One decade ago on this day, Allen Iverson went on one of the best rants that I can remember in any sport. Just days after getting ousted in the first round of the 2002 NBA Playoffs by the Boston Celtics 120-87 at the Fleetcenter, Iverson held a 35 minute, expletive filled press conference to wrap up the Philadelphia 76ers season and in the process he gave us a two-minute sound clip that will live in infamy in the sports world. Iverson, who despite being listed at 6 foot nothing but realistically only about 5 foot 9 inches or 5’10” at the tallest, was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, and on this date 10 years ago the rant that he went on about practice is something that will forever be associated with his career and basketball in general.
Over the course of a 2 minute rant, Allen Iverson mentioned the word “practice” over 22 times and gave the media a sound byte that will forever be associated with his career. AI did not understand why the media was being so hard on him about missing a practice or two over the course the season, and again in the postseason, and he went on a pretty nice monologue repeatedly telling the individuals in attendance “we talkin’ bout practice”. There is no way that he thought his words would take off as much as they have, but to this day people speak about that press conference. I know that personally I have a hard time holding back from saying “we talkin’ bout practice” every time that word is mentioned, and I know I’m not the only one who has the same feelings. I was still a freshman in high school when the rant occurred, but it is still something that I think about on a weekly basis.
Looking back on it, Iverson admits that he was “Just being young and immature” He also said “I wish it never would have happened. But you learn from experiences like that…I think it sent the wrong message, especially to kids. You can’t be a scoring champion and an MVP and an All-Star and all of that without practice”. And yes, the more experienced and mature Iverson has it right, you can’t get anywhere in life without taking the proper steps to prepare and practice is a major part of that. To the best of my knowledge, Iverson did not comment about the last part of his rant, in which he states “how the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?” which in my opinion was really the most important (and ignorant) part of his rant, since when you play in a team sport your actions have a massive effect on the people around you. Especially being a point guard and a team leader, the guy with the ball in his hands 80% of the time for the team he was on, Iverson had to have known better and was just speaking out of pure emotion during that press conference and not thinking clearly.
Kids, despite what Allen Iverson said ten years ago, practice is important. He knows that now, and he had to have known it when he was quarterbacking the Bethel (VA) High School football team to a state championship his junior year of high school. And while Iverson had his share of the off-the-court incidents during his basketball career both professionally and as an amateur in high school and at Georgetown University, what he did on the court was exciting to watch. And for two minutes of a press conference of one decade ago, Allen Iverson was thrilling yet again.