June 26, 1996. East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 54th annual NBA Draft took place. In anticipation, with sweat dripping down the forehead of almost every person on the face on the earth, David Stern walked up to the podium and said those faithful words.
"With the 1st pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select..."
"Allen Iverson, from Georgetown University."
And the crowd erupted. His family in joyful tears, Iverson shook hands and kissed his loved ones. He needed that, as his sister was ill and needed a specialist, and he needed to provide for his family.
The skinny 20-year-old, with no dreadlocks back then, was about to start his career in the NBA, and what a career it has been to this point, or still is.
Iverson would come out in his rookie season putting up astronomical numbers that would help him claim the Schick NBA Rookie of the Year award, only one of the many awards he would go on to claim. That cross-over on Michael Jordan couldn't hurt his resume, either.
Yet, his first real success came during the strike-shortened 1999 season. He was selected to the All-NBA first team, collected one of his many scoring titles, and made his first ever playoff appearance in guiding Philadelphia to the postseason. However, he and his 76ers would eventually lose to Reggie Miller's Pacers in the second round.
Great success and play surely deserves a raise, eh? (Yes I'm Canadian) That's exactly what Iverson got. A 6-year $70 million extension, and look, he put up even better numbers in 1999-2000. He averaged a career-high in points with a 28.4 PPG. I should've said a better scoring average, not necessarily numbers in total, yet Iverson and his Sixers were eventually toppled by Reggie Miller's Pacers in the postseason's second round once again.
The 2000-2001 season would prove to be a memorable one for Iverson. He averaged then a career-high in points (Iverson has had a lot of career-highs in points averaged), and won his first, to this point, only MVP. Iverson although averaged a career-low in assists at 4.6 APG.
That season he helped lead his Sixers to the NBA finals for the first time since 1983, when Moses Malone, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, and coach Billy Cunningham won the NBA title by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-0.
The Lakers, often showing up whenever the word NBA finals is said, showed up to stand in the way of Allen Iverson and that coveted Larry O'Brien trophy. Allen erupted for a 48-point performance during Game One of the finals, only to be trumped by Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers to win their second championship in a row.
Usually after being knocked off in the finals, the team returns next season with more fury and firepower, but the injury-riddled Sixers were not able to cope with the injuries, even though Iverson averaged 31.4 PPG, and the 6th seeded Sixers would fall to the Celtics in the first round.
In came the famous "practice rant," and possibly the downturn to his career. After being eliminated by the Celtics, coach Larry Brown went on and criticized Iverson for missing practice, and I believe almost every living particle, even non-living on the green Earth, knows how Iverson responded.
Brown would end up leaving the 76ers in 2003, and the 76ers hired Chris Ford as the new head coach. Iverson clashed with him, too. Iverson was suspended for missing practice, was fined because he no-showed one game. The disgruntled Iverson refused to play because he had to come off the bench as he was recovering from an injury.
Iverson's negativity would eventually continue between 2004-2006. He went on to urinate in a trashcan at a casino in front of staff members, refused to pay back $10,000 that was accidentally given to him by the dealer, and his bodyguard assaulted a man. Iverson also arrived late at the fan appreciation night held by the Sixers and no-showed a corporate sponsor night.
It seemed as things had turned for Iverson, though. He was traded to the Nuggets to help them win a championship in exchange for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two draft picks. Iverson immediately made an impact for Denver, while Carmelo Anthony was serving his 15-game suspension. He and Carmelo eventually led the Nuggets to the playoffs, only to be eliminated by the Spurs, 4-1.
The A.I. and Melo experiment did not work, and Iverson was traded in a blockbuster to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess (who would end up returning to the Pistons).
With Hamilton commanding the two spot, and coach Curry wanting Stuckey to play the PG, Iverson was being told to come off the bench, which he did not like once again. President of Pistons operations, Joe Dumas, cited that Iverson would not return for the remainder of the 2008-2009 season due to a back injury, although Iverson had stated he would rather retire then come off the bench.
The Pistons decided not to resign Iverson, and A.I. went unsigned for almost the whole offseason. For the first time in his career, nobody wanted him.
The same problem arose again, as he did not want to come off the bench, and was later waived by the Grizzlies.
The sweet homecoming, as I would like to call it, happened. After strongly contemplating retirement, Iverson signed with the Sixers mid-way through the season and started for them, not complaining at all. He didn't even take many shots which, defiantly surprised me. Iverson, like the previous year, was not to return to return that season, as he took a leave to care for his ill 4-year-old daughter, Messiah.
It could be that karma caught up to Allen, or it simply it was broken, like his wife Tawanna had said. His wife had filed for a divorce while the child was going through the sickness and wanted custody of all five kids as well as support for them.
Stephan A. Smith, the former ESPN analyst, reported that Iverson had problems. Those problems being gambling and drinking saying that Iverson would "either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away."
Iverson had previously stated that he still was able to "compete at the highest level," but now finds himself struggling with his personal life. The question that keeps arising is did he, or does he, still want to win a ring? Many people truly did believe that Iverson was changed for the good, basketball wise, and then his world comes crashing down on his 6'0'' frame.
Iverson is a future Hall of Famer, no doubt about it. But the question surrounding him is, could all of this have been avoided? Can Iverson pick himself back up and have his accomplishments be the reason why he is so recognized, not that he cracked and fell into gambling and drinking? Would the Hall of Fame even recognize Iverson because of his gambling and controversies surrounding him, sort of like Pete Rose?
Is he really great, or just a guy who gets coaches fired because he's unhappy with his shots, playing time, and starting position and also gets others in trouble?
I'm no Iverson hater, but it just seems that he is attitude is bigger this his game.