It was June 26, 1996 when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Allen Iverson first overall out of Georgetown University. These were the days when your Philly sports fix came from a Prism cable box. The Sixers were coming off an 18-win season, reminiscent of the current state of the Sixers. On Saturday night the SIxers, in the midst of an 11-game home losing streak, honored the man who routinely sold out the CoreStates/First Union/Wachovia Center. The Answer came back one last time to pack out the house. One last love fest.
Allen Iverson epitomized Philly to the core, more than any other athlete I've ever seen. He left every ounce of himself out there on the court and we embraced him for it. He played with the heart of a giant and didn't back down for nobody. He played among the bigs sacrificing his body for every bucket. For a man who made it look so easy, he played so hard.
The Sixers are an iconic team, rich in history. Allen Iverson restored tradition. In 2001 he took the 76ers back to the promise land. In Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals Iverson took over the 2nd quarter on his way to 30 first half points. And sealed the game in overtime with a 3-point shot over Tryonn Lue and the infamous exclamation point as he brashly stepped over the helpless Lue.
It was a season and a team that Philly could stand behind. A bunch of scrappy, blue-collar, hard-working ballplayers led by the biggest and baddest baller in the league. He carried the entire team and an entire city on his back. And the weight never slowed him down.
AI was counter cultural to a league filled with Michael Jordans and Karl Malones. He put out rap albums in his down time and hated practice, we talkin bout practice?!?
He was the 2001 NBA MVP, an 11 time All-Star, 4 time scoring champ, NBA Rookie of the Year, and 2 time All-Star game MVP.
Saturday night the Wachovia center was aptly decorated for the Iverson party from head to toe. Banners, signs, patches, jerseys and a long line of Sixer greats on hand to honor AI.
Another great was justly added to the rafters in between Charles Barkley and Mo Cheeks. Allen Iverson Forever.
As the Sixers limp to their worst record since 1995-96, the year before AI was drafted, it was only fitting that #3 sold out the arena one last time. Bringing life back into a building in need of something to cheer about. He cupped his hand to his ear soaking in his favorite tune, 20,000 screaming phans, all there to see him.
"I am Philly," Iverson said. "It's always going to be that way."