It wasn’t too long ago that Iverson was included in the unending “best player in the game” debate. With his scoring touch, excellent pass lane defense, other-worldly handles and unique play-making style, it wasn’t very difficult to see why.
But the assets which he prided himself in became tools for media mud-slinging and very nearly black-balled him out of the NBA altogether. Time and again, he had been labeled as selfish, a locker room cancer, a thug, and even unproductive.
But nobody ever accused Iverson of being a leader.
When needed, a leader instantly changes the culture of the team he’s playing with. Though Iverson had accomplished this in his original stint with the Sixers, those days were long forgotten, even swept under a rug. Instead, what people chose to focus on was his failure to change the culture with the last three teams he played for.
Denver, now a legitimate contender, didn’t accomplish anything noteworthy until Chauncey Billups arrived and Carmelo Anthony’s game finally matured. In Iverson’s stint with Detroit, he wasn’t able to stop the Pistons from falling from the conference’s underboss team to first-round fodder.
Many mistakenly attributed the Pistons’ fall from grace solely to the departure of Billups’ or it being Iverson’s fault, or both. People somehow looked past Detroit’s aging roster, the incompetence and indecisiveness of their rookie coach, and Pistons management’s unexplainable love affair with Rodney Stuckey.
When Iverson didn’t even last long enough in a Grizzlies’ uniform to play a home game, it seemed that he had written his last chapter in the NBA. But now back with the Sixers, we’re starting to see something we haven’t seen from Iverson in years: leadership.
Iverson has again revamped the culture in Philadelphia — but for the first time in his career he’s not doing as it as his team’s top scorer. He’s simply taking as many shots and minutes as the team will offer him and making the most out of them.
As long as the respect between himself and management remains mutual, there’s no reason why it won’t last.
With Elton Brand finally starting to gain some rhythm as the team’s 6th man, the Sixers now are about as talented as they’ve been since….the retirement of Julius Erving (wow) and during this stretch were eight of the Sixers’ next nine opponents are without a winning record, they finally have the chance to make some noise.
The Sixers certainly didn’t do any favors for themselves when they allowed their record to slip to an abysmal 13 games under .500, but with Iverson starting to regain his groove, Brand flourishing as a 6th man and the team gaining a sense of chemistry that seemed all but lost with the departure of point guard Andre Miller, we certainly haven’t seen the last of the Sixers’ playoff hopes.
So for all the people out there who completely wrote off Iverson, the Sixers, or both don’t look now, but here they come.