In a game that was more highly anticipated than any season opener, playoff game, or post season clincher in recent Sixers memory, Allen Iverson returned to the place where he was most responsible for revitalizing a dormant fan base.
In 1996, when the Sixers won the NBA lottery and thus the rights to the first overall pick, then owner, Pat Croce knew who he was taking.
The hard-luck, star-crossed superstar freshman from Georgetown that dazzled the NCAA had to be his.
He played with reckless abandon, and without any regard for his body. He played with a tenacity not often seen.
But most of all, he played with a will to win unlike any player Croce had ever seen before.
24,000 points, 13 years, four teams, and one unforgettable run to the NBA Finals later, and Iverson had undoubtedly left his mark on the game of basketball forever.
Five years after single-handedly carrying the 76ers to within three wins of immortality, Iverson talked his way out of the only city he'd ever called home in the NBA.
The ten year, indelible relationship with the fans of the 76ers was abruptly over. There would be no more "practice" speeches. No more coaching quarrels. No more ball hogging.
All that "baggage" went with him to Denver, his first stop, post-Sixers.
But Iverson took more than just his attitude with him; he took the life right out of this franchise.
Following Iverson's departure, the "other" A.I. took command as the "best" player on the team. Needless to say, Andre Iguodala was no Allen Iverson.
Sure, Iguodala was a tremendous player. He played good defense, drove hard to the hoop, and rebounded fairly well, but he wasn't Allen; he wasn't "The Answer."
Following his three game stay, Memphis granted him his release.
In the following week, the Knicks kicked the tires on the aging scorer, only to leave him on the wire. Iverson subsequently retired.
The retirement would prove to be brief, as only days after Lou Williams broke his jaw, rendering him useless for the next eight weeks, Allen Iverson was once again a 76er.
His return came last night, full of theater, but short of fundamental basketball, following the 76ers loss The Daily News declared that Iverson was, "Not the Answer."
Not the Answer?!?!
Did we all watch the same game?
If Allen Iverson is not the answer, then how has this become, perhaps the most bearable double-digit losing streak in the history of Philadelphia?
If Allen Iverson is not the answer, then how were not only local, but national media syndicates buzzing about a team that had only enough wins to count on one hand?
If Allen Iverson is not the answer, then how did the Wachovia Center transform from a cavernous grave basketball players go to die, to the backdrop to one of the most talked about events since the World Series?
And if Allen Iverson is not the answer, what is he doing smeared across your headlines?
Without Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, there was a chance the Sixers could have played 82 games and nobody even know about it. Without Iverson this team would surely claim the basement cellar as their's for the lowest drawing franchise in the NBA.
And without Allen Iverson this franchise would just be another mediocre team in the NBA.
The fans aren't delusional. This is not a playoff team, plain and simple. Not with Iverson and not without him. They are not a good team.
Eddie Jordan has been a disaster thus far.
I still can't figure out what the Princeton offense is actually supposed to look like.
Sam Dalembert still can't recognize a goaltend. Iguodala still can't hit his jumper consistently. And Elton Brand will never be worth $80 million.
No, this is not a good basketball team. So why act like it is?
This team is mired in the basketball purgatory known as mediocrity. Even worse than an absolute abomination, mediocrity assures that you are not good enough to do anything if you did somehow make the playoffs, and that you're not bad enough to land a franchise changing player in the lottery.
So what was there to lose in signing Iverson?
Nothing. At best, this team picks themselves up, dusts themselves off, and makes a run at one of the final playoff spots.
At worst, the Sixers continue to lose, but put themselves in prime position to grab a top prospect in the draft, perhaps Kentucky PG, John Wall or Kansas Forward, Cole Alrdich.
More than likely, they'll probably fall somewhere in the middle of that.
But either way, neither result would have been a surprise with or without "The Answer."
What are the negatives in bringing Iverson back?
If you want to argue that he'll take away from the younger players that need to develop, I would concede that argument.
But aside from that, what reason did the Sixers have NOT to do this?
He gives Philadelphia a reason to talk about the Sixers. He gives the papers a reason to care about the Sixers. It gives the fans another opportunity to see a Philadelphia icon.
All that for a minimal investment on a one year deal?
How is this not "The Answer?"