Brandon Jennings cherishes opportunity to play against his idol, Allen Iverson

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By Jake McCormick

Wednesday night, Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings got to face his childhood idol for the first time on an NBA court: Wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

It may as well have been Mickey Rourke’s character in “The Wrestler”, because Allen Iverson’s return to a bottomed out Philadelphia team after a mutual split with Memphis is playing out as somewhat of a farewell tour. Iverson is still quick and can get a shot off faster than the DSL Internet I don’t have, but his legs seem a bit heavier and his spirit has been slightly broken with age.

With Milwaukee up 90-88 and 19.2 second left, Philadelphia’s Elton Brand missed a bunny layup and short jumper after grabbing his own rebound. The Bucks eventually prevailed 91-88, despite another chance for a tie at the hands of fellow Sixer Andre Iguodala. Ten years ago, Iverson would’ve been spotlighted and circled more times on the Bucks’ play chart than there are laps in the Daytona 500, but he was relegated to bench duty during the most crucial moments of Wednesday’s game.

Although the former superstar finished the game with six points and four assists on 3-10 from the field, the experience of stepping onto the same court as his idol will stay etched in Jennings’ memory for the rest of his career.

“I can honestly say that I actually got a chance to play against my idol,” said Jennings, who tallied 18 points and seven assists, said. “I did a pretty good job I guess, with the little time I did have (guarding) him.”

It’s no secret, or coincidence, that media member and scouts have commented on both players’ similar skill sets and makeup. Even Shaquille O’Neal earlier in the year remarked that Jennings reminded him of a combination of Iverson and Nick Van Exel.

While Iverson was cutting through defenses like Lizzie Borden during his 1998-99 rookie year, Jennings is less of a pure scorer and prefers to distribute as a point guard. Still, Jennings’ quick bursts and improvisational shots reflect his own admiration of one of the most entertaining players of our time, and in more ways than one.

“He had the cornrows back then and was kind of the first person to bring in tattoos,” Jennings said. “When I was younger, everyone was a Michael Jordan fan, but I liked AI because he was my size and I felt like if he could do it, I could do it.”

Jennings clearly has a long path to walk if he wants to come close to matching his idol’s accomplishments, but it isn’t inconceivable to believe that the 20-year-old point guard will become a hybrid AI with a pension for dropping dimes for an 18/10/4 instead of scoring 26 every night.

If that running floater keeps falling and he continues to learn how to control the game’s tempo, Jennings will keep his name in the discussion with Iverson’s long after he’s reached his potential. After all, the rest of us can only dream of possessing the talent and flair of our childhood sports heros.

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