It was very rare that any player was able to get the best of Michael Jordan. Jordan’s play was so elite on both ends of the court that it was usually him that was doing the humiliating when it came to individual player battles. But one person who did put Jordan in that spotlight was Allen Iverson.
In his rookie year with the 76ers, Iverson played against Jordan and the Bulls. In what has now become a legendary moment, Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan and shot a great jumper to help his team. It was the moment that signaled the arrival of Iverson as a future superstar in the NBA, a role he would fulfill in the next few years.
When asked about the crossover after the game, Jordan didn’t shy away or make any excuses. He said that he usually doesn’t like to be the one being humiliated by a player, and prefers to be on the other side. But if that has to happen, he would like to limit the opportunities for that as much as possible.
Jordan also shrugged the idea of playing against Allen Iverson, saying that it would not be a decision he makes easily. It was high praise coming from a legend like Jordan for the rookie Iverson at the time.
“That was a great move. I’m never the type of guy that says, I can’t get shown up. I just try to limit those opportunities. So I’m not gonna try to make it a 1-on-1 between Allen Iverson and myself… He could beat me on the perimeter, but I could take him in the post. He’s a heck of a good player. He’s a young talent. He is gonna continue to get better once he learns how to play the game on a much higher scale. Right now, he’s doing a lot on physical ability. He’s good, he’s quick. That’s a challenge for me to go out to him and his stature. He’s so quick and small. But it’s a challenge I won’t back away.”
Iverson himself has spoken about that moment, saying that Jordan called him a little b*tch after he did it. Iverson showed why he was so highly heralded and was the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, one of the best in history. Iverson went on to become an icon of the game and inspired many players that are playing today.
Jordan gave Iverson high praise for the moment, something that was very rare at the time. That was the biggest indicator of how great Iverson would be in the league. Despite never winning an NBA championship in his career, Iverson will go down as a legend of the game.