When Allen Iverson stood next to NBA Commissioner David Stern during the NBA draft of 1996 and put on a Philadelphia 76ers jersey for the first time, everyone thought that he was a Godsend.
This former Hoya and No. 1 overall draft pick was the best thing to happen to Philly since the legendary Julius Erving graced the court.
The belief in Philadelphia was that Iverson would start and end his career there. But there was only one problem with this fairytale.
He was unhappy.
Iverson was and still is the kind of player to put his body on the line and play from his heart. He is every coach’s dream. He was a championship athlete being forced to play with a mediocre, struggling to finish the season at .500 kind of team.
Then, words that no basketball star wants to hear in the same sentence as their name started being thrown around.
People ranging from fans, to ESPN personalities were calling Iverson selfish and a “ball hog.”
As one of the few true Iverson fans left on the planet, my only defense to comments like that would be something along the lines of "he had no choice, because on that Sixers team, he had no one to play ball with, many players came and gone, but Iverson didn't mesh with any of them well enough with to make the team successful."
Trade rumors swirled around the press for a few years until December 19, 2006. On this day, a silence swept over the entire league, as Iverson’s wishes to be traded became a reality. Philadelphia made an agreement with the Denver Nuggets.
If you don’t remember, there was quite some drama leading up to this day.
Just two days before, the Nuggets and the New York Knicks took part in a brawl over a flagrant foul. The next day, David Stern suspended then league leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony for 15 games, and J.R. Smith (Denver’s second leading scorer) for 10 games.
Soon after, Denver welcomed Iverson into their home and hearts, who happened to be the league’s second-leading scorer at the time.
In return, Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two draft picks from the first round of the 2007 draft were shipped off to Philly. The Nuggets also received Ivan McFarlin in the transaction, who seldom played for the 76ers.
This, in my mind, is by far the best decision Iverson could have made regarding the future of his career. I could think of no one else to run the court with Iverson than Carmelo Anthony.
After being a Nugget for close to two seasons, Iverson has already grown into the team player we all knew he could be. He just needed the right environment, and that’s what he found in Denver.
During the 10 seasons that Iverson played as a Sixer, he averaged just 6.2 assists. In just under two seasons in Denver, he has already averaged 7.2 assists.
What still puzzles me is Iverson’s relationship with Sixers president, Billy King.
Shortly after Iverson went to Denver, King said, “First of all, I’d like to thank Allen Iverson for the last 11 years,” said King. “I think he gave us all some great excitement. I think he is one of the greatest ever to play the game.”
It’s funny how highly King thinks of Iverson because up until the Nuggets and Iverson went to Philadelphia to play the Sixers (the first time since the trade), King hasn’t spoken a word to Iverson. The Sixers won that day, 115-113.
According to an article on USAtoday.com from December 20, 2006, “It wasn’t easy for the 76ers to part with Iverson because of his popularity, his productivity, and his status as the face of the franchise. But after 10-plus often-tumultuous seasons, the 76ers were more than ready for a makeover.”
With the recent retirement announcement from Chris Webber, it got me thinking.
Iverson’s body is aging and he probably only has a few years left in the league before he crosses over for the last time.
I watched Iverson on TV when he played at Georgetown and I saw him grow as a player. I saw the creation of the cornrow phenomenon, and I saw the tattoos multiply. There is just one thing left for me to do.
I must see The Answer play in person, and my life will be complete.