‘Make it a 1-on-1’: When Michael Jordan Responded to Rookie Allen Iverson Beating Him

Published 03/13/2021, 9:43 PM EST
Chicago Bulls All-Star forward # 23 Michael Jordan file photos. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)


In the 90s, Michael Jordan carried the prestige of someone who was impossible to beat. The common belief in NBA circles was that if MJ did not slip up on his own, he was impossible to defeat. But this unanimous belief changed one memorable night when Air Jordan met with a young rookie.

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One can understand the traces of MJ’s greatness hidden in the most celebrated NBA folklores. But a face-off between MJ and Allen Iverson became much more than that. It became a night that would define Allen’s career and set the ball rolling. 

When Michael Jordan narrated his side of the story

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Allen Iverson receives an interview during rehearsal for the 2018 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival on November 10, 2018, in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

On March 12, 1997, a Philly rookie in Allen Iverson shocked Michael Jordan with a ninja crossover. He looked at MJ eye-to-eye, went on his right, faked on his left, got the GOAT to lose his balance, and boom, a perfect mid-range bucket. It was an honest humiliation of a then legend-in-the-making. 

Later, after the game, MJ addressed the crowd and accepted, “That was a great move. I’m never the type of guy that says, I can’t get shown up. I just try to limit those opportunities. So I’m gonna try to make it a 1-on-1 between Allen Iverson and myself…

“He could beat me on the perimeter, but I could take him in the post. He’s heck of a good player. He’s a young talent. He is gonna continue to get better once he learns how to play the game on a much higher scale. Right now, he’s doing a lot on the physical ability. He’s good, he’s quick. That’s a challenge for me to go out to him and his stature. He’s so quick and small. But it’s a challenge I won’t back away.” 

Allen Iverson soon made those electrifying crossovers as his finishing move and found many other victims. He stunned Kobe Bryant, Tyronn Lue, and many other players with that speed and lightning-fast switching.

Read also – From Allen Iverson to Ray Allen, Five Notable Players Drafted Before Kobe Bryant

MJ vs Allen Iverson Head-to-Head

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That March 12 meeting was their third meeting in the NBA after the Sixers picked the basketball prodigy first, even when Kobe Bryant was available in the same draft. However, the Sixers ended up losing that close game against the Bulls, who recorded a 69-13 season.

In their next meeting on April 7, 1997, The Third Degree dropped 44 points on the Bulls and still saw himself on the losing end. Notably, there was only one occasion when Allen could defeat MJ in his Bulls jersey, while he pulled this five times against Wizards’ Jordan. 

NBA enthusiasts back then believed that whatever Allen Iverson brought on the floor was as good as Michael Jordan, only a lot faster. The 6-ft star was small, but that gave him an advantage to move like a rabbit, making him tough to catch.

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Do you think Allen was underrated during his NBA career? Help us know your views in the comments.

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Sourabh Singh

1258 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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