Kinda feel for the A.I. crowd out there.
As memories of their hero come rushing back tonight as the Sixers find themselves yet again as one of the key components of an NBA Lottery selection show, they’re really under the misperception that the little guy from Georgetown who warmed their hearts and electrified crowds everywhere symbolized the best of times for Philly pro hoops.
Yeah, umm, not really.
Oh, for pure entertainment value and sick athleticism, Allen Iverson had some serious cachet. Cat-quick and cocksure, he made style supreme over substance. Not that he never supplied any substance, because that massive load-shouldering effort he gave that got the Sixers into the 2001 Finals was truly special.
Carrying the team from the depths of NBA abyss, a postseason no-show for seven straight seasons, into the playoffs just three years after being selected No. 1 overall in the 1996 draft – the last time the Sixers chose in that position – wasn’t too shabby, either.
But, the reality was, his actual success here was short-lived. Outside of that magical run at a title that saw the Los Angeles Lakers short-circuit things with a 4-1 series victory 15 years ago, A.I.’s crew didn’t do much here in tangible terms. Yeah, the Sixers made it to the playoffs five other times with him at the helm, and got bounced three times in the second round and twice in the first.
That pales in comparison to the team’s run of 14 trips to the postseason in 15 years from 1976 through 1991, highlighted by the legendary Julius “Doctor J” Erving and four trips to the Finals, including one title to cap off a “fo, fi, fo” run by the Moses Malone-led squad in 1983. Not for nothing, but the Sixers also made it to the Eastern Conference finals three other times during that decade and a half.
If anything, the championship won back then proved one thing: you need more than one superstar to get it done. In fact, two might not be enough, especially if the standouts are unable to blend their skills and share the ball as the ill-fated combo of Doc and George McGinnis proved against “all about team” Portland in the 1977 Finals.
A.I.’s title effort played out like a bad repeat of that, and then the franchise went into the toilet with trying to pair subservient players with the star’s enormous God-given talents and ego.
Never worked … at least not to the degree many hoped or actually professed.
So, for me, not exactly a big deal if the Sixers end up with No. 1 tonight or not. Would much rather see them draft well with what selection falls their way, and then have the team enjoy more success than it did with A.I.
Maybe not get so wrapped up in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, and find the next Ray Allen or Kobe Bryant.
The former of those went four picks after A.I. back in 1996 before winning two titles. The latter 12 before winning five.
Both were driving forces in every one.