Friday Fire: Why Allen Iverson Needs to Come Back Home and Retire a Philadelphia 76’er

As I begin to read When the Game Was Ours, I’m reminded how my sports formative years were dominated by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. This was a particular frustrating time because my NBA hero was Julius Erving. Just when I thought Doc would dominate the NBA, Larry and Magic took over the game with a versatile exotic flair rocked by disparate personalities.

I say this because my love for the Philadelphia 76’ers has waned over the years and not simply because I should be an objective writer. It began with their inexplicable trade of Moses Malone a mere two years after Philly lost one playoff game…en route to the 1983 NBA championship.

The title was such a proud Sixers moment after so many close but no cigar opportunities. I was so happy for Doc and on the occasions where I’ve crossed his path professionally, I made sure I expressed this sentiment.

As far as the Malone trade, what was the organization thinking by trading a sure fire Hall of Fame player for Jeff Ruland? Ruland played a total of seven Sixers games because of knee injuries.

Moses scored 51 points in his return. I steamed but I was glad he gave it to ‘em.

Charles Barkley burst onto the scene the year before the trade in 1984 and gave Sixers fans a new dream during his Sixers tenure.

Barkley joined a proud organization and became the face of Sixers basketball when Maurice Cheeks inexplicably was made aware he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs by the media as he pulled into his driveway in August of 1989. The moment with Cheeks was played nationally and I still get a pit in my stomach thinking about it.

Charles became a perennial all-star and the team had moderate success until the City of Brotherly Love could no longer handle his ability, depth and country strong outspoken personality.

He just wanted to win after being surrounded with so much talent early in his career. A guy gets spoiled you know?

I remember watching the Sixers in 1992 on the road against Phoenix and Barkley was magnificent…pouring in 47. Something stirred in me during that game. I was getting off work from the post office and stopped in the break room before I clocked out. Chuck was killin’ the Suns with baskets from all over the floor. It’s not a surprise the Suns acquired Barkley in a steal that off season. I bet that game had something to do with their decision and for the Sixers to trade Barkley without acquiring Kevin Johnson was ludicrous.

Sixers blood began gushing from my Philadelphia soul until true love for the organization became non-existent. I have the newspapers stored away from that heart breaking trade and I’ve yet to read them.

What did Barkley put up in his return? A triple double.

My Sixers blood was dead. What was going to go down that would resuscitate my Sixers life?

A 1996 Bubba Chuck transfusion.

It was like a first breath.

When Allen Iverson signed his letter of intent to play at Georgetown University, the basketball world’s pulse began to quicken. He was electrifying. His athleticism remarkable.

The irony in Governor Douglas Wilder granting clemency to Iverson for a ridiculous 4 month maiming by mob jail sentence will live in infamy. It was almost as if Virginia’s first Black governor served simply to right a wrongful and dastardly racist injustice.

John Thompson became a firm hand in his college development but Iverson’s star was too bright and to the NBA he number one pick went…confident…sui generis…talented.

He was as can’t miss a pro prospect as anybody ever has been in the league and when you put up 30 in your debut against another young star in Ray Allen the star you shine so damn brightly takes off.

(Is it coincidence Allen’s first game was against the Bucks and Jennings‘ against the Sixers? See how time recycles? Just imagine if Allen returns to Philly and young Brandon is his opponent? Wheeew)

The next clip is of the Rookie Game in the year the Top 50 was unveiled. See all the legends? Some gone, some still here…

During his time here, Allen became one the most dynamic players in the NBA. He won his 4 scoring titles. He won his NBA MVP trophy. He was All-Star MVP twice. He’s sixth all time on the NBA points per game list. That is something that will be appreciated over time. He’s thousands ahead of Calvin Murphy as the leader in points by a player six foot and under. He is one of three players in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 5 assists and two steals…three.

If you don’t have a replacement for a player, do not make the move. If you do not have a replacement for a coach, do not make the move. What are you going on GM’s when you make a move with no true plan? Are your ears to the street or are you listening to the national opinion of a player or coach and funneling a negative image through your fan base so you don’t have to make a move?

Every piece traded for Allen is no longer with the Sixers. Andre Miller (great Portland piece on Andre and yes my work with him is featured) was unappreciated as well.

What are you thinking? What’s actually best for the franchise or public relations?

Why do you want to keep the fans dumb?

Have some balls. Straight up.

What really matters when you take a position within an organization? Is it all about you or do you genuinely want to help a franchise reach the pinnacle?

When your team is mired in a losing mindset do you care?

Oh, it’s the other guy’s fault? You are simply doing everything in your power?

This is a proud town. Do something or get out.

He’s Philly gruff and east coast tough. There is no other player representing a particular era more than Allen Iverson has the age of Hip Hop.

He’s as direct as they come. He’s one of the best interviews there is, has been or ever will be. Maybe some members in the media can’t stand Allen because he’ll tell you to kiss his ass if you speak wrong…maybe not…but something is afoul. Someone prove his talent has diminished so much he doesn’t have a 25 point game average still in his soul.

There is no logical explanation that a player with his ability is not playing in the league.

Reminds me of Bonds…

He will dive on the floor. He will sacrifice his body at every instance. He will play until you see his heart bleed all over the arena he shines in. His blood will scream down the faces of fans in attendance who adore him for the fight in his spirit. He lives for the game and though the game must go on, it also owes something to Allen for what he has given to the sport.

From 2004…

Allen wanted help after Larry Brown’s departure and when the Sixers traded for Chris Webber, some thought Webb’s presence would help facilitate a more sound team structure because of his versatility and easy going personality. Webb’s knee limited his athleticism and as a result, the Sixers lost a hard fought series to Brown and the eventual champion Pistons that year in the playoffs.

Webb had some nice moments but he just wasn’t the same player and could no longer do it for the long haul. His knee was grinding bone. Sense that pain.

The fallout here was bad with both players…but it was Iverson who finally had to realize that he in fact could be traded and when it transpired, most didn’t now how to react…so the dogs came running, barking, biting, scratching….clawing and Allen was vilified in the Philly press. Fans began to not like him here despite his loyalty to the franchise.

When Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets (Allen was averaging a career high 33.7 points a game and was traded for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks in the 2007 NBA Draft), he joined a team trying themselves to become one of the leagues’ best but this was another situation. This was Carmelo Anthony’s team and even Allen Iverson wouldn’t be taking the last shot…he would be passing off to one of the leagues best young stars.

Allen and Melo gelled early but as time went on there was definitely something missing.

There was no defensive identity and the Lakers swept the Nuggets in the first round despite lofty expectations.

When Allen returned to Philly, the Wachovia Center was as loud as I’ve ever heard it. The fans initially cheered Allen but booed him late in a Sixers victory. He did have 32. Great atmosphere for a game. The standing ovation they gave him thundered though the souls of everyone in attendance. When he kissed the floor you knew the moment was special.

It was so crazy to see him in those powder blue joints.

It was a great game. Miller proved something to Philly that night on his birthday.

I’ll cherish the memory of AI’s return forever.

I’m glad I was there because the spirit of the moment was channeled into this very piece.

He played another season with the Nuggets and was subsequently shipped to Detroit for one of the best leaders the NBA has ever seen in Chauncey Billups (also Antonio McDyess and center Cheikh Samb).

Billups was the right fit because he was a true point guard despite having above average scoring ability in the clutch and could also play veteran defense because of his strength. He was a Detroit fixture and paired with Rip Hamilton, the Pistons had one of the best guard tandems in the league.

Why would they mess that up is beyond me.

It was murky to say the least in Detroit. Iverson didn’t want to come off Michael Curry’s bench and went public with his disdain for doing so. Joe Dumars wasn’t having it and declared Iverson wouldn’t play for Detroit the remainder of the 2009 season.

What a mess.

In September of this year, AI signed with a young upstart Memphis Grizzlies team searching for an identity. It wasn’t a good fit and again Iverson spoke out on coming off the bench. The parties came to a mutual agreement and Allen was let go after a mere three games in Memphis.

The Knicks expressed interest but Donnie Walsh ultimately passed. I thought Allen would thrive in D’Antoni’s system. His best games were in the Garden. He’s a true superstar so he thrived in the black diamond shine of Gotham City.

I guess we’ll never find out what happened in NY regarding the Knicks declining to sign AI but that courtship was weird to say the least.

After the Knicks expressed they weren’t interested in Allen, I was in contact with the Sixers organization and of course I asked about the possibility of his return. The words I received is that there is no way Allen returns here but there would be no official statement made by the organization (can you say there’s a window left open) I’m shocked. This is a natural move despite the caustic effect Allen might have on the team because of his skill set.

Mediocrity is Sixers perched like a city pigeon on a boulevard live wire, so why wouldn’t you buck the trend and pull the trigger? The fans would not boo his return. He is one of theirs and he feels the same way about the fans.

What else is the team going to do to somehow join the elite? Elton is still banged up. Eddie Jordan is trying to find the magical piece that helps a young talented team get to the next level.

Is Allen the answer that would put the Sixers over the top? No, but both parties should swallow their pride and make the move.

So now Allen Iverson has retired and the two most influential coaches (John Thompson and Larry Brown) in his life are aghast.

I say bring him back home and allow this Hall of Fame player to retire a Philadelphia 76’er. After all, this is the town where he created his mystique so why should another town benefit?

Allen Iverson is a Philadelphia 76’er. Period.

When a team fires a coach that is a city legend and has yet to find a capable replacement, the organization is desperate so just make the logical player personnel move.

Mo Cheeks should have never been fired so at least have a sense of dignity that one day you can cherish.

Philly is it the media image of Allen prohibiting a city wide groundswell which would result in bringing the brotha back home? Turn off the radio…turn off that bs. Folks are speaking without knowing…just repeating what they hear. What does that help?

The fans of Philadelphia loved Allen Iverson. He was one of the most popular athletes to ever play in the city. Look what he gave the fans. He took the Sixers to the NBA Finals…basically alone.

Why does Allen warrant staunch criticism of at every turn?

He is what he is. Take him for that. At least you know what you are getting.

He is one of the most unappreciated athletes in Philadelphia history.

It didn’t end well here but has the team been as good since? With Sixers pg Louis Williams out 6-8 weeks, why wouldn’t you want Ed Stefanski to bring back the only athlete Sixers fans truly paid to see? This move should be so obvious and it screams everything Broad Street Bully natural.

My concerns with Allen passing left off the pick and roll are documented. He doesn’t trust his teammates enough to get it done. He tries to find his shot no matter who is on the floor. He has his faults and maybe this is the reason why he might be better off joining a veteran laden team with a strong coach who won’t take any bs from anyone.

Naaaaaah. Bring. Him. Home. Now.

He doesn’t want to come off the bench and with his talent, I don’t totally disagree with him. Crazy how a selfish society now calls a player of his caliber selfish. Allen wants to win a championship more than just being known as a dynamic scorer.

That being said, there are great players who have never won a championship and Allen just might be one no matter what he does.

Just bring him back home. You never know.

I bet he’d even come to practice.

11 Responses to “Friday Fire: Why Allen Iverson Needs to Come Back Home and Retire a Philadelphia 76’er”

  1. HarveyDent says:

    Beautiful column, Miz, and I really feel the love you have for Philly, the Sixers, and AI in this article, warts and all. AI is a true Sixer like you said and still has the skill set to be a viable player in the NBA but this ain’t no fairy tale because you know better than most of us on this board about the inner workings of sports teams and while winning is nice nowadays these organizations place just as much of an emphasis on public relations. AI was always bad for the bottom line of the Sixers and Stern’s league because he was a true maverick who refused to follow the track laid out by Jordan. He was going to rock his ‘rows and his tats and roll with his ‘posse’ while sporting saggy jeans and a white T. He was young, black, and hip-hop to his core and all the fines and mainstream media condemnation wasn’t going to change that. But just as he was bad for business in the PR sense he had that transcendent athletic ability and intelligence that wasn’t going to be denied and by remaining true to himself he was able to will himself to all his awards, accolades, and team wins. He also forced the powers that run not just the NBA but sports in general to accept him on his own terms because he stayed true to himself, his adopted city, his team, and the game. The Devil however is in the details and we all know that Shaitan never sleeps but waits patiently for his opening. Ol’ Scratch got his opening when the trade rumors started concerning AI because that was the crack needed to raise doubts about the only thing the mainstream could never question and that was his talent. Now three teams later AI is out of the game he loves by his choice only in the strictest sense of the word.

    I think we’ll see Iverson on an NBA roster again before all is said and done but it won’t be in Philly and he won’t be the featured player anymore. It will happen but AI will have to swallow hard and accept a more limited role even if it means coming off the bench because for all his heart and realness no GM is going to build a team around a six nothing shoot first point guard on the wrong side of thirty. Those are the facts and even though BubbaChuck is the Type A, big dog personality he needs to get his internal mute button going and just be a good soldier and play his role until his chance comes around again. That’s going to be difficult but it will have to be done if he wants back into the Lig.

    PS. Miz, tell a bald-faced lie and get the news out the Sixers are interested in CP3 to get some kind of buzz going on that. Paul, Brand, and Iggy on the same team will tear the LIG up and we both know this, mang.

  2. Mizzo says:

    I tried fam, the money just won’t work.

    I’m getting word the Sixers are about to sign Allen Iverson. I won’t gloat, but I have to say I told you so.

  3. KevDog says:

    Miz-Nice write up. I love that Ai is going back to Philly and love the fact that he will likely start and have a chance to show he is still a force..

    I forget that you’re out of Philly. Did I ever mention to you that Clifford Brown is from Wilmington? One day I’m definitely going to visit his gravesite.

    HD-I don ‘t think CP3 in Philly would make them contenders. CP3 is IMO, extremely uni-dimensional and over-rated. I doubt he’ll ever win a ring.

    LOL at Tiger. Dude has used his “Opt Out” clause to avoid actually being black. I think he’s about to find out what’s what.

  4. Mizzo says:

    Thanks KD. I attended his Jazz Festival in Wilmington for years. Great time.

    Re Tiger: Who got the camera?!?!

  5. HarveyDent says:

    Miz

    You can say “I told you so” because you called it but I’m still waiting for the Sixers to officially sign him before I believe it. He would be a good fit with this Sixers team playing with a potential force in the middle in Elton Brand and Marrese Speights then with Lil AI on the wing and Lou Williams potentially coming off the bench. The thing is will AI buy into what Eddie Jordan is selling and come on board as a soldier ready to help the team win. I’d love to see #3 back in red, white, and blue and even though I didn’t see even the potential of it happening I’ll be just as excited as you, Miz, when it does happen.

    Re: Tiger’s Fender Bender
    Damn! Who knew Elin had that much soul? Tiger better leave them blonde ice princesses alone.

  6. HarveyDent says:

    KD

    CP3

  7. HarveyDent says:

    Sorry…let me do this again

    KD

    CP3 is going through some growing pains now but he’s still a top PG in the LIG and I’m agitating for a trade, AI’s status notwithstanding, because I think that a change of scene would get his mind back on the game.

  8. Mizzo says:

    When I have my finger on the pulse. I’m rarely wrong. You just had to be in that press conference to understand what I felt that day. His heart never left.

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  10. [...] not bragging by any stretch (not at all), because this was a natural move the minute he left for Denver. Just so happens their young point [...]

  11. [...] is beginning to buzz about the Sixers for the first time since Iverson left, returned (I called it here) and left again; Thad has done everything that has been asked of him, is a great character guy and [...]

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