Four days after the Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2002 NBA playoffs, Allen Iverson provided one of the most memorable rants in sports history.
On May 7, 2002, Iverson responded to media members after his dedication to practice was questioned. He went on to say the word "practice" 22 times before he left the press conference.
"We sitting in here—I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice," Iverson said. "I mean, listen: We talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man."
The original goal of the press conference was for Iverson to confirm he was remaining with the 76ers for another season with coach Larry Brown. The two previously had a disagreement after Iverson was late to a meeting, but they ultimately agreed that both would return to Philly for at least one more year to attempt to win a championship.
Iverson was pressed about his commitment to practice after the 76ers followed an NBA Finals appearance in 2000-01 with a 43-39 season and early playoff exit. Iverson recorded back-to-back scoring titles in the two years, but Philly's success took a dive.
The topic of Iverson and practice was something Brown had publicly discussed prior to the rant, but the emotions that came through were in response to Iverson's difficult year. According to the Hall of Famer, the "practice" rant was his way of responding after his best friend, Rahsaan Langford, was shot and killed seven months earlier.
"I'm upset for one reason: 'Cause I'm in here. I lost. I lost my best friend," Iverson said. "I lost him, and I lost this year. Everything is just going downhill for me, as far as just that. You know, as far as my life. And then I'm dealing with this. ... My best friend is dead. Dead. And we lost. And this is what I have to go through for the rest of the summer until the season is all over again."
Iverson closed out his press conference with the explanation and has reaffirmed the remark since. As he announced his retirement in 2013, Iverson explained the backstory to the rant.
“They had no idea my best friend had just got killed," Iverson said. "The press conference wasn’t about practice. It was about me being [possibly] traded from Philadelphia. Nobody ever talked about that, never heard why I was upset or what the conference was about.”
Since 2002, it has been speculated that Iverson was affected by alcohol during the press conference. In Not A Game, a biography about Iverson written by Kent Babb in 2015, Brown was quoted saying he believed Iverson was drunk.
"I assume he went and fooled around somewhere," Brown said as he tipped his hand upward like a bottle, according to Not A Game.
Iverson has strongly denied claims from Brown and others that he was drunk during the press conference, according to Stephen A. Smith, calling it a "flat-out lie."
Looking back at his famous "practice" rant, Iverson admitted in 2016 that he wishes he could take it back. Despite Iverson's accolades, he says the moment is often what he is most recognized for among younger generations.
"If you woulda said something about 'lasagna' at that point, I would have kept saying 'lasagna.' I was already on edge," Iverson said after his Hall of Fame announcement. "All I thought I was doing was coming and telling Philadelphia that I wasn't going anywhere ... I wish I could take it back. My kids tease me about it. It makes me so mad. I'm a Hall of Famer and I can go outside today and go to a restaurant or wherever and somebody will come up to me and say 'PRACTICE? We talkin' bout practice?!' Man, I am a Hall of Famer and that's all you can think about?!"
The 1996 No. 1 overall pick, Iverson finished his 14-year NBA career as a Hall of Famer, 11-time All-Star, two-time All-Star MVP, 2000-01 MVP and 1996-97 Rookie of the Year.
Analysis from Justin Grasso of All76ers: Allen Iverson's "practice" rant was a perfect example of who he was not only as a person but as a player. Just like he would on the court, Iverson left everything he had to offer in the pressroom that day.
Iverson was straightforward. I'm not so sure that would work in every NBA market, but in Philly, Iverson's honesty was appreciated. Without that iconic moment, I'm not sure a Sixers star like Joel Embiid would feel as comfortable being so candid with the media today.