Allen Iverson: The Most Overrated NBA Player Ever

Allen Iverson is a Hall of Famer, an 11-time All-Star, a 4-time scoring champion, a 3-time leader in steals, a 7-time All-NBA selection, the 2001 MVP…and the most overrated player who ever lived, a guy who if someone with his same game came into the league today, he would be immediately sent to the G-League until he figured out how not to shoot his team out of games and play the most hideously inefficient basketball ever seen from a star player in the history of the league.

Iverson was the ultimate thirsty scorer. All the criticisms being leveled against James Harden today could be leveled and then some against Iverson back in the Dark Ages. His closest comp in today’s game isn’t Harden but rather a cross between Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell on a bad day, volume scorers who can’t shoot.

Except Mitchell’s a far better shooter (.513 eFG%, 36.6 percent from 3 in 2019-20) than Iverson ever was (.452 eFG%, 31.3 percent from 3, career-best eFG% of .488 in 2007-08), so that’s not fair to Mitchell to lower him to Iverson’s level.

Iverson played 37,584 career NBA minutes, a substantial amount across his NBA career.

And of every player with at least 30,000 minutes played in the 3-point era, all 117 of them, only Jerry Stackhouse (.446) has a lower career eFG% than Iverson’s .452.

A guy who won the scoring title four times is one of the worst shooters in all of modern NBA history.

In 2000-01, Iverson averaged 31.1 points per game. But he was infamous for the 30-point, 30-shot garbage game. On March 26, 2001, Iverson scored 36 points…on 15-of-35 shooting.

He had an absolute triumph of inefficiency in the Eastern Conference Finals. Against Milwaukee in Game 1, he scored 34 points on 13-of-35 shooting. In Game 2, he had 16 points on 5-of-26. Game 3 he missed. Game 4? 28 points on 10-of-32. He had 15 points on 5-of-27 in Game 5.

And for the icing on the cake, he scored 46 points in Game 6 and 44 in Game 7…on 14-of-33 and 17-of-33 respectively, meaning he had only two games where he scored more points than he had field goal attempts, and even then he took 66 shots to get his 90 points.

The league MVP had a .446 eFG%. Yikes.

And when you look at the advanced stats, things get even worse.

Iverson led the league in steals three times, but for his career, he was a slightly below-average defender, with a -0.2 DBPM.

Iverson’s defensive style was akin to an NFL defensive back who gets 10 interceptions in a season but gets torched for 20 touchdowns when he jumps the pass and doesn’t come up with the pick. And sure, live ball turnovers are the most valuable possessions in basketball, but open looks when your defender is out of position are some of the best shots you can get on offense.

Iverson never cracked .200 WS/48, and his 6.1 VORP in 2000-01, while impressive, was sixth in the NBA that year, behind Vince Carter, Shaquille O’Neal (who should’ve been MVP that year), Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, and Karl Malone.

Iverson was 11th in Win Shares and 12th in WS/48, Shaq leading in the former category and David Robinson in the latter.

And that was the best year of his career.

Furthermore, Iverson was turnover-prone, leading the league in giveaways twice, first as a rookie (forgivable) and then in 2004-05, his ninth year in the league (less so.)

And what’s more, unlike the pass-first point guards who had a bunch of turnovers because turnovers are a function in many ways of assists (if you throw lots of passes, some of them will go astray), Iverson had less than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, giving him a point guard’s penchant for turnovers with a shooting guard’s lack of assists.

Iverson shot 3,383 3-pointers in his career, hitting just 31.3 percent of them.

Of all players in NBA history with at least 3,000 3-point attempts, only Russell Westbrook (30.5 percent) and Jerry Stackhouse (30.9) shot the ball worse from beyond the arc, again reinforcing the point that Allen Iverson is one of the worst shooters in the modern history of the NBA—he is saved from the ignoble honor of “worst shooter ever” only because of just how hideous Stackhouse was shooting the ball.

There is quite possibly no bigger example in the history of professional basketball of how counting stats can be deceiving than Allen Iverson.

He is absolute garbage by the standards of every era other than the one he played in. Only the fact that his prime came in the worst, most unwatchable era of NBA basketball since the shot clock was invented saved him from shooting himself right out of the league before his rookie deal was up.

Iverson wouldn’t start today. He’d struggle to get rotation minutes. He’d be a rich man’s Lance Stephenson, essentially.

Iverson didn’t have Westbrook’s nose for rebounds; in fact, Iverson had one triple-double in his entire career, his only double-digit rebound game of the 2001-02 season, a drubbing of the hapless (well, not quite hapless; LA was 18-16, three games better than Philadelphia at that point) Clippers on January 7, 2002. So he wouldn’t be able to do what Russ does in 2020, masking his inability to shoot the ball with an ability to steal rebounds from his big men and rack up triple-doubles.

Put very simply, the bottom line any way you want to measure it statistically is this:

Allen Iverson is the most overrated NBA player, and one of the worst players ever to make the Hall of Fame, of all time.