Defining Allen Iverson’s place in 76ers history

12.08.09 9 years ago 29 Comments

Last week we examined where Paul Pierce fits into the hierarchy of all-time Boston Celtics. Yesterday, in the hours leading up to Allen Iverson‘s second coming to the Sixers, reader Shaw32 asked where A.I. fits into Philly’s royal family.

Unlike Pierce, there shouldn’t be an argument against Iverson at least being in the discussion as possibly the greatest Sixer of all-time. Nobody in the franchise’s history has a handful more championships or MVP’s than Iverson. Nobody gets significantly more love from the Philly faithful. Iverson might be the city’s favorite player, but has he had a better career for the Sixers than anyone else? Is he in the top three? Top five?

The Sixers are long in the tooth as an NBA entity; their history dates back to 1950, just three years after the Celtics debuted, when they were called the Syracuse Nationals. The Sixers don’t have as many championships as the Celts and haven’t been as superstar-studded as the Lakers, but they are one of the NBA’s signature teams.

It gets a bit trickier, though, because unlike the Celts and Lakers, a lot of the Sixers’ defining players did not spend their entire careers with the organization. Wilt Chamberlain only played three and a half seasons with the team. Moses Malone was there for four years, then came back for a fifth when he was 38 years old. Julius Erving spent the first five years of his career in the ABA with Virginia and New York. Mo Cheeks spent the last four years of his between the Knicks, Spurs, Hawks and Nets. Charles Barkley reached his peak accomplishments (MVP, NBA Finals) after he left Philly.

Iverson spent his prime years with the Sixers, but surprising to some (or at least to me), he actually is not Philly’s all-time leading scorer: That would be Hal Greer, who some old-timers argue makes A.I. not even the best small scoring guard the Sixers have ever employed. Iverson does rank #1 in points per game (28.1 ppg), three-point makes and attempts, steals per game (2.3 spg), along with third in total assists, second in total steals, and second in free throw makes and attempts. He led the team to the 2001 Finals, the same year he won league MVP.

Also worthy of mention in the debate are Dolph Schayes, George McGinnis, Billy Cunningham and Johnny “Red” Kerr. (Note: Schayes may be the definitive player to look at when you talk about the physical evolution of the game. Generally considered one of the best “big men” of all-time, who at his peak averaged 24 points and 14 boards, Schayes was listed at 6-7, 195 pounds. That’s the same size as Harrison Barnes, the best high school player in the country this year who plays small forward/two-guard. Not to mention Barnes could probably jump over Dolph’s head and dust him in a 100-meter dash in his prime.)

Where does Allen Iverson rank among the greatest 76ers of all-time?

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