That’s not to say Iverson didn’t accomplish a lot during his time with the 76ers. After all, his 2001 season is up there with one the all-timers and there was a stretch where watching Iverson was just as exciting as it was during the era that featured Doc, Bird, Magic and Jordan.
By now, of course, most folks who follow these types of things have heard the news regarding Allen Iverson's desire to be traded from Philadelphia, and his boss's desire to accommodate his request. Nevertheless, unlike everything else that occurred during Iverson's past decade with the 76ers, the upcoming ending to his time is not at all unpredictable. Everyone saw it heading this way years, and years ago.
Then again, if it didn't end badly it would never end.
Iverson was a rarity in the post-Jordan NBA in that he was a player that was actually worth the steep price of admission. Throw in the fact that he is built more like a middle-distance runner than an NBA MVP and it made Iverson even more intriguing.
But intriguing is pretty much all Iverson was during his soon-to-be completed career as a 76er. He was never the self-proclaimed “Answer” despite carrying the team on his narrow shoulders to five games of the NBA Finals in that magical 2001 season. Oh sure, Iverson made his teams competitive, interesting and a threat, but he never made them better.
He never made them a contender.
With the 76ers, Iverson was a lot like a middle-distance runner on a track team or a collegiate wrestler. In those competitions the focus is on the individual result with the team a secondary thought. With Iverson the only way to discuss his game was to talk about the numbers.
For instance, Iverson was a lazy team defensive player but always seemed to poach enough steals to make the league-leader lists and even crack the All-Defensive charts a few times. Meanwhile, Iverson averaged 28.1 points per game during his career on nearly 24 shots per game. Compare that to Doc (24.2 points/18.8 shots), Bird (24.3/19.3), Jordan (30/23), or Barkley (22.1/14.5) and it’s clear that Iverson is the perfect NBA player for the video game age.
For a historical context, perhaps the best comparisons are notorious gunners Bernard King, Alex English, Dominique Wilkins or George Gervin… without the finger roll.
Or the ring.
That last part is hardly Iverson’s fault. Actually, Iverson was always adamant about winning being his top priority. It’s just that winning is more than playing hard in the regular-season games scattered on those nights between November and April. Winning is an everyday thing. It’s a summertime time. A weight room thing. A get-to-bed-early-so-you-can-recover-for-the-next-one thing.
Winning also takes a commitment from the front office, too, and oftentimes it appeared as if the Sixers weren’t putting team together with the correct pieces. Whether that’s a by-product of having Iverson on the team or the state of the modern NBA is for smarter people to figure out, the point is that if Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving or Magic Johnson needed the right teammates, Allen Iverson certainly needed them, too.
Let’s not pile on the criticisms of Iverson and the 76ers because that’s not totally fair. Surely Iverson was an inspired player and tons of fun to watch. Like it was stated previously here, those traits are hard to find in the current NBA. But it’s hard to wonder if there was something more with Iverson. Did he get the most out of his ability and talents or was some of it wasted? Make no mistake about it; Iverson gave us everything in games and in interviews when he chose to do them. But it’s hard not to wonder if there was some more left.
Could there have been more for the Sixers and Iverson during the past decade or are we just being greedy?
You know, greedy like Iverson dribbling the ball with the shot clock winding down.