This one could be its own book. Not only is Allen Iverson the toughest guard in NBA history and one of the league’s best-ever scorers, he’s one of the two most important players in franchise history. And while the impact of Dr. J’s arrival in Philly can’t be discounted, AI was more important on the floor and to the fan base. Even for non-Philly fans, Sixers home games from 2000-2003 were almost appointment viewing for NBA fans. It may have been the greatest and most genuine relationship we’ve seen between player and his fans. To watch this little guy feed off of that rabid crowd, as they fed off of him, was awesome. And to watch the way he carried the 2001 Sixers, a team that prominently featured the likes of Eric Snow, Jumaine Jones and Aaron McKie, was absolutely incredible. It's been argued that Shaq, and not Iverson, should not have won the 2001 MVP award. Not only was AI fully deserving of the award, for the purpose of this exercise, dragging that Sixers team to within three wins of a championship is the equivalent of actually winning a ring.
Iverson’s impact on not only the Sixers, but also the entire NBA cannot be overstated. He introduced the NBA to real hip-hop (sorry, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince at All-Star Weekend in the 1990s don’t count) and to a gritty toughness that had not been seen before, or since.
In terms of numbers, Iverson is equally tough to beat: 28.1 ppg (including four seasons of 30+), 30 postseason ppg, eight All-Star selections (2 MVPs), a league MVP award, almost 20,000 points and 11 50-point games, including his breathtaking solo destruction of the Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals.
In discussing him, many people bring up everything that Allen Iverson is not- 42% FG, 3.7 turnover/game, his disdain for practice. The reality is that with little in the way of on-court help or physical stature, he accomplished as much as virtually anyone in franchise history, and he did it through sheer toughness and will, and in a way that was impossible to ignore.
As you can see, waxing poetic about Allen Iverson can be somewhat intoxicating and addictive, but it would be a crime to not spend some time on Hal Greer. Greer spent his entire career with the organization, remains the Sixers’/Nationals' all-time leader in points (21,586 in 1,122 games), was a 10-time All-Star and wingman on Philly’s Wilt-led 1967 title team, averaging 27.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.3 apg in the postseason.
Re-reading that last sentence, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe I am going down the wrong path with this pick. While there is a case to be made for that, the statistical edge, comparable team success (greater, if adjusted for quality of teammates), social impact on the league and the visceral experience of watching him play, the edge here goes to Iverson.