Today is an important day for the city of Philadelphia, the 76ers and most importantly, Sixers fans. Allen Iverson is making his return to the Wachovia Center, with his 9th place Denver Nuggets in tow. It's his first trip back to Philly since the trade that seemingly decimated this once proud franchise, but may have actually saved it.
When Iverson takes the floor tonight, I'm expecting him to get a huge ovation. If I was there I'd be cheering for him. He deserves it, for a lot of reasons.
As time has passed and the Sixers have moved on, it's been easy to turn into your average basketball fan and laugh off Iverson's game. When he was a Sixer I spent a great deal of time defending him, as a player, and I came to the realization that if you don't watch him regularly, you can't truly appreciate what a special talent he is. Now that he's in Denver, I check the box scores, I watch the games occasionally, and I often find myself thinking "You know what, he's really not that great." It's a trap so many people have fallen into over the years, and they have their reasons. Perhaps the most infamous press conference a player has ever given caused a great deal of the anti-Iverson sentiment among fans.
Ill-advised to say the least, but probably mis-understood as well. That tape summed up his whole attitude toward the game for a lot of people. That's really a shame, because it doesn't even scratch the surface of the man. If you want to see how special he was as a player watch the video at the bottom of this post. I think his on-court performance is always going to be under-valued by most, even with his eye-popping statistics. The thing that I've missed the most about Iverson, and the thing I'm most grateful for is his heart. When Iverson stepped on the court nothing else in the world mattered to him. He would stop at nothing to win. He'd risk everything on every possession. You don't see passion like that in professional sports today. You rarely see passion like that in life. He truly did play every game like it was his last.
I realize the Sixers are in a much better position right now than they were when Iverson left. Perhaps that was his final gift to this city, leaving. I love the young core we're watching develop right now, but a part of me will always miss watching Iverson play for the Sixers. 2001 was a magical season, and I only wish he and the organization could've met halfway and brought a championship home.
Tip-off is 7pm. I'll be watching with a somewhat heavy heart, and rooting for the Sixers to punish the Nuggets.
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