Iverson’s Emotional Return To Philly


It’s been 15 months since Allen Iverson has last played basketball in Philadelphia. AI played ten years with the Sixers, and is still beloved by Philadelphia fans. As soon as Iverson stepped on the court fans cheered, and showed Allen that they still have a place for them in their hearts. Iverson then dropped to the floor to kiss the Sixers center court logo, and then ran to embrace his former coach Maurice Cheeks.

Then arena lights went dark, and Iverson was announced as the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets. A sell out crowd of over 20,000 fans gave Iverson a long and loud standing ovation. Iverson fed into the crowd, by putting his hands to his ear and turned to each side of the court to hear the fans welcome him back. The celebration was only cut short, due to the announcement of the rest of the Nuggets lineup. One look around the Wachovia Center, and you saw a sea of number 3 jerseys being proudly worn. Philadelphia fell in love with Allen Iverson from the day he was drafted, and today Sixers fans showed that the love is still there.

Once tip-off finally came, it was all business for both of these teams. The Denver Nuggets were 13 games over .500 heading into this game, but are still 4 games back of the Western Conference playoffs. The Sixers have been on fire recently, winning 15 of the last 19 games, and looking to possibly get to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Iverson had a classic AI game, scoring 32 points(13-24) and dishing out 8 assists. Allen still looked just as fast as he was when he was 24. He blew past defenders, drained big threes, and took punishment down the lane. During the game many fans cheered, a few booed, and every one kept their eyes glued to Allen Iverson. Even on another team he was the star of the show.

The forgotten player in this game was Andre Miller. He was the main player the Sixers traded Iverson for, and he was playing against his former team as well. Miller has played well all season, but on his Birthday, Miller probably played his best game of the year. There was extra motivation for Miller to do well against his former team, and he really took it to them. Miller scored 28 points(13-21) and had a game high 12 assists. Late in the game he had a great pump fake, that made Iverson leave his feet, and allowed Miller to duck under AI for an open shot plus the foul. Andre emphatically pumped his fist after making the big play, and Iverson was down in pain after hitting the floor hard.

Iverson would be alright, as he responded right away by nailing a three of his own. Back at the other end, a broken play resulted in a go ahead basket by Samuel Dalembert. The Sixers were up 2 with only 32 seconds left. The Nuggets missed their next shot, but the Sixers were unable to bring in the rebound, as the ball fell out of bounds. There was only 11 ticks left in the game, and everything was set up for Iverson to get a final shot.

Allen ran off a few screens, and got the ball near the corner. He made a quick step in which backed up Andre Miller, and gave AI a tough but open look at tyeing the game. He let the shot off, but it clanked off the rim, and the 2nd attempt by Marcus Camby was no good as well. Andre Igoudala fought for that rebound, and ran away by himself to run out the clock and seal a Sixers victory. The final score of this thriller was 115-113 Philadelphia.

After the game Iverson had a heart felt press conference with the media.

“It almost got to me,” Iverson acknowledged. “It made me feel good. It made me feel appreciated.”

He had many more things to say his his post game press conference, and I am going to post that as soon as I get it. Allen seems to have matured a lot, and touched on his time in Philadelphia, the fans, Mo Cheeks, his former teammates, and what went wrong here. It was Iverson’s night, and it was a very entertaining one.

Meanwhile the Sixers are playing tremendous basketball. They have won 16 of their last 20 games, and are beating good teams including the Nuggets, Suns, Magic, Mavs, Spurs, and Pistons. The up-tempo style really fits this team perfect, because they are loaded with young athletic talent. This team still plays touch defense for Maurice Cheeks, but Ed Stefanski has put his stamp on the team by making them run. I don’t think anybody, even Ed ever expected them to play this well.

The Sixers are not playing as quite as well as the Celtics or the Rockets, but they are not far behind. I don’t think the Pistons, Magic, or Cavs really want to see Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. They are peaking at the right time, and the future looks very bright with this young group of talent.

I am going to post highlights of this game as well, as soon as I can. If you did not catch this, Iverson showed off his appreciation for Philadelphia by thanking them on his shoes.

Here are the highlights of the game, and small clip of AI’s press conference.