“Some have the skill, some have the heart, some are blessed with both. That is the seed for greatness, it is what makes a Most Valuable Player. The reality of Allen Iverson‘s size points to the enormity of his accomplishments, it is how his team plays the game, reveling in the odds, mocking adversity. And so that is how the MVP of his Sixers continue the unyielding chase. Acknowledging the misfortune, that struggle, are merely preconditions for success. Tonight, another point in time, that will demand the skill, the heart, of a winner.”
Those were the words of longtime Philadelphia 76ers play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff, on the Comcast Sportsnet pregame montage to Game 5 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals, as pictures of NBA greats like Bird, Magic, Michael and others graced the screen. It was also the game in which Iverson received his MVP award.
The Answer walked on to the court that day rocking his iconic Answer IVs, which were recently re-released in their black and white colorway, and come back again today in the infamous white/red. Iverson indeed showed the heart and the skill of a winner on that night, dropping 52 points on the Toronto Raptors, giving his team a 3-2 series lead and setting a Sixers’ postseason record, knocking down eight three-pointers along the way. Only three games prior, in Game 2 of the same series, sporting the Answer IVs in today’s red, white and grey colorway, Iverson dropped 54, breaking the then Billy Cunningham record for points scored in a playoff game by a Sixer. Allen would later break his own record when he dropped 55 on the Hornets two years later. Did I mention he is only 6-0 tall?
He is the shortest No. 1 pick in NBA history, the shortest player to ever lead a league, traditionally dominated by giants, in scoring. He did so four times. He is also the shortest MVP ever, but you could never measure Allen Iverson in stature.
Outside of the Wells Fargo Center there is a statue of Sixers great Wilt Chamberlain. On that statue, chiseled in bronze, it reads:
“The true measure of a man is the size of his heart.”
There isn’t a statement that I can come up with that better describes Allen Iverson. As he will tell you, he played every game like it was his last. He played with a demeanor that was only seen prior by Michael Jordan, the only player in NBA history with a higher playoff scoring average. The Answer was a menace on the basketball court, and was the most respected basketball player of his era.
Allen Iverson never gave up. He inspired and brought together a team of players who had no business making it to the NBA Finals. In Game 1 of those Finals, NBC showed an image of Iverson. On it, were nodes pointing to his body, with a sidebar naming the laundry list of injuries he endured during his MVP season, in which he played 71 of 82 regular season games. Ironically, current Sixers head coach Doug Collins was the one to point out that when your team’s best player has this many injuries and doesn’t miss games, neither does anyone else. In sports, few statements are more true. I possess a genuine fear that sometime over the course of my lifetime, statisticians and old-school columnists will state that Allen shot too much, that he was a coach killer, that he tore his teams apart; that graph told me the opposite. It told me he brought them together.