Allen Iverson said his 1996 NBA Draft class, which featured the late Kobe Bryant, two-time league MVP and current Nets coach Steve Nash and all-time 3-point scoring leader Ray Allen, is better than the 1984 and 2003 classes, which featured Michael Jordan and LeBron James, respectively.
In an appearance on ‘Club Shay Shay’, A FOX Sports podcast hosted by Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and FS1 analyst Shannon Sharpe, Iverson argued that his class had more widespread talent than the other two groups, which he said were boosted heavily by Jordan and James, arguably the two greatest players of all time.
“I’m not taking anything away from Dwyane (Wade) and [Carmelo] Anthony, I love them guys on and off the court,” Iverson said. “But in the same thing with (Hakeem) Olajuwon, Mike, when you put LeBron in the class and you got Mike, it’s hard man.”
Iverson may have valid points to his claim. The 1996 class is arguably the deepest in NBA history, as Iverson, Bryant and Nash won four combined NBA MVP awards and seven other drafted players became All-Stars (Allen, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic and Antoine Walker).
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Ben Wallace also went undrafted that year and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times, along with five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher. In total, eight players were named to at least one All-NBA team, the most of any draft.
There were six eventual All-NBA players in 1984’s class. Jordan was selected along with Olajuwon, who is considered one of the best centers ever. Charles Barkley, the 1993 NBA MVP and an 11-time All-Star, was picked fifth overall and then John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time steals and assist leader, was selected at No. 16. Alvin Robertson and Kevin Willis were named All-NBA picks in 1986 and 1992, respectively.
In 2003, James was backed at No. 1 overall by Wade, a three-time NBA champion and 13-time All-Star, and Anthony, a 10-time All-Star who currently ranks No. 10 on the league’s all-time scoring list. Eleven-time All-Star and two-time champion Chris Bosh was also selected in the draft along with future NBA Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa, 3-point marksman Kyle Korver and future All-Stars Josh Howard, David West and Mo Williams. Miami’s Big Three of James, Bosh and Wade, along with Anthony, are the class’s only All-NBA players.
Paired with his confidence in his class, Iverson said he could score “definitely more than my highest average” without hand-checking and a perceived less physical brand of basketball in today’s NBA. Iverson averaged a career-best 33.0 points per game during the 2005-06 season with the 76ers and averaged at least 30 points five times during his career.
“It’s too wide open,” Iverson said. “With the floor spaced out like it is now, it would have been harder to double team me like they was.”