WASHINGTON — Allen Iverson was as real as you come across from professional athletes. Iverson announced his retirement Thursday and there was plenty of talk about what he’ll be remembered for and what his legacy might be, or if he’s a Hall of Famer.
I was nine-years-old the first time I saw Iverson in that gray Georgetown uniform, before the cornrows, the tattoos or his famous rant about ‘practice’. What I remember fondly was a guy who wore every game on his sleeve and truly loved the game of basketball. Iverson was the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft and I immediately became a Philadelphia 76ers fan.
Right off the bat, Iverson made it clear he was ready to play on another level by winning Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 23 points and seven assists per game. He even had a chance to go one-on-one against Michael Jordan. Jordan became one of the first victims of Iverson’s patented crossover dribble.
The 2000-01 season was Iverson’s finest hour. He led Philadelphia to 10 straight wins to start the season and a spirited run to the NBA Finals and a regular season MVP award. The Sixers beat the Toronto Raptors - led by Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady and the Milwaukee Bucks - led by Sam Cassell, Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson on its way to the Eastern Conference Championship.Game after game in the 2001 playoffs, ‘The Answer’ wouldn’t be denied and the world marveled at his ability to score in so many different ways. Iverson scored 44 in the deciding Game 7 in front of his home crowd to put away Milwaukee, but his greatest performance was on the horizon.
No one gave Philadelphia a chance to upset the defending champion Lakers, but in Game 1 Iverson put on one of the greatest single-game performances in Finals history. Iverson’s 48 points led the Sixers to an overtime victory and shocked the basketball world. The defining moment of the night, and possibly the Finals was Iverson’s step back corner jumper over Laker defender Tyronn Lue, who was placed on the Los Angeles playoff roster for the possibility to cover Iverson in the Finals.