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LeBron says Iverson pound-for-pound probably the greatest ever

Oct 29, 2013, 9:58 AM EDT

Allen Iverson Sixers Getty Images

Allen Iverson is one of the most influential players on the current generation of NBA players. Yes, Jordan gets mentioned, and younger players talk about Kobe Bryant but Iverson’s fearless style on and off the court has a lot of admirers.

Put LeBron James in that group.

Talking about Iverson’s official retirement Wednesday when the Sixers play Miami, LeBron heaped praise on Iverson Monday, as reported by Tom Haberstroh at ESPN’s Heat Index.

“Pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player who ever played,” James said of Iverson, who will retire in a Sixers pregame ceremony ahead of Wednesday’s home opener against the defending champion Heat.

LeBron did the same thing in a recent ESPN the Magazine interview.

“I watch Jordan more than anybody for sure,” James said in ESPN The Magazine’s NBA Preview Issue. “But I’ll watch tapes of A.I., too. I don’t take anything from A.I.. Well, I do — his will. They say he was 6 feet, but A.I. was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after MJ.”

Throw Dwyane Wade in the category of big Iverson fans, too.

“One of my favorite players obviously of all time. Michael Jordan, Kobe [Bryant], T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] and A.I.,” Wade said. “Those were the ones that I looked up to coming up. I take pride in wearing No. 3 because A.I. wore No. 3.”

Iverson’s carreer ended awkwardly, but we should look back on the early days, because LeBron is right — Iverson was as entertaining a player as the league has seen and got as much out of his talent as anyone.

  1. philliesblow - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Zero championships. Give me Isiah Thomas.

    • eljohnson1999 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Same here!!! But who do you think A.I. got his style of play from?? Isiah!!! lol

    • weaselpuppy - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Agree…Thomas all day. Better all around, made the players around him better much mentally tougher much smartermuch better leaderput his personal numbers second to be able to win two championships Allen Iverson was none of that and he wasn’t even a good distributor as a great scorer like Nate Archibald was What’s all this crap about LeBron knowing his basketball history? Yeah not so much

      • spthegr8 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        @weasle
        Isiah “metal toughness” was border line dirty basketball. He was the leader of the bady boy’s team putting the big’s up to do his dirty work.

      • mydoghasfleez - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        Agreed sp. Thomas was great but as dirty as they came, so he deserves no praise (all of the “bad boys” were dirty dickheads). Iverson was great but a punk-wannabe-thug offcourt & a ballhog gunner oncourt, so he deserves no praise.

        LeBron should have qualified his remarks with “greatest pound-for-pound that I’ve seen in my short lifetime”. Many small players were amazing long ago – ever see Earl Monroe?

    • spthegr8 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      @phillie
      If A.I. played with Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson and was coached by Chuck Daily. You might think differently. They were both great players but they aren’t the same type of player. Not saying your crazy but I juuuuuuust might take A.I……Just Sayin’!!!

      • kb2408 - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        Isiah averaged 18-19 pts per gm for his career on far fewer shots than A.I. took. Had Isiah played on a team where it was EXPECTED of him to shoot 25-30 times a game he could’ve scored just as many points as A.I. Isiah led his high school team to a title, Indiana U to an NCAA title as a soph. and led the Pistons to back to back NBA titles and very easily could’ve won 3 or 4. Isiah is the 2nd greatest pg ever behind Magic.

      • bgarrityirb - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:57 PM

        Completely agree… I was never an AI fan, but that guy took a 76er’s team that had Theo Ratliff as its second leading scorer, to the finals. Talk about carrying a team on your back!!

    • sire2334 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Wow…Just wow. I’m going to just assume your screen name gives you away. I don’t know about all time but I do know if it were between AI and Isiah I would go with AI without blinking. Isaiah was my favorite play when I was younger but that badboys squad was loaded. Imagine AI on that team.

    • shaunmelody - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      I can name at least 4 more people on Isiah’s team and I didn’t even grow up in that era. Name me 4 people on Iversons team that HE took to back to back Finals apearances. Hate all you want…the guy was 1 of the best.

      • shaunmelody - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        Correction…not back to back Finals. But The Finals in 2001. My mistake. Ok…carry on.

  2. kingwithringz - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    He is correct on this. I think D-Rose is the second coming of A.I., only he’s the dunking version.

    • dexregeant - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      Absolutely…the even crazier part is that at 5’10 Iverson used to dunk easily in his first few years in the league.. He only stopped bc people around him were worried about his knees holding up long term.

  3. bougin89 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Say what you want about the poor choices Iverson has made off the court, you would probably be justified in your comments, but few could just take over games like he could in his prime.

  4. jucam1 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    AI was one of the most amazing players that ever played the game. When you consider his height, weight, tenacity, and some of the teams he had to play on, you HAVE to admit he is one of the 50 greatest of all time. Watching him in person was incredible, and whenever he went to other cities he packed the arenas. Was he a knuckle head and stand-offish? no doubt, but strictly on court play he was unbelievable.

  5. eljohnson1999 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    PRACTICE!!! IT’S JUST PRACTICE!!! NOT EVEN A GAME!! IT’S JUST PRACTICE, MAN!!!

  6. walterwhite1976 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Maybe Isaiah won 2 championships, but if both were in prime at the same time I would take Allen Iverson every time. And the Sixers had half the talent of the Pistons.

    • bgarrityirb - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      Half??? he had Theo Ratliff and Eric Snow as his supporting cast… AI carried their collective A$$es. Isaiah had Dumars, Laimbeer, Rodman, Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley… could you imagine what AI would have done with half that supporting cast…

    • massivedick - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      I am a HUGE fan of Bad Boys era Piston basketball led by Isaiah …. and while I consider Iverson to be a train wreck off the court and in the locker room …. if I’m picking teams and Isaiah and Iverson are standing there …. no question … Iverson.

  7. azarkhan - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Pound for pound, one of the biggest jerks ever.

  8. billgatesbarber - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    An NBA point guard that averaged 6.2 APG and never had a season of 8.0. Must have been a joy to play on those Sixers teams.

    • protectthishouse54 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      He wasn’t really a point guard.

    • sire2334 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Who did he have to pass too?!!!

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      AI was a shooting guard for the majority of his career.

    • cruzan80 - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      He wasnt a point guard….

  9. ryanrockzzz - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Could have been great…if he ever learned how to be a leader and win with other players. Always took a ton of shots, hogged the ball, and never helped create a winning culture. I consider him one of the best in Sixers history, but he is not one of the greatest ever, small stature aside.

  10. kb2408 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    LeBron is correct. Game recognize game.

  11. louhudson23 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Potentially perhaps…in reality,no…he had a great heart and a great drive and an arm that never got tired of jacking them up……but refused to expand his game or his mindset….

    • mydoghasfleez - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      Amen

  12. daddyghi - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    everyone is free to criticize me on this one, say whatever you want to say, hate as much as you want, but to me, A.I. is the guy that opened the door for the-not-so-tall-men dominating the game like Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Tony Parker, Derron Williams, Derrick Rose.

    • therealhtj - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Actually it was the no hand check rules that opened up the game for those small guards.

      • mackcarrington - Oct 29, 2013 at 8:37 PM

        Nate Archibald and Calvin Murphy did OK in the hand check era, also.

  13. billgatesbarber - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    You’re right. He was a shooting guard that was asked to play the point his rookie year and a couple of other years. I think I looked at him as a point guard because it seemed like so much of the time the ball was in his hands but he had a scorers mentality. I just imagine that there were many frustrating nights being on the floor with A.I.

    • kehnn13 - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      Here is my issue. The guy was 5 10. Having him in a role other than point guard created matchup problems for his team. He had the ability to be an amazing point guard, but he was too selfish to play that role.
      I can’t consider a guy who thinks more about himself than the team for my greatest of all time list. No way.

  14. thestilt - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    He took a team to the Finals where the second leading scorer on the team was Theo Ratliff at 12ppg and even stole Game1 from Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers. Even MJ couldn’t of won the Finals with Theo Ratliff as the second best player on the team. One of the most underrated players of all time. Glad to see him get a little of the recognition he deserves.

  15. chiadam - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I’m just glad I have another platform for my “pound-for-pound” argument hatred. You’re the greatest or you’re not. Stop trying to extrapolate players’ careers into some alternate universe where everyone is the same height and weight.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      So you think Wilt and Kareem were better than MJ? Nothing wrong with that if you do, but most people don’t think that. The reason most people don’t think that is because they’re extrapolating.

    • davidly - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      @chiadam: I couldn’t agree more.

  16. trabbit55 - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    For the record, he may have been listed as a PG for a lot of his career, but he was definitely a SG in his prime; his “low” assist numbers as a PG look pretty good as a SG.
    Aaron McKie and Eric Snow were the PGs on his main run with the Sixers.
    And Isiah? Great player, but AI would have won championships on the bad boy Pistons too.

  17. jayb3636 - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    How can he be the greatest when shooting a career 42% from the field and shooting 40% in the playoffs. He had the greenlight to jack shots up and was no where near efficient. Again Lebron James saying dumb stuff. If he wants to say pound for pound he needs to be talking about players like Isiah or Calvin Murphy

  18. pistolpete0903 - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    He never was a PG; just coz he was short, people assumed he would run the point.
    Exciting to watch; but a ball hog never the less.

    Should be a first ballot HOF’er

  19. riccismiles - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    This is why Lebron plays Basketball. A.I. is the CHAMP of nothing. There are zero championships associated with his name. Thus, he is incapable of being a pound for pound greatest ANYTHING.
    A.I. was an amazing player. Lebron needs to grow up some more. His statement is childish.

  20. antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    This used to be commonly said about 11 years ago. I’m glad someone finally brought it up again.

  21. chitownmatt - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Never seen so much time and thought totally wasted on a remarkably pointless argument.

    Why does everyone who posts here have such strong opinions about who in history was better than who?

    Come’on, I think we can all agree that AI was one of the best under six footers ever.

    Was he “better” than Isaiah Thomas? They never had to play each other, so why does anyone care?

  22. arrondior - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    Iverson was one of the most amazing players ever. He’s one of those what ifs.

    1. What if he had been a better leader.
    2. What if he had Jordan’s work ethic.
    3. What if he had stayed sober.

    The raw talent Iverson had was unbelievable. And Lebron is right. Iverson in his prime was just as dominant in games as any top 25 hall of famer. VERY VERY few Hall of Famers could do in their prime what Iverson did in his rookie year. Besides Lebron, I have never seen a player in the NBA carry an average at best team to the Finals. And if you looked at that series, if LA only had Shaq or Kobe on their roster, the would have lost that series.

  23. 1509lucky - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Exciting? Yes! Fun to watch? Of Course! Entertaining? Absolutely! Winner? (Crickets) Isaiah And Magic were All about WINNING! AI never was!

    • arrondior - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      How is a guy who took a team to the Finals, has 4 post season records, has a career average of 29.7 points in the post season and career PER of 21 in the post season NOT A WINNER.

      Iverson had PLENTY of problems but he wasn’t a loser (not even close). In his prime he was shooting 47% from the field, 41% from 3, averaging 32 ppg, and 10 assists IN THE PLAYOFFS.

      I’m sure he’s the reason they didn’t win the championship that year…

  24. amoose3 - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    I think what some people miss here is the ‘pound-for-pound’ part. Iverson was 5’10 as LeBron mentioned and he got more out of his frame than any other player of all time. Isiah is in that conversation as well and maybe a few others, but I’d take Iverson. It’s impossible to say obviously, but can you imagine, all things remaining equal (speed, quickness, agility), if Iverson was even just 6’4 185 lbs? Scary.

  25. cwilson6843 - Nov 1, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    C’mon now if nobody can score on your team then there’s nobody to pass to. Kobe scored his 81 point game because nobody on his team could score and it gets tiring. Lebron is an example. He took a weak cavs team to the finals and couldn’t win because one man can’t beat 5. And LeBron looks to pass before scoring. So just because a.I. has no rings doesn’t mean he was necessarily selfish. He didn’t have help. All the 6ers did for him was give him a washed up Chris Webber and expected him to win. Just like all the cavs did for LeBron was give him a washed up shaq. U have to surround these kind of players with real talent to get anything from them. Look at LeBron now in mia with real talent. See how much a TEAM makes a difference

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