What are we talking about? That’s right, practice. The iconic press conference delivered by Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson turns 18 this year, and we’re still avoiding talking about the game. While the world remembers the Sixers guard’s “talkin’ bout practice” rant, the context seems to be lost amongst the 22 uses of the word now most commonly associated with the Hall of Fame inductee.
The 2001-02 season was a disappointment to say the least for Philadelphia. Coming off an MVP, scoring title, and an NBA Finals appearance, Iverson and the Sixers snuck into the playoffs with a 43-39 record before getting bounced by the Boston Celtics in the first round. Hampered by injuries throughout the year, Iverson still repeated as scoring champion by averaging 31.4 points per game.
Despite performing well on the court, Iverson clashed with head coach Larry Brown off it. Brown was hard-nosed with an old-school attitude. Iverson was defiant and independent. The tension was at an all-time high when the infamous news conference took place and questions were raised about Iverson’s effort in, you guessed it, practice. Talks of Iverson’s tenure in Philadelphia coming to an end surfaced as trade rumors circulated around the league.
Iverson reached his boiling point as reporters kept pestering about his practice habits, and so the rant began. The Sixers’ guard went on about other franchise players not having to deal with the type of criticism he faces. This criticism, combined with the death of Iverson’s best friend that loomed over him all season, stirred a mixture of emotions that serve as the foundation for his stern response.
Allen Iverson’s Practice Rant
“We sittin’ in here — I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talkin’ about practice. I mean, listen: We talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? And we talking about practice.Advertisement
“I know I supposed to be there. I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that. And I’m not, I’m not shoving it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do. But we’re talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man. [laughter from the media] We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. [more laughter] We’re talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don’t you? You’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, right? But we’re talking about practice right now.”
The rant is a pillar in Iverson’s legacy and reminds us that he was just as entertaining on the court as he was off it. From his nasty crossover to his on-court decimation of Ty Lue, Iverson had an unparalleled swagger and attitude that made him one of the most iconic NBA players in sports history.