What you didn’t know about “The Crossover”
If you are an avid follower of the NBA, you have probably seen the legendary play of AI crossing up MJ countless amount of times. What you probably didn’t know, are the events that lead up to the infamous play. You will not believe what happened about a month before this iconic moment in NBA history.
Growing up, Iverson was obsessed with MJ and the 90’s Bulls. Who wasn’t? But his love and passion for the Bulls was on a whole different level, he wanted to be Michael Jordan. He called himself MJ’s number one fan, and would stand as close as possible to the TV when MJ was playing to the point that his mother said she was afraid of him possibly going blind. When he saw MJ lose to the Knicks and the Pistons, he would apparently sit their and weep. He would get so angry when Jordan lost that the behavior started to annoy his father, who apparently would tell his son, “Why are you crying over him? You don’t even know that guy!”
Deep down inside, Iverson felt like he did know him though, “It felt like he was a part of me.” The Georgetown product went on to go as the #1 overall pick in the draft to the Philadelphia 76ers and his impact was immediately noticed. In just his very first game against the Bucks, AI put up an impressive 30 points showing that he belonged in the league.
His second NBA game had a much different atmosphere and vibe, as he found himself playing against his hero MJ and the reigning champion Chicago Bulls on November 2nd, 1996. Iverson was in complete shock when he first saw Jordan step on the hardwood. He described that first encounter by saying that, “He really didn’t look human, he didn’t look like he was real to me at all, he looked like he was glowing!” He even got to see Jordan receive his 4th ring before the game. Iverson knew he still had a job to do, but unfortunately he did not play as good as he had to start the season as the Bulls easily blew out the 76ers as not much was said between the two.
On December 21st, 1996 the Bulls were in town. This time Iverson played his childhood hero for the second time. He played much better this time, dropping 32 points to MJs 31. AI’s scoring effort was not enough and the result was the same, with the Bulls easily coming out on top. Not much was said once again. This time Michael Jordan expressed his thoughts on the rookie, saying AI was confident and was relatively complementary of Iverson saying he liked his attitude and skill set but still needed improvement. As the season went on, the Bulls continued to dominate and Iverson continued to make his case for rookie of the year.
When the 1997 All-Star game came along, that is when he met his idol. For AI, the experience is definitely not what he wanted or expected it to be. Iverson was preparing to play in the rookie game at All-Star weekend, and suddenly he crossed paths with MJ. Right after they made eye contact, Jordan simply said, “What’s up, you little b***h?” Clearly, Iverson was very confused so he immediately tried to shake it off by saying, “Alright man.” When Iverson was a teenager growing up, he used to tell his friends and family, “If I get the greatest player to ever play the game on me, i’m gonna try my move on him!”
After MJ called him a “little b***h”, it is safe to say he was going to try to get him the very next time they faced off. On March 12th, 1997, he got his shot. With Jordan’s words still fresh in Iverson’s head, you could tell he was on a mission that night and was not backing down to anyone. Throughout the game, MJ and AI were both getting buckets, but they never guarded each other until Jordan hit an and-one layup on Iverson. Moments later, AI got the last laugh, and a laugh that would be heard for many years to come. Allen Iverson got his shot to try his best move on the greatest player in the world, and it worked.
Iverson went on to share with us, “All I saw was him and I just backed up, gave him a little one and he went for it. And I was like oh yeah, I got his ass now!” He also said after the game that he knew it was a good move, but he really didn’t know how big of a deal it was until little kids would come up to him and say, “Hey, are you the guy that crossed Jordan?” Then, it hit him that he did something special. Years later, Iverson was at a Hornets game and Michael Jordan invited him to sit with him in his box as Allen Iverson expressed his admiration for his childhood hero telling him how much he loved him. Jordan apparently responded, “You don’t love me! You wouldn’t have crossed me like that if you loved me!” The two apparently remain great friends to this day and have a great deal of respect for one another. They say to never meet your idol, but I guess that doesn’t apply to AI.