Since December of 2006, 76ers basketball just hasn't been the same. Allen Iverson was the heart and soul of the 76ers for a decade. And the Sixers did the same thing they had done with Charles Barkley: trade him, and attempt to rebuild.
To fully understand what Allen Iverson meant to Philadelphia, one must travel back in time, to the 2000-01 season.
Iverson, entering his fifth season, was an absolute blur on the court. In 2000-01, Iverson won MVP, led the league in scoring (31.1 ppg), steals(2.5 spg), and minutes (42 mpg), was selected to the All-NBA First Team, and was the MVP of the All-Star game.
The Sixers finished the season atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 56-26. But without Iverson this was arguably the worst team in the NBA. Eric Snow, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, and Dikembe Mutombo joined him in the starting lineup. Aaron McKie was their sixth man, and Jumaine Jones, Matt Geiger, and Raja Bell were all in the rotation.
This was a team that was going to grind it out on defense every night. The question was: where would they find the offense to be able to win? Luckily, they had the Answer.
Entering the playoffs, the Sixers had the homecourt, but were still considered the underdog in there first playoff series. Their opponent, the Indiana Pacers, were the defending Eastern Conference Champs, and had knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs 2 years in a row.
In Game One, the Pacers' Reggie Miller hit a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to beat the Sixers by one point. But the Sixers, led by a 45 point, 9 assist performance by the Answer, won Game Two, and eventually closed the Pacers out in four games.
In the Conference Semifinals, the Sixers played host to the Toronto Raptors. And once again, they lost Game One and the homecourt advantage. And once again, Iverson responded in Game Two, scoring 19 of the last 20 Sixer points, and erupting for 54 to tie the series at one a piece.
In Game Three the Sixers got smashed, and trailed the series 2-1. In Game Four, Iverson's clutch late game shooting was enough for the Sixers to even the series at 2-2.
Game Five, back in Philly was another Iverson masterpiece. The Answer poured in 52 points, dished out seven assists, and had four swipes, and put his team up 3-2 in the series.
After losing Game Six in Toronto, the series was headed back to Philly for Game 7. It went down to the wire, but Allen Iverson's 21 points and 16 assists were enough to propel the 76ers into the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would meet the Milwaukee Bucks.
Finally the Sixers won Game One at home, only to drop Game Two, and lose Iverson to injury for Game Three, which Milwaukee won, taking a 2-1 series lead. Iverson's 28 point, 8 assist return in Game Four evened the series at 2-2. The teams split the next two games, with the Sixers winning Game Five and losing Game Six, despite 26 fourth quarter points from the Answer.
In Game Seven, again, Iverson did not disappoint. He rose to the occasion, scoring 44 points, dishing seven dimes, and grabbing six boards, taking the 76ers to the Finals, where they would meet and eventually lose to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers did not lose a single playoff game to a Western Conference opponent, and were 11 point favorites for Game One of the NBA Finals. In Game One, Iverson was on fire. He scored 48 points, leading the 76ers to one of the most improbable wins in Finals history.
(warning: Tyronn Lue, do not watch this)
Well, we clearly thought we were moving past rebuilding mode last offseason when we signed Elton Brand to his multi-year deal. But with Andre Miller gone, Slammin' Sammy Dalembert still clogging the paint, and Willie Green projected to start for the Sixers, the Wachovia Center could be the place where you can hear a pin drop on Saturday night.
Unless Ed Stefanski decides to make a move with absolutely no risk and infinite rewards: signing Allen Iverson to a one year contract at the mid-level exception.
Imagine the crowds Iverson would draw, night in and night out. Sixers games would matter again. It's no secret that at age 34 and after 13 seasons in the NBA, this could be his last season.
It's also no secret that he can still play the game as well. This signing, if it happened would make the 76ers contenders as well. An Iverson-led Sixers team could get off to a great start, and never look back. The teammates Iverson would have as a Sixer today would be much better than the team he carried to the Finals in 2001.
Philadelphia misses Iverson. Iverson misses Philadelphia. Iverson is supposed to retire as a 76er. It's just that simple. It would be a perfect ending to an incredible story of the NBA's biggest little guy.
“This is setting the record straight. I always said I wanted to end my career as a Sixer. And I wanted that so bad for my fans. I wanted it for myself. I wanted it for my family, my kids, my wife."