Sports have played a major part in my life since birth. I remember my dad telling me stories of him holding me in his arms as a newborn while we watched Michael Jordan win his sixth and final championship, hitting ‘The Last Shot’ against the Utah Jazz three months after I was born.
In football, my favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons made it to their first Super Bowl in franchise history in January 1999, losing to the John Elway-led Denver Broncos ten months after I was born.
Being born as the Jordan era concluded, I respected his greatness, but he wasn’t my favorite player since I missed out on his two three peats.
For the Falcons, Chris Chandler, Jamal Anderson, Ray Buchanan Morten Anderson are all legends of the franchise being pivotal parts of the team reaching their first Super Bowl.
Jessie Tuggle (Go Blazers!) was also on that Falcons team near the tail end of his career.
They did the Falcons well but since I was too young to remember these guys putting on the black and red, they aren’t my first thought when I think of the Dirty Birds.
On the hardwood, my go to guy is the Basketball Hall of Famer, Allen Iverson.
For football, my main man is Michael Vick.
Now A.I. was drafted two years before I was born, going No. 1 in the 1996 NBA Draft.
But we all know the influence he had on the league: the streetwear clothing, the flashy on-court moves, the cornrows.
He was a guy that knew how to express himself and not care what anyone thought even when he was negatively labeled as a troublemaker and rebellious.
But I didn’t care.
I liked his style of play and my dad liked him also, so I followed him.
I still remember going to Kids Foot Locker in the Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah and my dad buying me a No. 3 Bethel High School Allen Iverson jersey – white with green and gold trim.
When I played rec league basketball, I didn’t get to wear his jersey number, but I chose the next best thing which was convincing my dad to buy me an arm sleeve like Iverson wore and getting the thread sown by my grandmother for it to fit my arm for games.
I followed Iverson all through his career – even when he was no longer on the Philadelphia 76ers.
I had a Denver Nuggets Iverson jersey too.
His MVP win, finals run against Kobe and Shaq, his days playing alongside Carmelo Anthony in Denver.
I even kept up with him in the twilight years of his NBA career and when he went to play in Turkey for a season as his playing days winded down.
No. 3 is my favorite number.
Part goes to me being a ‘third’ in my family name legacy and part to goes to Allen Iverson.
For Michael Vick, he was the first football player that I knew of.
I remember him getting drafted No. 1 overall by the Falcons and my grandmother giving me a cutout of the news article of him holding up his No. 1 Atlanta jersey.
Vick was the Falcons.
He’s loved across Atlanta and Georgia as a whole forever.
Seeing a speedy quarterback with a strong arm won the hearts of everyone.
Vick also was my father’s favorite player.
His jersey was my first NFL jersey – and I used to wear it for every picture day in elementary school.
I remember going to my first NFL game on Oct. 22, 2006, during Vick’s final year at quarterback for the Falcons, throwing four touchdowns and defeating the Pittsburg Steelers in overtime.
I also was there when he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in a December 2006 game against the Dallas Cowboys.
It sucked when Vick got jammed up in the dogfighting case, but he never lost my support.
During the two years that he was out the league, I remember creating him on Madden since he was snatched out of the game since he technically wasn’t in the NFL anymore.
When Vick was released from prison, that was some of the best news I heard that summer.
He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was weird seeing him in another uniform, but I was just happy that he was back on the football field where he could shine.
I remember Vick returned to Atlanta to play against the Falcons for the first time as a starting quarterback in 2011 in a Sunday Night Football game.
It was different rooting against him, but I wanted him to have a good game because even though he wore different colors, he still was my favorite player with the pigskin.
I last saw Vick on New Years Day 2017 when my mother took me to a Falcons game which happened to be the final regular season at the Georgia Dome.
Legendary Falcons were brought out to celebrate the Georgia Dome.
I wish you could hear how the crowd went crazy when he was the last one to come out on the cart with Roddy White.
Iverson and Vick were the guys who made me fall in love with sports.
It’s crazy how they are friends in real life since they both come from the Virginia area.
I think just about every kid born in the ’96-’03 period looks up to those guys, especially among the black males.
Their paths weren’t perfect, but they always stayed real.
For that, they were always accepted and loved by their fans no matter what.