How Good Was Allen Iverson During His Time With the 76ers?
Iverson was selected first overall by 76ers in an arguably one of the most gifted drafts in NBA history that produced eleven all-stars three of whom have won the MVP award (Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Steve Nash). Allen lived up to the hype from the get-go.
He averaged 40.1 minutes, 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.1 steals per game during his rookie season which resulted in the 'Rookie of the year' award. Despite the successful introduction of their new franchise player Sixers finished '96-'97 season with an abysmal 22-60 record. Changes had to be made.
In '97 Philadelphia assigned Larry Brown as their head coach but the team experienced a rocky start to the '97-'98 campaign having won only 6 out of the first 24 games. Poor form resulted in the trade of Jerry Stackhouse who was at the time one of the leaders of a team.
Sixers got in return two defensive-minded veterans: Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie. Later in the season, Eric Snow would join the team as well and would provide additional support for the backcourt.
From this point on Iverson has become teams' primary option on the offensive end and while it improved the situation Sixers would still finish the regular season with 31-51 record. It was obvious that the team needed to strengthen their roster.
How Iverson changed the Philadelphia 76ers
In '98-'99 season Philadelphia signed defensive anchor Matt Geiger who proved to be a solid addition to the team. Larry Brown also moved Allen to the point guard position. Those moves resulted in Iverson leading the league in scoring but more importantly, Sixers clinched playoffs spot having finished in the sixth spot and were matched with Orlando Magic in the first round.
Much to everyone's surprise, Philly, led by Allen won that series 3 to 1 but got swept in the next round by Indiana Pacers. For the moment, the future looked bright for the team from Philadelphia.
In the following '99-'00 season Sixers finished in the 5th spot and dispatched Hornets in the first round 3 to 1. Next, Iverson and company would be presented with a chance to get their revenge against the Pacers. However, this series would end 4-2 in favor of the team from Indiana. It was no surprise. By that time conflict between Brown and Iverson has reached its peak.
Allen would not only ignore what the coach had to say during timeouts but also started to miss team practices. Things got so tensed that Philly tried to trade Allen in the offseason.
One step too far from an NBA ring
Eventually, trade did not go through and Iverson stayed in Philly but more importantly, his attitude changed. This resulted in 76ers finishing '00-'01 season with 54-28 record. Allen would be named league's MVP as well as winning the All-Star MVP award as well.
However, Theo Ratliff injured his wrist in the mid-season and would not be able to help the team in playoffs. As a result, Sixers traded Ratliff and got in return another experienced big man - Dikembe Mutombo, who had already three 'Defensive Player of the Year' under his belt at this point. On top of that Aaron McKie won the sixth man of the year award. Things looked bright for Sixers heading into the Playoffs. In the first round, they would get matched against their old nemesis Indiana Pacers and would dismantle them in 4 games winning series 3 to 1. After that Sixers would have a tough series against Toronto Raptors but Vince Carter who notoriously did get graduated before game 7 would miss deciding shot, thus allowing Philadelphia to go to the conference finals where they would get matched against Milwaukee Bucks.
That series included a number of controversial decisions in favor of 76ers that would eventually lead to Iverson and company going to the Finals where they would meet a heavy favorites LA Lakers.
To much surprise Sixers won game one away in Los Angeles. Allen scored 48 points and topped it off by stepping over Tyron Lue in over-time. Iverson played phenomenal in that series and averaged 47.8 minutes, 35.6 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game in the Finals but it was not enough.
Shaq overpowered Mutombo, Bryant was on par with Iverson and Lakers bench was simply better and deeper. As a result, LA would win the series 4 to 1.
In the offseason that followed 76ers did make a number of trades. In fact, only six players from the previous year roster would actually stay with the team. Over the '01-'02 season Allen would miss 22 regular-season games mainly due to injuries. However, he would often miss team practices and his reasonings of why he did not show up were not always as valid as they should be.
Those circumstances have led Sixers to be knocked out in the first round of playoffs when they lost 3-2 to Boston Celtics. Larry Brown targeted Allen's habits of missing practices as one of the reasons why 76ers left post-season so early. In return, Iverson responded with an infamous 'practice' rant that went viral.
Why his career declined
Having lost his best friend Allen was in turmoil. He got charged with criminal trespassing, possession of an illegal gun, and seven other counts. Nonetheless, he gathered his will and asked management for two more scorers. That resulted in Mutombo being traded for Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch. In the first round of '03-'04 season 76ers defeated Charlotte Hornets in six games.
However, in spite of having much better supporting cast Iverson still preferred not to pass the ball even when getting double-teamed. That approach led to a second-round exit thanks to Detroit Pistons.
Eventually, Larry Brown left Sixers after '03-'04 season for Pistons where he would eventually win the title. Iverson, on the other hand, stayed with the team until 2006 but would not get another chance to get the ring nor changed his habits of missing practices and shooting the ball even when having bad shooting streaks.
Iverson's relationship with Philadelphia was a rocky one. The main reason for that was his unwillingness to pass the ball and lack of focus outside the court. Despite possessing a tremendous talent and athletic abilities Allen could not cash-in on that and bring the title to the city that adored him so much. Nonetheless, he gave fans something that only a few can give: a show to remember.
We can say that Iverson is pretty underrated and the fact that most lists don‘t consider him as one of the top 5 best shooting guards in the history of the NBA is pretty unfair. Check out the top 5 shooting guards according to BetAmerica.com.
Do you think Iverson should be on that list? Was he punished for not getting an NBA ring during his career? Who would you take out to give place for the 76ers legend?