Allen Iverson: The Most Overrated Superstar In NBA History

This is a tough blog to write but the implications for church and business leaders is significant. Allen Iverson is a Hall of Famer with an incredible resume. 1st pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Rookie of the Year. 10-time NBA All-Star. 2-time All-Star game MVP. 4 time scoring champ. 2000-01 League MVP. 2004 bronze medalist in the Olympics. Over 24,000 career points which is 17th all-time. And I could go on but I will not…because unfortunately the most electrifying player in the NBA for a 5-year period is also the most overrated superstar in NBA history. The following are the reasons why:

  • The success of the 76er teams in the early part of this decade were a result of Larry Brown’s coaching. The Larry Brown coached Sixers averaged 45 wins per year. The AI teams not coached by Brown averaged 34 wins per year. Application: If you are deciding which church to serve in or work for, always pick the one with the “best” Pastor. If you are deciding between career options, pick the company with the best leaders. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Don’t make decisions based upon financial or geographical considerations. The results will be short-lived and quality leadership will win out over an extended timeframe.
  • Each team AI left dramatically improved. The Sixers made the play-offs both years after Iverson left. Andre Igoudala has emerged as a potential superstar since his departure. The Denver Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals after trading AI for Chauncy Billups. Conversely, the Detroit Pistons went from 59 wins to 39 with AI running the offense. Application: There is a difference between activity and accomplishment. You may have people on your team that are flashy and talk a good game. The people you want, though, are the ones whose departments and teams deliver consistent results. Is their area of ministry bearing fruit and growing? Are lives being changed? Are ministries being fully funded? Is your mission statement being realized as it is written? If not, you may have an AI on your hands.
  • Making Others Better. It is interesting to note that not one of Iverson’s 76er teammates made the All-Star game the same year he did. Not one other dominant point guard had that issue. A rising tide lifts all ships. Maybe Iverson never had talent around him but he never lifted another player’s skill to a level that was significant. Check out the last 10 seconds in the clip below for his thoughts on making others better. Application: Pastor and business leader, your Executive Leadership Team should always be producing additional all-stars. It is their responsibility to embody and subsequently multiply your vision and leadership by equipping others to do the work of the ministry or organization. Key question – how many attenders have taken the risk of a new leadership position in your church in the last year? Think about the answer to that question and its implications.
  • Foundational Elements. Iverson for all his skill constantly neglected the basics of his position. With a 42.5% career shooting percentage, his frenetic pace while constantly entertaining often put his team is non-enviable situations. He also had an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 2. His disdain for practice is legendary as you will see in the clip below. In regard to his character, there were numerous off the court issues. Application: If you have a team member who constantly neglects the fundamentals in his life, the issue is when, not if, that person will put your organization in trouble. In ministry, watch how they manage money, do they arrive and leave on time, how do they interact with their spouse, how they deal with lust and the opposite sex, and most important, what does their daily quiet time looks like? Nothing can erode trust and momentum like a character issue from a key player in your organization.

Final thoughts. I loved watching Allen Iverson during his prime. He had unbelievable passion and was physically the toughest player in the NBA. However, without the strong leadership of Larry Brown, he never achieved his potential nor did the people around him. A key component to maximizing capacity is that your star players equip others for success and makes sure everyone crosses the finish line together. Pastor or business leader, the lesson we learn from the career of AI is that leadership with substance is much more sustainable than a charismatic performer or personality without a strong foundation and commitment to the success of others.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

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