Allen Iverson's Top 25 Career-Defining Moments with the Philadelphia 76ers

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor INovember 1, 2011

Allen Iverson's Top 25 Career-Defining Moments with the Philadelphia 76ers

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    From his battles with Eastern Conference foes to his frequent clashes with his own head coaches, Allen Iverson was one of the most unique individuals to ever step on an NBA floor.

    As a member of the Sixers, he was named to eight All-Star games, won four scoring titles, led Philadelphia to the 2001 NBA Finals and provided a lifetime of unforgettable moments both on and off of the court. 

    Over the course of 10-plus seasons, basketball fans around the world had the privilege to watch Iverson mature from a rookie fresh out of Georgetown into a veteran willing to do whatever it took to stay in the NBA for one more season. Here is a look at the 25 most memorable moments during Iverson's time with the 76ers.

25. Iverson Doesn't Back Down Against the Bulls

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    Allen Iverson had a number of "incidents" with the Chicago Bulls during his rookie season. Aside from the infamous crossover of Michael Jordan, perhaps the most memorable moment is his shoving match with Dennis Rodman during the Bulls' 111-105 victory in December of 1996.

    Iverson's braggadocio was on full display during a Sixers-Bulls matchup earlier that season, leading Chicago point guard Ron Harper to voice his displeasure over Iverson's perceived lack of respect.

    In the teams' second meeting that year, Iverson and Rodman nearly came to blows on two occasions after Iverson continually talked trash to the Bulls' bench. At only 21 years old, A.I. was intent on letting the world know that he wasn't afraid of anyone on the basketball court.

    "Iverson came in there thinking he was Jumanji and was going to control the whole forest and the wilderness," said Rodman.

24. Iverson Shines in 1997 Rookie Challenge

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    In the 1997 Rookie Challenge—a contest filled with future stars such as Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Steve Nash—Allen Iverson scored 19 points and led the Eastern Conference to a 96-91 victory.

    Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 31 points, but it was Iverson's all-around play (he also finished with 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals) that led to him earning MVP honors on the night. It would prove to be harbinger of things to come—Iverson would win Rookie-of-the-Year honors three months later.

23. Iverson Captures 2005 All-Star Game MVP Honors

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    Iverson's 15 points, 10 assists and five steals led the Eastern Conference to a 125-115 win in the 2005 All-Star Game. Following the game, Iverson was voted as the All-Star MVP for the second time in his career.

    "I'm playing with the greatest players in the world and I'm playing with four other All-Stars," said Iverson. "So, I mean, in a game like this, you just let it come to you."

    Iverson woke up the morning of the All-Star Game feeling lightheaded—a condition likely brought on due to the high altitude of Denver where the game was played that year. Ironically enough, after being traded to the Nuggets by the 76ers in the fall of 2006, Iverson would be playing in Denver full-time less than two years later.

22. Iverson Traded to Denver

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    The writing was on the wall: Allen Iverson had demanded to be traded in the fall of 2006, and a deal was inevitable. After Iverson refused to play during the fourth quarter of a loss against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 5, the 76ers had placed their shooting guard on the inactive list as they worked the phones in an attempt to find a suitor.

    Exactly two weeks later, Iverson was granted his wish. On Dec. 19, the Sixers traded Iverson and little-used reserve Ivan McFarlin to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round draft picks.

    After the deal was completed, Iverson released a statement in which he offered his thanks to the fans of the 76ers. Everyone—Iverson, the 76ers, the fans—knew that the Iverson era had run its course here in Philadelphia, and that a change was probably best for all parties involved. Even so, it was clear that the face of basketball in Philadelphia had been altered forever.

21. Iverson's Return to Philly

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    After being traded to the Denver Nuggets three years earlier, Allen Iverson rejoined the 76ers on Dec. 3, 2009—just days after he hinted at retiring from the NBA.

    "When I had the opportunity to come back here, I couldn't turn it down," said Iverson during a tearful press conference after re-signing with the team that originally drafted him. "I'm just happy."

    Iverson's second stint with the 76ers lasted only 25 games, but it was clear that the time away from the city had clearly humbled him.

    "I want to fit in. I want to be a part of any success we have," Iverson said. "I just want to be one of the guys. I don't need a whole bunch of praise. I don't need a whole lot of accolades. I just want to play basketball."

20. 20 Questions About "40 Bars"

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    At the 76ers' media day prior to the 2000-01 season, Allen Iverson was bombarded with questions about his debut rap single titled "40 Bars" that was slated to be released one week later.

    Under the alias "Jewelz," Iverson had recorded a number of tracks for an upcoming hip-hop album. "40 Bars" was the first single off of the album—in the song, Iverson makes a number of violent, misogynistic and anti-gay references.

    "It's not for kids," said Iverson during media day. "This album is not for kids."

    Simply put, it wasn't the type of music that the 76ers (or any other team, for that matter) wanted to be associated with in any fashion. Iverson tried to diffuse the controversy by saying that the album was for hip-hop fans only, but the damage had already been done.

    "This is for the people that care about it and love it and respect it," said Iverson said. "If you don't care about hard-core gangsta rap, then don't buy it."

19. Iverson Wins 1999 Scoring Title

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    In just his third year in the league, Allen Iverson averaged 26.8 points per game and captured his first NBA scoring title at the end of the 1998-99 season.

    Iverson's finest performance during the lockout-shortened campaign was a Feb. 12 matchup against the Spurs in which he scored a season-high 46 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists.

    Not only was 1998-99 the first season in which Iverson was selected to the All-NBA First team, it was also the first time that he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the playoffs. The 76ers would upset the No. 3-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round before getting swept by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

18. Iverson Stings the Hornets

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    Statistically, Allen Iverson's best playoff performance came against the New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs.

    In Game 1, Iverson went off for 55 points as the 76ers defeated the Hornets 98-90. The 55 points were A.I.'s career playoff high—only Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Rick Barry have scored as many points in a single playoff game.

    Iverson—who also had eight assists and four rebounds—shot nearly 66 percent from the field (21-for-32), and finished 10-for-11 from the free throw line.

17. Iverson Steals Game Against the Wizards

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    On Nov. 26, 2005, the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards were tied at 114 late in an early-season divisional matchup. With 3.3 seconds remaining in overtime, Iverson stole the Wizards' inbound pass at half court, drove to the basket and laid the ball in with two-tenths of a second left, sealing the victory for the Sixers.

    After the layup, Iverson ran around the court at the Wachovia Center with his hand cupped do his ear, soaking in the adulation of the crowd.

    "Everything was electric in here," said Iverson postgame. "It was one of those games you remember."

    Little known fact: Iverson's clinching layup was only his second game-winning basket in his nine-year NBA career to that point.

16. Iverson Wins 1997 NBA Rookie of the Year Award

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    Iverson lived up to every bit of the hype during his first year in the league, capturing the 1997 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

    His debut season in the NBA was filled with a number of memorable moments, including a string of five straight games in which he scored 40 points or more.

    As a rookie, he averaged 23.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 4.1 RPG and 2.1 SPG, and he led the 76ers in points, minutes and assists. Unfortunately, his individual success didn't translate into wins for his team: the 76ers would finish the year 22-60.

15. Iverson Drops 60 Against the Magic

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    With three scoring titles to his credit, it was already clear that Iverson was adept at scoring the basketball. However, during a midseason contest against the Orlando Magic in 2005, he took it to the next level by scoring 60 points in a 112-99 76ers' victory.

    "I score a career high and we won the game," Iverson said. "That's how you draw it up in your dreams."

    Iverson shot 17-for-36 from the field and made 24 of his 27 free throws en route to his 60 points. For good measure, he chipped in six assists, five steals and four rebounds.

    "I've never witnessed a performance like this," said then-Sixers coach Jim O'Brien. "This is the greatest performance I've ever witnessed."

14. A.I. Sets Playoff Record with 10 Steals in 1999

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    In the first home playoff game of his career, Allen Iverson put on a show for the fans at the sold-out First Union Center in the spring of 1999.

    In Game 3 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, Iverson scored 33 points and set an NBA playoff record with 10 steals in a 97-85 victory over the Orlando Magic.

    Iverson was always known for being a bundle of kinetic energy on the court, and his first-ever home playoff game in a Sixers' uniform was no different.

    "I was so excited that even when I was just standing there I wanted to be moving," said Iverson. "Even during the timeouts, I just couldn't stand still."

13. Iverson Scores 50 as a Rookie

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    In a dazzling rookie season, perhaps the most impressive moment came during a relatively meaningless game in Gund Arena on April 12, 1997.

    That night, Allen Iverson scored 50 points in a 125-118 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game marked the fourth straight outing in which Iverson scored 40 points or more.

    On the evening, Iverson was 17-for-32 from the field (5-for-9 from beyond the arc), and 11-for-18 from the free throw line.

    "He put on a magnificent display," said Cleveland Cavaliers' coach Mike Fratello.

    Two days later, he would drop 40 points against the Washington Bullets—the five straight games with 40 points or more set a rookie record that stands to this day.

12. A.I. Named MVP of 2001 All-Star Game

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    Midway through the 76ers' magical 2000-01 season, Iverson was selected as a starter for the Eastern Conference in the 2001 NBA All-Star Game.

    With the West holding a 21-point 4th quarter lead, Iverson sparked a comeback for the East by scoring 15 points during the last nine minutes of the game.

    Thanks in large part to two clutch three-pointers by Stephon Marbury, the East won the game 111-110. Iverson led all players with 25 points and was named the MVP of the contest. During the trophy presentation, Iverson made a plea to 76ers' head coach Larry Brown who also headed up the East squad that evening at the MCI Center.

    "Where's my coach at?" he asked. "Where's Coach Brown?"

    Brown and Iverson frequently butted heads on and off of the court, but it was clear at that moment that both men had at least a mutual respect for one another, despite their differences.

11. Iverson Tells Lakers to "Come to Philly"

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    Two nights after an improbable 107-101 victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, the 76ers gave Los Angeles all they could handle in Game 2. At the end, the Sixers didn't have anyone who could handle Shaquille O'Neal (28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, 8 blocks), and they lost 98-89.

    Late in the game, Iverson (who finished with 23 points) was overheard telling Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers to "Come to Philly!" as the fourth quarter was coming to a close. The Finals would be shifting to the First Union Center for the next three games, and the first two games of the Finals had shown that the scrappy 76ers could go toe-to-toe with the defending NBA champions.

10. Sixers Fall to Lakers in 2001 NBA Finals

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    In a hard-fought five-game set, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the 2001 NBA Finals.

    Even in defeat, the series—and the playoff run leading up to it—helped define Iverson's legacy. No longer was he a player who simply accumulated stats—he was now the type of transcendent superstar who could put a team on his back and lead them to the NBA Finals.

    In the playoffs that year, Iverson averaged 32.9 points, 6.1 assists and 4.7 points per game. More importantly, he led the 76ers to the franchise's first appearance in the NBA Finals since they captured the title over the Lakers in 1983. In the 10 years since, the team has only won a single playoff series.

9. Iverson Takes Control of Eastern Conference Semifinals

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    Allen Iverson and Vince Carter went virtually shot-for-shot in the opening game of the 76ers-Raptors Eastern Conference semifinal matchup in 2001.

    Iverson would finish Game 1 with 36 points, eight rebounds, four assists and seven steals, while Carter would score 35 and had the most important stat of them all—one victory.

    Three days later, Iverson would make his mark on the series by scoring 54 points, leading the 76ers to a 97-92 win over the Raptors.

    "I always feel the only person who can stop me is myself," said Iverson after scoring 19 of the 76ers' final 20 points.

    Other than starting point guard Eric Snow (who had 10 points), no other Sixer finished in double figures.

8. Iverson Goes for 52 in Game 5 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals

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    On the same day that he received the 2001 NBA MVP trophy, Allen Iverson had the most valuable performance of the night in the NBA playoffs. In the 76ers' 121-88 blowout victory over the Toronto Raptors, Iverson scored 52 points, shooting a fantastic 21-for-32 from the field.

    Raptors' point guards Chris Childs and Alvin Williams had no answer for A.I., who was in the zone almost as soon as the game tipped off.

    "I just knew I had to come out and play basketball," said Iverson. "Just take my time, not try to do too much, try and catch a rhythm. And once I got a rhythm, stay in it."

7. Iverson Becomes Playmaker, Leads 76ers to Eastern Conference Finals

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    You could have gotten tremendous odds if you had bet someone that Allen Iverson wouldn't lead the 76ers in scoring in Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals—but that's exactly what happened.

    Iverson's shot wasn't falling that night—he finished 8-for-27 from the field with 21 points—so he turned into a facilitator, handing out 16 assists in the 76ers' 88-87 victory. Aaron McKie actually led the Sixers in scoring with 22 points, while Dikembe Mutombo added 10 points and 17 rebounds.

    The most notable part of the day actually came that morning—Toronto's Vince Carter elected to attend his graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina and missed the team's shootaround. Carter was widely criticized for the move, especially after missing a fall away, 21-footer at the buzzer which would have given Toronto the victory.

6. Iverson Knocks off Milwaukee's "Big Three", Leads 76ers to NBA Finals

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    In Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, Milwaukee's "Big Three" of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson combined for 70 points, but none of them had an answer for Allen Iverson, who led the 76ers to a 108-91 win.

    Iverson had an epic performance for the Sixers, finishing with 44 points, seven assists and six rebounds. The win gave Philadelphia its first berth in the NBA Finals since the 1982-83 season.

    At the end of the game, Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo hoisted the Eastern Conference Championship trophy while chants of "Beat LA!" rained down upon them, courtesy of the First Union Center crowd.

5. A.I. Wins 2001 NBA MVP Award

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    It was only inevitable that a player with Iverson's talent would eventually win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. What no one expected is that when it did finally happen, then-head coach Larry Brown would sit on Iverson's lap and embrace his mercurial superstar. That's exactly what happened, however, when "The Answer" was given the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in May of 2001.

    "He's not only the best player on the team, he's become a great teammate," said Brown. "I'm like a proud father watching him develop and the way he plays and to recognize the heart he has."

    In 2000-01, Iverson averaged 31.1 points (en route to capturing his second scoring title), 4.6 assists and an NBA-leading 2.5 steals per game.

    "I'm still the same person, but I'm older, I'm wiser and I'm more mature," Iverson said.

    Iverson became the first Sixer to win the award since Moses Malone won it following the 1982-83 season.

4. Iverson Drafted No. 1 Overall in 1996

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    One of the best decisions ever made by the Philadelphia 76ers was probably their easiest.

    With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the 76ers selected a young point guard named Allen Iverson from Georgetown University.

    He wasn't tall (he was listed at 6'0", though many doubt the accuracy of that figure), he wasn't big (his 167 pounds made him one of the lightest players in the NBA), but he possessed an innate ability to score. Iverson was a consensus All-American during his sophomore—and final—season with the Hoyas, and led the Big East in scoring in 1995-96 with 25.4 points per game.

    Before the cornrows and before the tattoos, Iverson strode to the podium on draft night and accepted the 76ers jersey handed to him by NBA Commissioner David Stern. From that moment on, he—and the entire NBA—would never been the same again.

3. Iverson Steps over Tyronn Lue in 2001 NBA Finals

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    Very few people remember that the Lakers dominated the 76ers for the better part of the game. Even fewer people recall the fact that Iverson lit up the Lakers for 30 first-half points before the Lakers' Tyronn Lue checked in and harassed the Sixers' shooting guard into a mediocre second-half performance.

    What everyone does remember is that in overtime, Iverson crossed up Lue on the wing, knocked down a step-back 20-footer, and then stepped over a fallen Lue in the ultimate display of swagger.

    It was frustration mixed with contempt with a dash of disdain tossed in. That one move—the climax of the 76ers' 107-101 victory—created hope in the hearts of Philadelphia fans that maybe, just maybe, their beloved basketball team could knock off the Goliath known as the Los Angeles Lakers.

2. Iverson's Crossover on Michael Jordan

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    There are certain moments in sports history where you'll always remember where you were when it happened.

    On March 12, 1997, Allen Iverson gave us one of those moments.

    Late in a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls, Allen Iverson found himself matched up one-on-one against Michael Jordan.

    At the start of the sequence, Iverson sized up Jordan at the top of the key and then dribbles behind the 3-point line. He gives Jordan an abbreviated version of his crossover, which causes Jordan to over-commit to Iverson's left. As soon as Jordan collects himself, Iverson performs an even more violent crossover, and Jordan is left flailing at air as Iverson gains enough space to knock down an 18-foot jumper.

    "I gave him a little cross to see would he bite on it," said Iverson, recounting the moment. "I let him set his feet and then I stepped it back again."

1. Iverson's Infamous "Practice" Rant

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    Despite scoring nearly 25,000 points and leading an under-manned team to the 2001 NBA Finals, Allen Iverson will always be defined by the events of May 7, 2002.

    Mere days after getting bounced out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, Iverson gave a rambling, 35-minute, expletive-filled press conference, highlighted by the repeated use of the word "practice." Iverson had been frequently criticized in the media by not having the most diligent practice habits, and everything suddenly came to a head.

    "It was just being young and definitely immature. I wish it wouldn't have ever happened," said Iverson, reflecting back on that day. "But you learn from experiences like that... I think it sent the wrong message, especially to kids. You can't be a scoring champion and an MVP and an All-Star and all of that without practice."

    More than nine years later, Iverson's now-infamous "We talkin' about practice" sound bite remains a pop culture staple, referenced recently by athletes (Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers) and non-athletes (actor Charlie Sheen) alike.