Allen Iverson in the Air Jordan 11 truly was the one twice over - an electric icon that would transform basketball in form and uniform. Arriving at the same time Michael Jordan was fading away, Iverson's crossover appeal of equal entendre represented a change of the guard.
Iverson’s ascent would take place in the nation’s capital at Georgetown University. In DC and across the country, the buzz around AI was unlike anything the world had ever seen in regard to potential and polarity.
The build-up would begin by way of a nationally covered career at Bethel High School in Hampton, VA. In his teens, a young Bubba Chuck would rank atop all amateurs as the AP’s High School Player of the Year in both basketball and football. Following state titles in both sports, the spring of Iverson's juggernaut junior year would come to a screeching stop after a Valentine’s Day brawl at a bowling alley. Loaded with racial overtones and overlooked evidence, the 17-year-old child prodigy was tried as an adult and sent to prison with a 15-year sentence.
With the help of public protest and the talented Tom Brokaw, Iverson's case received national uproar. After serving four months behind bars, Iverson was granted clemency and released. Still, his senior season was stolen as Allen was not allowed to defend his state championships in either sport. In a matter of months, Florida State was no longer calling him to succeed Charlie Ward at quarterback. Even sadder, his hoop dreams were deflated for the kid once called the best prep point guard prospect of the past decade.
While accusations of throwing chairs in a bowling alley brawl could’ve caught Bobby Knight’s attention, the aftermath of the court case had college coaches from coast to coast keeping to themselves.
Well, all but one.
The Georgetown general took a chance on Chuck, going all in on the battle tested talent the top teachers wouldn’t touch. Needless to say, it worked. By giving the #1 player in the nation a second chance, Iverson would repay his new found father figure with impassioned play that still resides in the record books. In only two years as a Hoya, Iverson averaged 22.9 points a game, won Big East Rookie of the Year and was named a First Team All-American in his sophomore season. The once prosecuted prep had turned the tables triumphantly, being named Big East Defensive Player of the Year in each of his seasons under Thompson.
Iverson did it big at Georgetown. He also did it in style.
Donning the team's Kente cloth uniforms - and debuting its most popular presentation - the cultural cache and hardwood heroics associated with AI’s term in DC is unmatched statistically and aesthetically. While Iverson embodied the toughness and flair associated with the uniforms, the Kente cloth's history catered to Coach Thompson and the bigger narrative surrounding his career.
A man but more so a mentor, Thompson was the consummate father figure for promising youth hailing from the District of Columbia to the Demorcatic Republic of Congo. As an African American leader in the nation’s capital, Thompson nurtured the toughest talent, teaching them the game of basketball and the game of life. On the court, rivals respected him. Off the court, felons feared him. Thompson was not only a producer but a protector.
Even after Thompson’s recent passing, the Kente cloth has served as a constant at Georgetown. While it’s dressed dynamite dunkers and appeared on pined player exclusives, it’s best immortalized by Allen Iverson and his box-fresh “Concord” Air Jordan 11s.
Like Allen Iverson at Georgetown, the Air Jordan 11 was never supposed to happen. Nike legend Tinker Hatfield took a leap of faith by designing the greatest basketball sneaker ever while the greatest basketball player ever was recently retired. Miraculously, Michael Jordan defied all experts by coming back to basketball and regaining his throne. While wearing the Air Jordan 11, Jordan altered history in the "Concord" colorway for his storied 72-10 season.
Defying odds and flipping the national narrative is something few can relate to but all can be inspired by. Allen Iverson was robbed of his senior season in high school, but he made up for it in his sophomore show out at Georgetown. Like Mike, his heroic second act eclipsed his dramatic first. Like Mike, AI's arc was accentuated by transcendent Air Jordan 11.
Unlike Mike, Iverson had better shorts.