“Iverson…bothered by Lue…Iverson…YES! And steps over Tyronn Lue! The Sixers by 4.” That was Marv Albert’s call on the legendary play that will go down in NBA history as one of the best. A play that in game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals, gave the 76ers a four point lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime. The Sixers went on to win that game 107-101 but it was the Iverson step over that everyone remembered. Iverson finished with 48 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals in that game 1 victory. That iconic game one performance was only a small portion of how hard Iverson played throughout his career and what Iverson meant to the city of Philadelphia.
Prior to the 1996 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers were coming off of a season in which they could only win 18 games. The only thing that went right for the Sixers that year, was having the number one overall pick in the draft. With a Sixers team surrounded with questions, they needed an Answer. And then came the pick. The 76ers selected a guard from Georgetown University, Allen Iverson. An explosive guard who, in his sophomore year, led the Big East in scoring, steals and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, which he also won in his freshman year. The Sixers needed a spark and the electrifying Iverson was just the guy to jump start the Sixers.
In his rookie year, Iverson averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game which was good enough to win him the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. Although Iverson put up incredible numbers, the Sixers had another disappointing season finishing 22-60. Following his rookie season, Iverson continued to shine as he averaged 22 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.2 steals. The Sixers however finished towards the bottom once again after a 31-51 season. Although the first two seasons with Iverson didn’t produce in any playoff wins or even appearances, the future looked bright with “The Answer” leading the way. The following season, the NBA had a lockout that eventually ended and the 76ers season finally tipped off February 5th against the Charlotte Hornets. The Sixers pulled off a 78-66 win to start the season off in the right direction. The Sixers finished that season 28-22 which was good enough for the Sixers first postseason appearance with Allen Iverson. The 76ers opened the playoffs with a series against the Orlando Magic who finished the lockout season with a record of 33-17. It was truly set out to be a tough test for both teams. But, Iverson led the Sixers to a 3-1 series win including a game 3 performance where Iverson had 33 points and a playoff record 10 steals. Iverson averaged 28.3 points, 6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 4 steals in the series.
In 2001, a few years after the NBA lockout season and the Sixers first playoff appearance with Iverson, Iverson lead one of the greatest runs in Philadelphia sports history. Iverson and the Sixers finished the regular season with a record of 56-26 and were the #1 seed headed into the playoffs. Iverson won the NBA scoring title and the league MVP that year. Playing the #8 seeded Pacers, the Sixers won 3 consecutive games after loosing a heartbreaker in game 1. The series win set up a matchup between Vinsanity and The Answer. To this day, the 7 game series between the Sixers and Raptors is one of the greatest series in Philadelphia sports history. After a game 1 loss, Iverson lead the way with 54 points in a 97-92 win in game 2. After the Sixers lost game 3, they came back to win the next 2, with Iverson putting up 30 points in game 4 and 52 points in game 5. A game 6 loss set up one of the greatest game 7’s of all time. Iverson lead the way yet again finishing with 21 points and 16 assists in a thrilling 88-87 win, which set up an Eastern Conference Final between Iverson’s Sixers and the Bucks.
Iverson lead the Sixers to a game 1 victory, putting up 34 points in the win. However, games 2 and 3 did not go the way Iverson and the Sixers planned. Battling a sore hip in which he injured during game 7 of the Raptors series, Iverson shot 5-26 from the field, finishing with 16 points in game 2 and was forced to stay at home for game 3 due to the sore hip. With the Sixers trailing the series 2-1, the injured Iverson showed his toughness totaling 28 points and 8 assists in a 89-83 game 4 win. This performance is often overlooked. Iverson showed how incredibly tough he was, battling an injury that sat him out the pervious game, however he was still able to lead the Sixers to a victory in a game that was considered a must win. After the teams split games 5 and 6, another game 7 for Iverson and the Sixers was on the way. In game 7, Iverson continued to show his Philly toughness, sending the Bucks home without a doubt, finishing with 44 points and 7 assists. Iverson’s grit and determination lead the Sixers to the NBA finals to take on the Lakers.
Although the Sixers fell to the Lakers in 5 games, the 2001 playoff run cemented Iverson as one of Philadelphia’s favorite athletes. During that playoff run, Iverson averaged 32.9 points, 6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Iverson lead the charge, leading the way in both game 7’s and playing with an injury that would prevent most from playing. The 2001 76ers team will never be forgotten in the city of Philadelphia. Iverson lead the team in creating something that the entire city could rally around. The run was something that was truly special and it was Allen Iverson that lead the way.
From Iverson’s step back, step over Tyronn Lue, to his famous “practice” speech that Philadelphia has come to love and know by heart, Allen Iverson showed the rest of the league what Philly was all about. Toughness, determination and grittiness. Iverson was a player that would leave it all out on the floor every night. He would do whatever it took to help his team win. Allen Iverson will be elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame this year, which is well deserved. Iverson was NBA Rookie Of The Year in 1997, MVP in 2001, a 4-time NBA Scoring Champ in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2005, an 11-time All-Star, 3-time All-NBA First Team in 1999, 2001 and 2005, 3-time All-NBA Second Team in 2000, 2002 and 2003, and his No. 3 will forever hang from the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center. Iverson not only did a lot for Philadelphia, but he changed the game of basketball forever. When Philadelphia had a question, he had The Answer. Iverson will go down as not only one of the greatest 76ers ever, but one of the greatest Philadelphia athletes ever. From all of Philadelphia and 76ers fans around the globe, thank you A.I. and congratulations!