This piece originally appeared on The Sixers Cave when it was announced that Allen Iverson was going to retire. Since it’s still by far my favorite memory of The Answer, I’m presenting it here to help celebrate Iverson’s 40th birthday.
Yesterday, in addition to the Sixers looking helpless against the Charlotte Bobcats in a 110-84 preseason loss, a report came to light on ESPN.com that Allen Iverson will officially retire as a 76er at the team’s home opener on October 30th.
Rumors have been circulating since the summer that Iverson, one of the best players to ever wear a Sixers uniform, had finally decided to call it quits and give up his quest to return to the NBA. He is 38 years old and if he retires now he will be eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. He will leave the game (officially this time) as the NBA’s 6th all-time leader in career points per game with 26.7 and the Sixers franchise leader in three-pointers and 40 point games and number two in total points at 19,931.
Not bad for a guy who was barely 6 feet tall.
Ask many Sixers fans their favorite memory of The Answer, and most will probably say his infamous “practice” rant, which unfortunately was emblematic of Iverson and why, while he was one of the greatest Sixers ever, he could have also been one of the greatest players ever, period, but never was.
But for some Sixers fans, myself included, Allen Iverson’s greatest achievement and my fondest memory of his career was him taking the team to the NBA Finals in 2001 during a magical season that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a basketball fan.
And make no mistake, that trip to the Finals was all Allen Iverson. That Sixers squad had talent, don’t get me wrong, but not the kind of skill that takes a team to the edge of winning an NBA Championship. Eric Snow, Dikembe Mutombo, Aaron McKie and the rest were good, but Iverson practically willed the team through the playoffs, doing whatever had to be done to win games, sometimes single-handedly it seemed.
While the Sixers ended up losing that series 4-1 to the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neil led Los Angeles Lakers, Game 1 provided what for me will always be Iverson’s defining moment.
“The Stepover” was to me what Iverson was all about. He played the game his way and was never intimidated by any player or team. Sure, these were the mighty Lakers being led by two of the arguably greatest players in the history of the game, but Iverson didn’t care. He was there to win, nothing less. And if you got in his way, Iverson would go through you if he had to.
So when he hit that fadeaway jumper on the way to scoring 48 points in Game 1 and stepped (more like stomped) over Tyronn Lue, it was almost like it was his way of showing everyone that he was tired of being disrespected, tired of being told the Sixers weren’t good enough and he was going to show everyone that he belonged with the NBA’s elite. He ended up winning the league MVP award that year and also won the hearts of the entire city of Philadelphia.
In the years since, Iverson has become known more for his actions off the court then on and he never played basketball at the same high level again. And when he returned to the Sixers for 25 games during the 2009-10 season, it was plainly evident that the spark that made The Answer so special was gone.
But regardless of what has happened in the years since, to me “The Stepover” is symbolic of his entire career, of that entire Sixers team really, and will always be my reply if someone asks what’s my favorite Allen Iverson moment of all-time.