the NBA as committed as number 3 to giving his everything to a league that has rarely given him the same respect he deserves.
This dedication probably purely because the association that focuses too much on censoring players identities instead of focusing on their own internal problems, facilitates the game he loves on the highest level. Forget the needless back and forth with the NBA powers that be over matters ranging from cornrows, to tattoos, to hip-hop, to dress code, to the length of players game shorts. Hey we can't all be John Stockton can we (that was another observation not an insult)? Forget these needless back and forth’s, accusations of selfishness and having no respect because this has nothing to do with how A.I. puts the ball in the hoop and earns his place in this competitive league year after year, 13 strong, hard fought years deep. You think Allen doesn't have any respect, name a player in the L who has more respect for the game then Allen Ezail Iverson? You think that even though his careers on ice right now he’s chilling? Nah! If any team makes that call, A.I. is more than good to go. Other players may be hitting the lake fishing this summer but A.I.s hitting the gym, wetting jumpers and fishing only for a roster spot. Lockout or not, the answer is locking it down, no question.
If you look deeper into Allen's game, you can see he isn’t playing, he's living to ball. Take a look back and see the way he worked through his early years with a team with good players but no real all-star support. That was B.I.G, 'Ready to Die' track 15. It’s unbelievable in its self to have seen NBA's B.I.G. Shaq carry a team on his 7ft 300 pound back…but he always had help. A.I. carried a whole Philadelphia team on his small, barely 6ft, 165 pound frame. With no disrespect to Dikembe Mutombo, Aaron Mckie or Erick Snow, Allen took the whole city of brotherly love on his shoulders and to the NBA finals. He even managed to cut off one of the heads of the 2002 Playoff Sweep Laker monster. No other team could take a game from Los Angeles, but 'Team Iverson' took it to LA's heart and prevailed for at least a game. At the top of his game, with no player like him he claimed his place in the visiting locker room "They thought my s**** went sour".
Years later we saw him on the court in Denver surrounded by talent. Whether it was in the form of young potential stocked players, big power forwards, decent point guards or fellow superstar Carmelo Anthony, A.I. was still A.I. Sacrificing his body night in, night out. Hitting decks harder than David Blaine does. Taking charges. Taking hits. Doing it on both ends of the floor, and doing it and doing it and doing it well like LL Cool J. So there where no championships in Denver, there was lay offs in Detroit but no ‘Black Elvis’ in Memphis and there was not much redemption back on the streets of Philadelphia but Iverson still went hard. Iverson still gave his all, keeping it 100. He can still play, despite the minutes, despite the critics and despite the lack of uniform. The 'S***' still isn’t no where near approaching sour.
Commentating on a Nugget visit to Madison Square Garden back in 07. New York legend Walt Frazier (and this is the great guard who played alongside a warrior who left it all on the floor in Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe) was amazed that Iverson was still on the top of his game and showed no signs of slowing down approaching his 30's. The question remained how was that possible after all that time, especially on a body that is small and slight. The answer himself shows us that his heart and soul won't let him slow down, his passion and love for the game after all those years has kept him at the top of the NBA's elite. Now he’s in his 30’s is there a difference? Yeah sure a little, the body ages, skills diminish, certain things grow old and don’t work, but a warrior’s heart and soul still remains the same, still runs in fountains. While passive fans are blinkered by the next best thing. Iverson gives everybody Hall of Fame moments every game, expect more and for amazing to really happen if…no when he suits up again. It's time for the call.
I'm just a writer though, what's my point you ask? What the hell do I know about Allen Iverson that nobody else already knows? The answer is nothing, but this answer is everything. We all think we know about individuals in the public eye but we have no clue. Especially with Allen Iverson, we know he is dedicated to the game, but we can't really see the degree to how much it means to him. The reason Allen Iverson is even in our public eye is due to how he plays the game that we love. Iverson loves this game too, but Allen will be Allen. What do we know? He does care about practice, just that particular week he wasn't feeling it. He loves the game he'll do anything for it. Still though some members of the press don't focus on this, they focus on his personal life.
Let’s remind ourselves again this has nothing to do with what he brings to the game of basketball does it? Same applies for Kobe. Iverson carries all this on his shoulders but he does not bring his personal life to work. Like hash-tag 24, 'The Answer' leaves everything on the floor of whatever court he's playing in. What he doesn't leave however is all the parts of his personality and life that the media scrutinize as closely as scientists. That mess doesn't even leave the locker room. So does a deviation from the dress code have something to do with how he plays the game...HELL NO!! Now does attending practice apply? Maybe so but you know what, there are some players that attend practice that wouldn't die for the game. Allen Iverson would.
"Not the game that I go out there and die for"!
Iverson LIVES for this game!
Not in the magazine front cover, sneaker ad way, but the literal way. So instead of judging the man by all the other BS and hyping it up so much that were now using bad press saturated side-stories for hip-hop samples, we should cherish what he was bought to the NBA. As good as Jazzy Jeff's track is we should focus on the vocals of another hip-hop cut to determine what A.I. is all about. On the Reebok A6 commercial Jadakiss tells us "You seen him play hurt, coz his heart is huge". You want to sum up Allen Iverson’s dedication to the teams he's played for throughout his career, the league, the association, the game itself? There it is. The most competitive ball player we've seen these past two decades. He should be embraced not disgraced with character defamation's that have little to do with his commitment to this association we sought after on League pass. Think he can’t play no more? Just wait. Sure there’s LeBron, Melo and more young talent coming through in this league year after year but there hasn’t quite been a player as compelling as Allen Iverson that has entered this league for a long time now.
You begin to realize that Iverson’s comments on not attending practice all those years back are no disrespect to the game of basketball or the NBA. Whether it be his definition of the phrase 'die-hard' pursuit for that elusive ring, or playing ball back home with his closest searching for an opening (on the asphalt and back into the NBA), Allen Iverson is always playing like he has to prove to us that this game means everything to him even after all these years. You can be sure he will prove that he’s worth picking up on the market. He’s proved doubters wrong his whole career and over much worse issues to. This will just be a dribble in the park. I mean were talking about Allen Iverson and practice. Allen Iverson can miss the odd basketball practice or even the odd season because basketball is his practice.
“This aint a hobby it’s a practice” J-Live.