From the moment Allen stepped into Philly and put up 30 points in his initial NBA coffee sip, he has been electrifying crowds young and old alike with his dazzling talent, heart and competitiveness. Last night was something different. Last night, the Sixers past star became just one of the guys in his return to Philadelphia for at least the rest of the season. This reads long, but I want this to keep over time. Oh, I called it here too. Click the welcome home AI pic to access on SLAM or read below. Be Peace…
by Michael Tillery (videos of me talking with relevant players were removed by the NBA)
Think about it. Your wife files for divorce. She leaves you. Just like that. Takes the kids and everything. Nothing is left but a bunch of tattered memories. Languishing in sorrow and defeat. Almost three years pass. It sucks. You miss your kids. You miss the life you had before everything fell apart.
Then out of the blue, for one day you are granted visitation. Your entire family is there. Festive. Adulation. Everyone is happy to see you. Questions abound from every direction. Everyone wants to know how you are doing. Everyone misses you, but it’s the kids you miss more than anything. You hug them. Hold them tight, but in the back of your mind, you know it’s only temporary. They watch you work with the faces of salt water smiles. Passionate cheers from the hearts of babes. There is no silence. The noise screams to your soul.
You wonder where the time has gone. You wonder why in the hell you aren’t still here.
Then you are away. Floating fast into the abyss.
No more family. No more questions. No more embraces from familiar faces.
You are forced to try other loves who just don’t fit but you try and try harder to fit in despite the heart tugs of the one you thought you would grow old with.
One by one by one the altar beckons. The church is full. Strange people adore you but know you not. Just when the best man pulls out the ring, you walk away.
Now they hate you and some should.
It’s like you are at the local park watching someone’s kids not yours who smile as if they are your own. It feels strange.
Your name is mud dragged as if you never had one.
Even your children begin to turn on you. Family members speak of you as some sort of evil stranger.
You can’t sleep.
Waking up from a dream which actually was a night terror, you pass a mirror as you wipe the cold from your swollen rest deprived eyes.
Your image shifts from angelic to demonic to angelic to the straight skitz.
Not being able to take it anymore, you give up without a scream.
Even the family you once knew turns their back…speaking of you in unfamiliar terms. Wondering what happened to the one they grew up with. Even through the heartache, they still adored you no matter what your transgression. There was love. You battled for them but the war is lost.
Fathers two are on alert. Surprised the soldier they raised has basketball perished despite the absence of visible wounds.
Each knows the life you once lived cannot be matched in a physical realm, but the valor of your soul remains because they know you.
They call for you. They visit you. They are concerned of what darkly awaits around lost corners.
Writers clamor for a reconciliation with your true soul mate. No one believes them, but to them, It seems obvious there is only one way to happiness.
Scavenging dogs, rats in packs and snakes of hate say no way.
Those who have replaced you step aside because of inauspicious injuries. You wonder from afar if the soul you once shined will have you back.
The love of your life contacts you. A meeting is planned. Your heart thumps out of your throat.
“The kids miss you” her Father says. They don’t come around any more. Even the scribes documenting your every step are nonexistent.
“Come back home. We’ll make it work.”
The Father in law you once knew is no longer here. Despite his legendary status, he has been jettisoned. Your siblings are older but the family remains the same.
You agree and ironically, you immediately cross the paths of two altar scorned.
So much travel. So much pain. Then there is happiness. Now you are sane.
The lies of weeping worn eyes shall cry no longer. You are home once again and your family cheers…
Did you feel that? This is not sports you say?
The Answer is back and despite having no legs, Allen Iverson returns home for that closure of sweet release.
I knew this would happen. I really did and to see it all unfold is the reason why I do this. I rode the train in to feel the pulse of Philadelphia. I look around and all I see are 3?s. His 3?s.
I speak to some. What will they say? Do they really miss him or are they on just for the ride:
One was Anthony DiNardo.
SLAM: Anthony, when did you become an Allen Iverson fan?
AD: His rookie year in Philly.
SLAM: Dude you look kind of young. How old were you then?
AD: Six or seven probably. I remember him crossing over Jordan.
SLAM: What attracted you to his talent?
AD: Excellent dribbler…ball handler…great mid-range shooter.
Another was Jerry Cleary:
SLAM: You all are rockin’ all 3?s except for one. What is it about Allen Iverson?
JC: He’s a really good play maker. He’s an entertainer. I don’t know how much of a team guy he is but he just makes everything more exciting to watch and he’s one of the best.
SLAM: What brings you here right now? You could be so many other places tonight.
JC: His hard work and dedication. He’ll be hurt and still play all the time. He gives 110 percent. I like that part. He’s a little guy, but he does big things.
Next is Tom Lyons:
SLAM: When you initially heard Allen Iverson was coming back to town…what?
TL: I was excited. I went right and bought my tickets.
SLAM: Did you think this was actually going to happen before it did?
TL: I was hoping. When he was a free agent this summer, I was hoping they signed him back. I just love AI, so I loved the news when they signed him.
Last was Rob Nave:
SLAM: Do you think Allen Iverson can still be a player in this league?
RN: I definitely think so. He’s getting older and stuff but…the one thing I know is he has the most heart in the League and even though doesn’t have the skills he once had, I think he’ll help the Sixers out definitely.
SLAM: What’s going to happen tonight?
RN: It’s gonna be a wild night.
And a wild night it was…
When Allen took the floor last night everyone in attendance cheered their long lost son. It was 2001 again. There wasn’t an empty seat in the building. Women wore their best. Hair was done and there were fine fragrances of just right sugar and spice. Fellas were excited. Grown men. Young lads. Seniors. Priests. Doctors. Policemen. Fathers.
Before the game, there were hugs all over the place from his former team. Carmelo and Chauncey Billups despite their status in the game are invisible men.
Allen is announced second to last. This is Iguodala’s team now.
He kisses the floor again. I’ve never heard a basketball crowd this loud.
He can’t be physically ready for this. The last week has been crazy but of course he does it. He seems happy to be out there. He doesn’t look for his shot and looks uncomfortable when his teammates…new and old…look for him.
Allen missed his first shot and then scored his first basket off his own tip. How can a man so diminutive by NBA standards be alone under the rim? Seems fated the basket would be so easy.
Andre Iguodala is going off. He has 14 in the first quarter. 18 at the half. Ends with 31 and is as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him. Chauncey is taking advantage of the Answer’s jelly legs and ends with 31 as well on 8 of 15 shooting. He also has 8 rips and 8 his. Coupled with Ty Lawson’s 12…guards looked to score at will on Allen. We all know he never has been the defensive stopper but there was no way he was locking up anyone tonight. He just didn’t have it. In 37 minutes. He has 11 points (4-11), 6 boards, 4 Mo Cheeks, 2 fouls, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 turnover.
Respectable despite the NBA Finals atmosphere.
Brand has 10. Thad Young has 21. Dalembert plays inspired and has 8 points, 15 rebounds and 8 Manutes.
Sixers lose their tenth straight by ten…93-83.
The crowd booed at the end but what they do not realize is Denver is NBA elite. Funny, but this was not 2001 and despite the time lapse, fans want to see a true moment of victory. The Sixers are floundering. They needed to make this move. Allen adds another viable weapon and Iguodala will benefit the most. Brand will come around. Young will fill the basket with left hand loose balls, tip dunks and open transition threes from the corners and free throw line extended. Dalembert needed this injection. Philly fans boo him incessantly and tonight he stepped up.
There were Eagles present. This was a big Philly thing. Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and former Eagles Hugh Douglass and Ike Reese. I spoke with them all off the record. To a man they all came to support the team but of course came to see Allen.
Iverson is the anti McNabb and I don’t mean in a negative sense. Donovan has to be even keeled in this town or Philly will spit his 5 jersey out and step on it. He’s a quarterback, they must play that way.
Allen on the other hand gives you his heart on a platter. He holds nothing back and Philly loves him for it. They love their stars this way.
They want flaws and they also want competitive drive…no matter the success or failure.
Allen epitomizes the aforementioned. Eddie Jordan’s scheme will take a while for the team to fully grasp and though the Sixers probably won’t win the championship, there is excitement again.
After the game a writer has to make a decision of who to get quotes from. The particulars are Allen, Andre, Chauncey and of course Carmelo. Two were had, two were not.
I’m at the 1:12 mark and again at 5:00:
I’m at the 1:40 mark for three questions:
There was no Melo and no Mr. Big Shot. I took this as giving Allen his moment despite my requests to the contrary. When I spoke with Chauncey in the hallway to no avail, I barely had a voice left. He smiled, said he was done and kept it moving. Respect.
Kenyon Martin did speak:
SLAM: He was your teammate you know? I remember last year when he came back here. Can you speak on the difference between that game and this besides the obvious?
KMart: We knew it was going to be great. We knew it was going to be outrageous but I’m happy to see him back playing. It is great to see him back playing where he starred for 10 years.
SLAM: What kind of teammate…
KMart: Great. Allen Iverson is an excellent teammate. I loved having him on my team. We were friends before he played on the team.
SLAM: You are one of the elite. How do you sustain a consistency leading through the break and into the Playoffs?
KMart: Just night in, night out. Each game we play has to lead to the next. You can’t end the season how you start and I think guys know that.
Anthony Gilbert and I spoke with Donovan and the Executioner, Bernard Hopkins, before making our way to where a couple of Eagles…former and present…were having a drink (I didn’t see current drinking, just former). Ike Reese mentioned to me earlier that the Sixers hierarchy is Doc, Iverson (affect on the town in equal social and basketball parts) and then Barkley (Wilt is only excluded because of the digital age. No disrespect.)
It was also good to see Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy genuinely chillin’ together. It must be a little difficult grooming your replacement while injured. I spoke personally with Brian, Anthony and I gave Ike and Hugh some dap and we left the building.
Crazy how things work. The moments sui generis I must find. Looking for Anthony’s car, I spot a Pop and son walking through the parking lot. I had to get some words to document a memory that will last forever. I ain’t no sucker for love emo type cat, it’s just the Dad in me. I remember when my children were that age. Do they remember?
Christian Carson will. He’s 6:
SLAM: What was it like to see Allen Iverson play on the court?
Lil CC: It was really great and awesome.
SLAM: (Just to see what the young articulate fella would say…) How long have you liked Allen Iverson?
Lil CC: For a pretty long time.
I look to his Pop. Corey Carson . They are from New Jersey:
SLAM: It’s good to see a Father and son experience this moment together…
Big CC: Yeah, we really enjoyed it. We watched Allen Iverson when he was playing here before. It was great to see Philly really embrace him. Philadelphia is kinda tough on their sports players but he was great.
SLAM: Pop, can you speak on bringing your son to this game?
Lil CC intervenes…“On a school night?”
SLAM: [We all laugh] No not on a school night. You are lucky young fella. I would not have been here at your age. Your Pop is a good. Dad. What is this moment for you as a Father?
Big CC: For him it’s really special because he’s really getting into basketball and I’m telling him about the different players. I knew Iverson when he was back in high school. He went through his troubles and was able to overcome all that. So to have an opportunity to come back home to a team when the departure was tumultuous? Crazy and the fans supported him. He had a not so great night, but he’s still getting his legs under him. He should have a great season and hopefully he can help them.
SLAM: Are you ever going to forget this?
Lil CC: No. This is the greatest basketball game I ever saw.
Big CC: That’s a big statement.
SLAM: When he’s our age…
Big CC: You know what? This is his second time. He actually came to the Nuggets game last year and he had the chance to meet the players. This is his second time coming back meeting the same players again and getting their autographs. I tried to tell him before that you don’t get this all the time. We weren’t sure before we came if we were gonna be able to get the players again and we were able to. This was a special moment.
Lil CC: I’ll never forget this night because me and my Dad had a great time at the greatest basketball game ever!
Yeah…that’s what it’s all about. Nothing is better. The point is people that an entire city…a huge city like Philly at that…came out to see one man. One. Everyone else was irrelevant. Just the sum of the night’s parts.
On the way home, I took the bus. I was the only rider. It was late. The driver and I spoke of the game. Demetrius LeGrande was knowledgeable and had a straight to the point flow to him.
SLAM: Demetrius, what do you think about Allen Iverson coming back to the team?
DLG: Love it. Will Lou Williams out, this is good for the team. Good for Philly.
SLAM: What does Allen Iverson mean to you?
DLG: He means the Sixers.
Perfect. This is a Philadelphia story. Dream with us despite our shortcomings and feel the beat of our collective soul.