We all anticipated Allen Iverson’s Basketball Hall of Fame speech, and it didn’t disappoint. In a sprawling, emotional address that sounded more like a wedding toast than an acceptance speech, Iverson thanked everyone from his mother to Biggie Smalls, compared his first game against Michael Jordan to a famous Chappelle Show skit and held back tears when talking about his siblings, children and lifelong friends.
Allen Iverson talks playing vs Jordan 1st time & drops the 1st ever Chapelle Show reference in a Hall of Fame speech pic.twitter.com/DTzVRS3mRw— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) September 10, 2016
The speech was typical Iverson, vacillating between moments of joy and pain, with plenty of jokes and real talk mixed in. We’ll remember the lighter moments, like when he compared his first game against Michael Jordan to Charlie Murphy meeting Rick James for the first time.
"That's Mike!” Iverson exclaimed. “And I'm looking at him. I'm looking at the shoes. And I'm like, 'Man, he got on the Jordans!'"
He also cracked many up when he recognized Biggie Smalls, Redman, Jadakiss, Tupac and Michael Jackson for providing the soundtrack to his career. He thanked Reebok, but not before smiling wide about his lifetime contract. And in a mic drop reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s snarling speech in 2008, Iverson signed off by calling out friends that betrayed him.
But there were also tender moments. Early on, he thanked Georgetown coach John Thompson for “saving my life.” He nearly teared up when honoring his children for being “his crutch,” then came even closer when recognizing his parents and friends back home. He listed every teammate he ever had (we think), every coach and even some media members with whom he once quarreled. At the end, he thanked his wife Tawanna, who divorced him in 2011 and alleged multiple instances of domestic abuse in her testimony.
As usual, the good, bad and ugly of Iverson was on full display. It was a Hall of Fame speech for the ages, and we won’t soon forget it.