By David Cordova
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the traditional events that we all know and love had to be cancelled or be put on the back burner. On the high school basketball scene, it was the same case. Events such as the Jordan Brand Classic, the Nike Hoop Summit & the McDonald’s All-American Game, were all cancelled, but will be back in 2022.
However, there was one event took place while the others were on a hiatus. This event in question has been gaining traction throughout the last couple of years and has made waves in ways that the other high school all-star games have not. This game is just different. This game in question is the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic.
The Iverson Classic, which has been inception since 2017, has become a must-see event throughout the last couple of years, and is named for NBA Hall of Famer, 11-time NBA All-Star & 2001 NBA MVP, Allen Iverson. For many years, Iverson gained the hearts of many with his heart, hard work, flashy play, corn row braids and the desire to not conform to what everyone else goes along with.
In its second year, the popularity of the Iverson Classic soared to greater heights as the event secured 50 million views through a live-stream and had fast become one of the premier events throughout the school year.
The event’s NBA alumni include players such as Daniel Gafford (Washington Wizards), P.J. Washington (Charlotte Hornets), Gary Trent, Jr. (Toronto Raptors), Jarred Vanderbilt (Minnesota Timberwolves), Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks), Nassir Little (Portland Trail Blazers), Moses Brown (Boston Celtics), Kevin Porter, Jr. (Houston Rockets), Nazi Reid (Minnesota Timberwolves), Anfernee Simons (Portland Trail Blazers), Reggie Perry (Brooklyn Nets), Lugentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), Cassius Stanley (Indiana Pacers), Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls), Jahmi’us Ramsey (Sacramento Kings), Jaden McDaniels (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Onyeka Okongwu (Atlanta Hawks).
Another thing that makes the event unique is the fact that those coaching in the game were once former NBA players themselves. On one side was Stephen Jackson & on the other end was Rasheed Wallace & Bonzi Wells, both of whom were once teammates on the Portland Trail Blazers. Along with Iverson’s wisdom, came the wisdom of the other three, as all of them have been places that the current players are trying to go to. And for all of the youths, it’s the NBA, or in the case of one, the WNBA.
Had COVID not happened, a good portion of the players would’ve been playing in either the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic, the Nike Hoop Summit or some other high school all-star game. For those who weren’t selected to any of the games previously mentioned, it was a chance for them to show out.
Although Iverson himself was an All-American himself during his high school years in Hampton, Virginia, it was unfortunately marred by the infamous bowling alley incident that took place on Valentine’s Day, 1993, during his junior season of high school in which he was falsely accused of attacking someone with a chair. Because of the situation, he was originally sentenced to five years, but was granted clemency by Virginia’s governor at the time, Douglas Wilder, after four months, and his conviction was overturned.
But unfortunately, because of the situation, he could not return to Bethel High School & wasn’t allowed to play sports as a senior, after winning the Associated Player of the Year in both football & basketball the previous year, and instead had to complete his high school requirements at a private charter school named Richard Millburn High School, where he graduated in the spring of 1994.
Had it not been for that fateful incident, Iverson would’ve been playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game in New York alongside future NBA players such as Felipe Lopez, Chris Herren, Antoine Walker, Adonal Foyle, Raef LaFrentz & the late Lorenzen Wright.
Now 27 years later, Iverson has his own All-American Game and it is shining brighter than ever before. As there were many spectators, media and NBA scouts present to witness the future of tomorrow at Bartlett High School, which is located in Bartlett, Tennessee, a town located just outside of Memphis.
During that week, many things were implemented, as far as the Iverson Ganes, which was the night prior to the big game, in which there was a dunk contest & a 3-on-3 game, on Friday, May 7th. The following night, it was on, as the main event had arrived.
In the game, there were players that were going to highly-regarded schools such as Gonzaga (Chet Holmgren, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman), Kentucky (Ty Ty Washington, Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins), Duke (Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin, Trevor Keels), Alabama (JD Davison), the local hometown favorite, Memphis (Jonathan Lawson, Joshua Minott) and the defending national champion, Baylor (Kendall Brown). One player that decided not to go the college route is Michael Foster, Jr., who will be spending a year playing with the NBA G-League Ignite squad, which will allow him to prepare for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Another player that made waves in the game was Raven Johnson, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, who became the first female to play in the Iverson Classic. (Side note: Diamond Johnson, a Philadelphia native who recently finished her freshman season at Rutgers before transferring to North Carolina State was the first female to be selected to the game last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the game was cancelled.) The younger Johnson had racked up numerous awards at West Lake High School as a senior, winning the MaxPreps National High School Girls Player of the Year, the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Georgia & the MaxPreps High School Player of the Year for the state of Georgia and helped lead her team to a No. 1 national ranking, a GHSAA 6A state championship, the GEICO Nationals championship & an undefeated record of 22-0.
During the pregame introductions, there were plenty of cheers, but for Johnson, there was a standing ovation and the loudest cheers of them all, as she was a trailblazer for many young ladies, being the first to play amongst the boys in a high school all-star game.
The game went well throughout the night and there were plenty of highlight-reel plays, as well as moments when there was great competition, and a performance by Warner Records recording artist & Memphis native NLE Choppa. But another interesting thing that happened was that after four quarters, there was an extra session in which one team had to score 24 points to finish off the game. That was done as a tribute to the late, great Kobe Bryant, who passed away in February 2020.
All in all, the Iverson Classic was a success, nonetheless. Its uniqueness is one that cannot be duplicated by any other event nationwide. It has its own culture and is something that will probably stand the test of time. As long as The Answer & his event is around, it will be a go-to for years to come.