Just one year removed from having led his 76ers to the NBA Finals and being awarded the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, Iverson and the Sixers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the then-unheralded Boston Celtics. When asked about then-coach Larry Brown's suggestion that he hadn't taken taken practice seriously enough throughout the 2001-'02 season, Iverson lashed out at his questioner with a ... uh ... philosophical tirade against the merits of exerting oneself in practice.
Iverson: "Iz easy to sum it up when you just talk about practice. We sittin' in here, I supposed to be the franchise player, and we talkin' about practice. I mean, it, listen, we talkin' about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talkin' about practice. Not a game. Not a ... not a... not da game dat I go out dere and die for and play every game last itz my last. Not da game, we talkin' about practice man..."
Over the past decade, that tirade has become the stuff of legend.
In the category of sports tirades that center on one word which begins with the letter "P," Iverson's "practice!?!" tirade ranks second only to former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora's "playoffs!?!" tirade. And with Mora's aforementioned "playoffs!?!" tirade and Dennis Green's "the Bears are who we thought they were!" tirade, Iverson's "practice!?!" tirade comprises one third of the Holy Trinity of 21st Century sports meltdowns.
Of course, Mora, Iverson and Dennis Green have nothing on former Chicago Cubs' manager Lee Elia, whose infamous 1983 post game meltdown still occupies its own wing of the Pantheon of post-game meltdowns.
And although it doesn't count as a post game meltdown, former Baltimore Orioles' manager Earl Weaver's legendary 1970s era rant on his Manager's Corner segment of the Orioles' pre-game show still ranks as, perhaps, the most colorful sports tirade of all time (¡Cuidado!: audio = "NSFW").
Compared with Elia's and Weaver's tirades, Ted Nugent's recent, much-hyped rant on the CBS news comes off as pretty weak sauce.
We've heard from some readers who objected to the absence of former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight's infamous 1993 warning to his Hoosier team about the perils of losing to Purdue (NSFW, of course). We didn't include Knight's tirade because it was a closed-door speech given to a team that Coach Knight believed to be under-performing (and because the speech was secretly recorded by somebody with a mini-recorder!), rather than an interview given to the media for consumption by the public. Knight didn't know that there was a tape recorder in the room; his team was the only intended audience for the speech.
The other tirades in this post all occurred during interviews given to media by the ranting athlete or coach. Knight's tirade wasn't supposed to be heard by anyone but his team. For that reason, it shouldn't be classified as a "meltdown." It was, instead, a motivational speech. And an effective one at that.
For that reason (and a few others) Knight's rant should probably be designated as the "Official" Drive and Dish basketball motivational speech (it's certainly our favorite).