Allen Iverson
by Nick O'Connor


Allen Iverson was born June 7th, 1975 in Hampton, Virginia, to his single, 15 year old mother Ann Iverson. Iverson grew up in an impoverished community in which he lived in a home that did not even have electricity or running water. As a high school student, Iverson excelled in athletics, especially basketball and football, but just managed to coast academically. While Iverson was a gifted athlete, he was not without his troubles off the court. On February 13th, 1993, Iverson was involved in a large fight at a bowling alley that involved almost fifty people. Out of the fifty people involved in the brawl, Iverson was only one of four charged. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the crime of maiming by mob. However, four months later the charge was overturned due to lack of evidence and Iverson was free to continue with his life.
Shortly after that incident, Iverson went on to attend Georgetown University. He immediate success at Georgetown his freshman year in 1994 and was named the Big East Rookie of the Year while averaging 20 points and 4.5 assists a game. He was also named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995, which demonstrated his dominance at both ends of the court. After being named an Associated Press All-American in 1995, Iverson left Georgetown and declared for the NBA draft. While Iverson enjoyed college life and his success and Georgetown, he left after his sophomore year to make a living in the NBA because most of his family in Hampton still lived in poverty and he had a daughter to take care of. In 1996, Iverson was the first player selected in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Due to his small stature for an NBA player, Iverson’s success stems from his quickness and signature cross-over dribble. Although only six feet tall, Iverson managed great success in his first season in the NBA. He was named Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Rookie All-Star Game.
Throughout his career, Iverson achieved much success despite his many conflicts with the media and his team. His tumultuous relationships with the media and Larry Brown are widely documented and well known to those who follow the sport. While Iverson had a sometimes difficult NBA career, he is still considered one of the greatest guards of all time. He managed to finish his career as an 11-time NBA All-Star, MVP of the 2001 season, and 1997 Rookie of the Year. Currently, Iverson is playing in Turkey for the Besiktas Basketball team.
Neo-Analytic/Ego Perspective
Allen Iverson has long been viewed as a controversial and polarizing figure throughout both society and sports. The neo-analytic perspective appears to be useful in analyzing Allen Iverson because it helps define the core individuality of the person. One psychologist that exhibits the neo-analytic perspective is Carl Jung. According to Jung, the psyche is divided into three parts: the conscious ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The ego is the aspect of personality that is conscious and embodies the sense of self. Also, Jung believed that the ego developed around the age of four. Throughout Iverson’s life and career he has appeared to try to figure out his sense of self. Growing up in poverty, Iverson had always seemed determined to make something of himself through his athletic talents, while not changing who he was or where he came from. Instead of opting for the suit and tie lifestyle that many in the NBA would have preferred for him, Iverson stayed true to himself and his friends that he grew up with. He is quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying “The NBA can't pick my friends. When I was struggling growing up, no running water in my house, the electric lights turned off, these were the guys who were with me. They grew up with me. I'm not going to turn my back on them now.” Throughout Iverson’s life it appears that he has always had a conflict between who he wanted to be and who his employer, the NBA, wanted him to be. While he has tried to stay true to his roots, Iverson had to make sacrifices in order to maintain his place in the league.
The collective unconscious, as described by Jung, is a deeper level of unconsciousness that is made up of emotional symbols called archetypes. The persona and shadow archetype, as described by Jung, is especially applicable to Allen Iverson. According to Jung, the persona archetype represents the socially acceptable front that we present to others. This archetype can be used to describe Iverson, because Iverson is a not only a role model to his community and those who support the NBA, but to his children as well. By being a father and spokesperson for brands such as Reebok, Iverson has to take on the persona archetype to appear socially acceptable in order to be a good father and spokesperson. On the other hand, the shadow archetype can be used to describe Iverson as well. While Iverson may try to act socially acceptable and follow the persona archetype, he does manage to get himself into trouble and follow the shadow archetype. Incidents such as his arrest at the bowling alley show the negative impulses that Iverson has demonstrated at times. Also, Jung may characterize Iverson as an extrovert because he directs his psychic energy outward towards the external world. One incident that displays his extroversion occurred in the 2001 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. After making a clutch basket over an opponent who had fallen over, Iverson steps over the opposing player instead of walking around him. This act of one-upmanship demonstrates Iverson’s cocky and extroverted nature.
Another psychologist that may be useful in analyzing Iverson through the neo-analytic perspective is Alfred Adler. Adler believed that a central core of personality is the striving for superiority. He also said that when people have an overwhelming sense of helplessness or experience some event that leaves them powerless, they are likely to feel inferior. Adler describes this as an inferiority complex. Allen Iverson may have an inferiority complex stemming from his rough childhood. Because of his impoverished upbringing, Iverson may feel inferior and have a strong desire to prove himself. Furthermore, being one of the smaller players in the NBA at only six feet tall, Iverson may have had feelings of inferiority as well. Although it can be argued that Allen Iverson has an inferiority complex, it is certain that he used it to drive him to success in the NBA.
Trait Perspective
While Carl Jung was extremely influential in the Neo-analytic perspective, he also helped launch the trait approach as well. One of the psychologists that Jung helped influence was Gordon Allport who created the “Big Five” trait approach which is the idea that personality can be captured by five dimensions. The five traits included in the “Big Five” are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
Extroversion is the first trait that Allport describes as part of the “Big Five.” Allen Iverson appears to be a very extroverted person due to his emotional displays on and off the court. In a famous incident, when asked about missing one of his teams practices Iverson said "we're sitting here, I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're in here talking about practice." This instance demonstrates the dominant and talkative nature of Iverson in regards to his extroverted nature. It also demonstrates that Iverson appears to think that he is greater than the rest of the team and has no problem telling the media how he feels. By being open with the media with how he feels about both himself and his team, Iverson demonstrates a highly extroverted personality.
While Iverson may be very high on extroversion, he would certainly not measure as highly on the next trait; agreeableness. Allport describes individuals who are high on agreeableness as friendly, cooperative, trusting and warm. After examining Iverson’s personal history, it is quite clear that Iverson would be low on this dimension. In April 2011, Iverson’s car was pulled over for failing to signal while in Atlanta, Georgia. While Iverson was not the passenger he was still asked to exit the car and responded by telling officers “Take the vehicle, I have 10 more," and "Police don't have anything else (expletive) to do except (expletive) with me." He then asked, "Do you know who I am?" This incident demonstrates Iverson’s lack of agreeableness because of his uncooperative nature to the police. Instead of trying to comply with what the officers wanted, Iverson became enraged and decided to become disruptive.
Another trait in the “Big Five” that Iverson would not measure highly on is conscientiousness. Throughout his career, Iverson had many public disagreements with team management over public appearances and team practice. Iverson would make excuses or simply not show up to his responsibilities as a member of the 76ers. This disregard for his responsibilities demonstrates Iverson’s lack of dependability and responsibility, two important traits in conscientiousness.
When referring back to Iverson’s incident with Atlanta police and his press conference about practice, it is quite clear that Iverson is a neurotic person. In both of these situations Iverson appears moody, high-strung and tense; all things characteristic of someone high on neuroticism. However, a case can be made that when Iverson is on the court he is far from neurotic. The calm and clutch nature that he has on the court rivals the seemingly neurotic nature of his personal life.
Iverson’s originality and personal creativity are things that have made him one of the more popular athletes of the past twenty years. His meltdowns and game winnings shots have become famous in sports lore. Furthermore, his creative style, both on and off the court, has influenced many across the globe. The “shooting sleeve” that many players, such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, have adopted over the years was started by Allen Iverson several years ago. Because of his creativity and original nature, Allen Iverson would rate very highly on openness.
After using the Neo-analytic and trait perspective to analyze Allen Iverson, many conclusions can be drawn about his personality. First, we can see that he is a very narcissistic individual. Through his “me first” attitude, Iverson demonstrates that the most important thing in his life is himself. On and off the court, Iverson shows his narcissistic nature. This narcissism may stem from an inferiority complex that Iverson has. By growing up in poverty, Iverson may feel that he constantly has to prove himself in order to survive. Overall, it appears that Iverson is a very extroverted individual with narcissistic tendencies. While Iverson has had his share of difficulties in his professional and personal life, he has still managed to be one of the most influential and iconic figures in American professional sports.
Allen Iverson Biography. Retrieved April 18th, 2011 from
Allen Iverson Curses at Police. Retrieved April 17th, 2011 from
Allen Iverson, Wikipedia. Retrieved April 19th, 2011 from