Allen Iverson: ‘I’ve never been cocky, I’ve never been arrogant’

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Allen Iverson was a trendsetter and trailblazer in the NBA, titles that led the Philadelphia 76ers star to be viewed as a role model, especially by those growing up in Philadelphia.

“Everybody talked about the cornrows, and I was called a thug for the tattoos,” Iverson tells Dawn Staley on the latest NetLife podcast, revealing that he fielded a lot of judgment early on for the way he looked and dressed.

Staley, a Philadelphia native, remembers people in the city perceived Iverson differently, as an inspirational figure, celebrating his authenticity.

“We identified with you,” Staley says. “I think your power as a Philadelphia 76er helped a lot of young kids that grew up in the projects like I did. You gave us somebody to say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it too.’”

Iverson feels grateful to have touched the Philadelphia community and led the way for people to express themselves unapologetically.

“It’s a blessing, simple as that, to be able to have an impact on the culture the way I did,” Iverson says. “I was always in awe of the fact that kids, the way they related to me, the way they looked up to me, the way they wanted to be me.”

Iverson posits that a lot of the criticism he endured in his career was because he was something the public had never seen before.

“I had to juggle my relationship with the media,” Iverson recalls. “The negative story is always going to be the best story.”

While his personality and style were unique, Iverson says the notion, perpetuated by the media, that he was arrogant is a misconception.

“I think that came from my appearance, but I’ve never been cocky, I’ve never been arrogant, I’ve never been conceited,” Iverson says. “I’m just confident, but it comes off as cockiness because I was always taught if it’s me against you, it’s me.”

Listen to the full conversation with Iverson and Staley on the season finale of NetLife.