Before last night’s Game Six Philadelphia 76ers’ victory over the Boston Celtics, Philly legend Allen Iverson stepped on the hardwood one more time to deliver the game ball. The reception he received was unanimous love from the city that watched him grow up, become one of the more polarizing figures in the league, and fight to his last breath on a nightly basis. His “one versus five” mentality was sometimes justified (and sometimes not) by the roster around him, yet nonetheless always the driving force behind the way he played. Below is his entrance and Philadelphia’s welcome:
Allen Iverson, because of his personal style, his quotes, his aversion to doing anything other than what he wanted to do, transcended basketball; and really, that’s without saying anything about his gritty, slicing, hungry attack of the game itself.
And now, as Iverson alluded to in an interview during the game, he still wants to play again, more than ever, but interest from NBA franchises is at an all-time low. Before delving into the nuts-and-bolts questions of whether Iverson can be a serviceable member of a team or where he’s at physically — though for what it’s worth, he looked as if he hadn’t aged at all since the last time I saw him — it’s important to remember what NBA teams are likely thinking to themselves: We’ve been here before.
Iverson’s previous return attempts have begun with the hope that the A.I. of old, the one we’ll always remember anyway, can find that magic again in some capacity. Even if it was 15 minutes a night off the bench, we’ve always wanted to go back down memory lane with A.I. It’s just that for personal or basketball reasons, it’s never worked out the way we, or Iverson probably, see it in our heads. Before we can imagine too much at all, the spark’s already gone out, and Iverson’s departures from his returns have fizzled away into afterthoughts.
Whether or not Allen Iverson can still contribute something to the NBA is unknown. And without any interest, we may never know. But to hear him say, with trademark Iverson on-the-sleeve passion, that he “wants to play basketball so bad,” it makes one wonder what could happen, what could be arranged so that the A.I. of my youth can come back one last time, and exit on a level on par with what his career has meant to so many.
Then you remember that Iverson has had chances before, and that nostalgia is a powerful feeling. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of A.I.; maybe he’ll push harder than ever, the underdog once again, to make a roster in the NBA. But if it doesn’t pan out the way we wish it might, we still have those memories every time we see Allen Iverson pop up again, like last night. That’s why, no matter what else happens, it’s always so good to see him.
Griffin Gotta contributes to The Hoop Doctors and is a co-managing editor of Straight Outta Vancouver on SB Nation. The story arcs and infinite weirdness of the NBA are addictions he deals with every day. Email him at griffingotta at gmail dot com.