Posted by: Jake Fischer
08/29/13 8:17 am EST

mcgrady&iverson37,584 minutes.  24,368 points. 6,375 free throws. 1,983 steals.  23 Player of the Week awards.  10 All-Star appearances. 4-Time NBA scoring champion.  3 First Team All-NBA selections.  2 All-Star Game MVPs.  1 NBA MVP Award.

But the number that truly defines Allen Iverson is 6.  Yes, a six-foot guard from Georgetown, Allen Iverson.

Iverson was more of a transcendent icon than he was a phenomenal basketball player.  What he accomplished at the small height of six feet — which we all know is a fib — is what catapulted him into sports history. You know what?  Screw sports history.  American history.

It’s what makes Iverson a cold-stone-lock Hall of Famer and separates him from the likes of Tracy McGrady.

McGrady was very successful in his own right, appearing in the All-Star game seven times, winning two scoring titles, earning two-time First Team All-NBA selections and currently ranking 57th All-Time in career scoring.   Additionally, McGrady is one of only two players in League history to notch at least 32 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game over a full season.  The other is Jordan (That fact via Tom Beer at Hoopsworld).

Both multi-time All-Star guards announced their retirements over the past week.  It wasn’t a coincidence that they made their respective announcements in completely opposite ways either.  TMac appeared on ESPN’s nationally televised First Take to break the news while AI simply let my man Tzvi Twersky at SLAM drop the hammer on SLAMonline.com.

If McGrady casually told a writer that he was retiring, sure the basketball world would have noticed.  But, he needed to go on national television to maximize his attention.  AI’s news leaked out on Twitter and almost broke the Internet for a few hours.

Yes, they were both shooting guards and multi-time scoring champions, but only Iverson singlehandedly carried a team to the NBA Finals.  Only Iverson can house an MVP trophy in his home.  Only Iverson was the sole face of a sporting equipment company for a decade.  Only Iverson graced the cover of SLAM 13 times.

It was Iverson who was the spark plug for the hip-hop infusion into the NBA—a culture that has forged the League into the pure form of entertainment it is today.  People can criticize NBA players’ strive for personal brands and glowing legacies, but it’s created a level of competition and an atmosphere that’s bred the ultimate form of athleticism on the hardwood and set up the League for the greatest NBA season since 1996.

Thank AI for that culture.

Iverson was a face-of-the-franchise superstar talent from 12 years from 1997-2008.  McGrady was only at that level for 8 years from 2001-2008.  And for the first half of this millennium’s first decade, Iverson was a must-see show and a must-have ticket.  McGrady was always a second-tier player and an athlete that allowed fans and media to take him for granted.

Sure, both players could have monumentally surpassed the peaks of their respective careers.  If AI ever acknowledged the necessity to become more of a team and role player and assumed that identity, maybe he would still be on an NBA roster today.  Maybe he would be the sixth man on a legitimate contending team.  If McGrady could have found the balls to lead one of his teams past the first round, he could have catapulted himself into the upper-echelon of players we always remember.  McGrady lacked that extra something that LeBron James has suddenly discovered and that has pushed Kobe Bryant into another stratosphere of NBA history.

But with Iverson, we saw him carry an entire city’s grievance and tumultuous history to the sport’s biggest stage.  If you ask any serious basketball fan to name five of Iverson’s most legendary playoff performances, it’s an easy task to come up with more.  A quick YouTube search shows that McGrady has had similar games, but outside of TMac’s 13 points in 33 seconds vs. San Antonio, his moments are a struggle to recollect.

And, I haven’t even mentioned the word “practice.”

Now if you think I’m making this argument just because I grew up idolizing Iverson and he was my Twitter background for a good eight months (before I moved on to Nerlens Noel and MCW), check out ESPN’s 5-on-5 about the little man’s legacy.  Everyone who truly understands the beauty of the game of basketball knows how important Allen Iverson was to the sport.  If you’re writing a history book on each decade of the game, the 2000’s would devote far more words to Iverson than to McGrady and that’s indisputable.

Today, you can tell Iverson feels incomplete with the way his career ended, final years that included a whirlwind of broken bridges and a drive-by of international games.  But the way McGrady carried himself during this year’s playoffs and on First Take this week, he seems content with how much he accomplished and equally failed to achieve.

Doesn’t that in itself show the chasm between these two players?


20 Responses to “IVERSON > TMAC”

  1. Ransom Cozzillio
    29. August 2013 at 11:00

    Ok, this is insane. We can discuss ad nauseum AI’s effect on the game and culture and whatnot. But through his peak, Tmac was better.

    McGrady has the 16th best single season (by PER) of all time. Iverson doesn’t show up on that list until 126…

    McGrady also didn’t make his team mates worse, so there’s that.

    I admire AI for what he was able to do at his height, and he was great and HOF worthy no question. But come on, the idea that the guy who scores the most is better regardless was outdated years ago, just look at Monta Ellis’ value…

  2. Adam
    29. August 2013 at 15:21

    Why compare two players at different positions at all? Tmac publicly retired because he was playing professionally as recently as two months ago while Iverson hasn’t played at any level for years. His retirement wasn’t exactly news.

    Why the hate for Tmac? He had a great career as well and would have had significantly better numbers if not plagued by injuries for the latter half of his career.

  3. l
    29. August 2013 at 15:35

    Kareem and Wilt have had better individual seasons that MJ, but does that mean they are better than he is? Of course not. The truth is that TMac never lead a team past the first round and blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads. Iverson’s has lead a few teams passed the first round and got to the Finals.

  4. MattSg
    29. August 2013 at 20:50

    Iverson is top 5 players of all time talent/athletic abilty wise in my eyes .
    & #1 p4p best of all time .

  5. Ransom Cozzillio
    30. August 2013 at 11:04

    I, so the surrounding team/coach…doesn’t matter. the NBA is one on one so good players can never play on bad teams right?

  6. Geoff
    30. August 2013 at 12:04

    I agree that AI had a better career than T-Mac but what’s the point of this article? And to say McGrady was “always a second-tier player” is ridiculous. He rivaled Kobe as the best player in the league at one time.

  7. Steven Toll
    30. August 2013 at 17:37

    Here’s a complete list of every teammate who started a playoff game with Tracy McGrady during his aforementioned 2001-08 peak …

    Darrell Armstrong (three years), Bo Outlaw, Andrew DeClercq (two years), Mike Miller (two years), Pat Garrity (two years), Horace Grant (36 at the time), Monty Williams, Jacque Vaughn, Gordan Giricek, Drew Gooden, Yao Ming (two years), David Wesley, Bob Sura, Ryan Bowen, Scott Padgett, Shane Battier (two years), Rafer Alston (two years), Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola, Dikembe Mutombo (somewhere between age 40 and 52 at the time), and Bobby Jackson.

    LOL at AI > TMAC

  8. Brian
    31. August 2013 at 04:58

    Seriously Steve Troll, man no wonder why everyone hates you on this website….you are the Skip Bayless of Philadunkia. AI’s teammates when he went to the finals (and the only team to beat LA in the 2001 playoffs), Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, 34 year old Mutombo, 32 year old Tyrone Hill, Jumaine Jones, George Lynch, Todd MacCulloch, Matt Geiger, Raja Bell, Kevin Ollie, an Rodney Buford

  9. l
    31. August 2013 at 10:14


    That was from the Bill Simmons article right?

  10. Ransom
    31. August 2013 at 13:14

    I can’t believe I’m saying this: Amen Steve Toll, amen. Also, to your point I present Tmac’s 01-08 Playoff averages:

    29.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.5 apg, 42.6 mpg, 43-30-75%, 24.5 FGA, 9.1 FTA, 25.4 PER, 35.3 usage

    Yeah, clearly dude just wasn’t doing enough to help his team win. A player like Kobe:

    28.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 43.4 mpg, 45-33-81%, 22.6 FGA, 8.3 FTA, 22.5 PER, 31.1 usage

    Or AI:

    29.7, 3.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 45.1 mpg, 40-33-76%, 26,5 FGA, 8.8 FTA, 21.2 PER, 34.3 usage

    Elevate their games to higher levels to assure success…oh wait, Tmac was the best one out of those three…

  11. Matt
    1. September 2013 at 19:00


    Tell me how iverson had MUCH better teammates? His best were the offensively inept Ratliff and mutombo who was nowhere near as good as Yao. Other than that, he had a webber on crutches.

    Iverson wasn’t efficient, but he got his team to the finals, unlike tmac

  12. Joe
    2. September 2013 at 08:05

    Steve Toll,

    Seems strange that you should cite Bill Simmons’ arguments for T-Mac > AI when on 4th April 2013 you said this about him:

    “Bill Simmons is a clown as it pertains to ball knowledge.”


  13. Steven Toll
    2. September 2013 at 19:23


    He just compiled a list of names, gtfo

  14. George
    2. September 2013 at 20:03

    I’m too big of an Iverson fanboy to have a fair opinion, but I see no reason to bash an amazing player like T Mac in order to elevate Iverson. Numbers aside, how about the fact that he left Vince to be the star of the team when that Toronto team could have been amazing with those two at the wings? As awesome as T Mac was, the real question is do you think the sixers will go after Fab Melo?

  15. Ransom Cozzillio
    3. September 2013 at 08:05

    Joe, can’t let something that silly go, so Bill Simmons reciting a factual list has something to do with his opinion? Toll can think Simmons doesn’t know about hoops, but i doubt he’d suggest Bill can’t make it to NBA.com…

  16. Joe
    3. September 2013 at 13:27

    Steve Toll,

    It’s not the point that it’s a factual list, it’s the point that you’re using it as your argument for why T-Mac > AI, when it’s the same argument proffered by someone who you think is a clown. I’d have expected more from you as one of the great quantitative basketball analysts of our time.


    See above.

  17. Steven Toll
    3. September 2013 at 19:02

    T-Mac had a top ~20 All Time peak.

  18. Ransom Cozzillio
    4. September 2013 at 07:41


    You’re not aquitting yourself well on this one. We agree that the list is factual right? Ok. Is it fair to say that the list is scant on quality NBA players? I think it obviously is. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Mr. Simmon’s opinion is really the driving force behind the idea that Bo Outlaw and Andrew DeClercq weren’t plus players…

  19. Joe
    5. September 2013 at 08:25


    The problem isn’t that I’m not acquitting myself well – it’s that you’re not understanding what I’m saying.

  20. Ransom Cozzillio
    9. September 2013 at 08:36

    Joe, I may well not be understanding what you mean. BUT I do understand what you were saying: If a person (Steve Toll in this instance), disagrees with another person on a subject (Bill Simmons in this case) then they waive all rights to copy/reiterate factual information party B says/uses. There is also an implication that said parties USUALLY disagree about a subject, any incidental agreement is impossible.

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