There was always some hope for Philadelphia 76ers fans to see Allen Iverson playing for them one more time. Iverson himself probably hoped he’d get to have some part to play in the NBA before finally calling it quits. But truth is Iverson hasn’t been an NBA player for over three years, and his retirement might be becoming official now, but it’s been a withstanding reality for quite some time.
It’s hard to find players like Iverson, who should make it into the hall of fame the first time they take votes with his name on the ballots, and it’s even harder to find teams that build so feverishly around one 6-foot player, putting four players on the court that have only one job to do – defend, and make sure Iverson isn’t disturbed when trying to win basketball games on his own.
He was everything for the 76ers for about a decade, before beginning a short tour around the NBA that took him to Denver, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia again. He tried playing in Turkey but it didn’t really work out. He made a few cameos to send Philly fans into raptures. But things went south the moment he left the 76ers to try and win next to Carmelo Anthony in some sort of impossible combination between two players who hate giving up the ball. It resulted in two early exits in the playoffs.
How important was Iverson to the 76ers during his time with the team, leading them to six playoff appearances from 1999 to 2005, missing out in 2004 only because he was injured for around half the season? Iverson led the league in usage rate five times, never going below 32.6% for his final 8 seasons with the Sixers. He averaged 45.1 minutes per game during his postseason career, including 46.2 as he amazed the league by leading his team to the NBA finals, their only appearance in the last 30 years.
And that’s before we mention the scoring, averaging 26.7 points per game and leading the NBA in scoring four times. In four of those seasons, he averaged more than 30 points per game. His career average of 41.1 minutes a night is 4th in NBA history, with the top 3 players on the all-time list (Chamberlain, Russell and Oscar) not playing basketball for over 40 years. Iverson was something the league forgot about, and certainly didn’t expect to get from a 6 foot player.
He wasn’t efficient (42.5% from the field isn’t exactly noteworthy) and he usually averaged around 25 field goal attempts per game, including 27.8 in the 2001-2002 season for the Sixers. But he was relentless, with things that can’t be measured. Heart, guts and whatever it is that drives players to keep on going even though they don’t really have a shot to come out with their hand on top in the end.