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Philly Fans Shouldn't Want Allen Iverson to Flame Out

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2009

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 8:  Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers pushes the ball upcourt during the game against the Toronto Raptors  on November 8, 2006 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Raptors defeated the Sixers 106-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Behind Boston and Los Angeles, the Philadelphia 76ers have featured some of the finest stars in NBA history.

Yet some NBA fans appear to be rejoicing as one of Philly's finest, Allen Iverson, stands on the precipice of being forced to retire unwillingly.

And if you're true to Philly, or to the game of basketball, that rejoicing must come to an end.  Soon. 

From the unprecedented Wilt Chamberlain and his 100-point game in the '60s to Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone in the early '80s...

from Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins and his daily new dunk names to Charles Barkley, one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history...

the Sixers have welcomed some of the wildest, most unique, captivating players in NBA history, and they've managed to capture the imagination and the hearts of Philadelphians for decades.

But when the Sixers traded Barkley on June 17, 1992, to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang (and if you're asking yourself, "Who?"...well, rightfully so), Sixers fans saw the writing on the wall. 

After having just missed the playoffs in the 1991-92 season, for only the second time in Barkley's eight years as a Sixer, what hope did they have after trading Barkley for 60 cents on the dollar?

Sixers fans were right.  The next four seasons were one giant unmitigated disaster, with the Sixers never exceeding 26 wins in a single season. 

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There was only one plus side to their misery: the team was so putrid (see: an 18-64 record in the 1995-96 season) that they ended up winning the 1996 NBA draft lottery.  And who was coming into the NBA that year...?

A sophomore guard from Georgetown named Allen Iverson had just finished tearing up the NCAA and guiding his Hoyas into the Elite Eight when he declared himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft. 

Despite one of the deepest drafts in NBA history (a young man by the name of Kobe Bryant would be selected 13th that year), the Sixers put Iverson at the very top of their list, as the 76ers glaringly lacked playmakers.  (Does Shawn Bradley ring a bell?  Or a gag reflex?)
 
Luckily for the Sixers, Iverson would virtually re-define what being a "playmaker" meant.

Iverson single-handedly changed the fortunes of the 76ers franchise for a decade.  He was named Rookie of the Year in 1996-97.  He won the All-Star MVP award twice—in 2001 and 2005—and he was a 10-time All-Star over the course of his career. 

He won the NBA scoring title four different times: 1998-99, back-to-back in 2000-01 and 2001-02, and finally in 2004-05.

Iverson has a career scoring average of 27.1 points, fifth all-time.  He was the team in 2000-01, as he won the league's MVP award and put the team on his back the whole year.

He alone carried the Sixers to the Finals, despite them having no business being there. (And, oh, did it show against the Showtime Lakers.)

So when I hear about or read Sixers fans happy to see what's happened to "The Answer" since his departure from Philly in the 2006-07 season, I get a little nauseous.

In case you've forgotten some of the absurd things that A.I. did with a basketball during his time in Philly, take a moment and go here .  Or here .  Video tributes to "The Answer" can sum up his achievements and abilities far better than any words ever will.

And who can forget Iverson's famed, ruthless crossover ?  (Seriously, watch that link.  The video's caption says it all: "Allen Iverson breaks both of Antonio Daniel's ankles.")  This is the move that could even fool Michael Jordan.

This guy, above everything else, was a warrior during his time with the Sixers.  Unlike the Eagles, who haven't strung together solid back-to-back efforts since 2004, Iverson came to work each day to put everything he could out on the court, and always did it his way.

With a 6'0", diminutive body frame, NBA pundits predicted that Iverson's high-flying, high-contact style of play would take a toll on his body and dramatically shorten his career. 

Well... A.I.'s 34, and if he could learn to come off the bench with a smile on his face, he'd have a guaranteed spot on an NBA roster this season.  No signs of slowing down yet.

Trust me, I understand being upset about the circumstances under which he left Philadelphia.  I, too, can't get over the fact that the Sixers gave up a future Hall of Famer for Andre Miller and loose change, but don't hold that against Iverson.  Take up your grudge with Sixers management, and leave Iverson out of it. 

Instead, appreciate Iverson for what he's brought to the NBA over the past 13 years. 

Iverson brought a never-say-die attitude to the Sixers that even allowed them to steal a game in the NBA Finals from the Kobe-Shaq dynasty (and keep in mind...Philly was starting a declining Dikembe Mutombo, Eric Snow, and Aaron McKie alongside him in those Finals). 

This is the guy single-handedly responsible for getting my attention way back when, when I was nothing more than a 10-year-old from a Philly suburb who knew next-to-nothing about basketball.  

The fact that he could make me care about basketball back then...it's a testament to how A.I. managed to draw the whole city together.

Iverson really was "The Answer" for Philly—someone who managed to captivate, excite, and rally a fan base around him. 

So go ahead, fellow Sixers fan or know-it-all media pundit, use your selective amnesia to block out the years of 1996 through 2006, and hate away on Iverson.  But don't say that you love Philly basketball, or basketball in general, if you do.

Because Iverson is good for the game of basketball.  And personally?  I'd be sick to see his career end prematurely like this.

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