Black History Spotlight: ‘The Answer’ to the Sixers Woes


You guys didn’t actually think I’d skip Allen Iverson in this series, right?

Drafted ​No.1​ overall in the 1996 draft, Iverson immediately proved he was worthy of the top selection by taking the league by storm. In his NBA debut, Iverson poured in 30 points on 12-19 shooting. He was simply sensational and was scoring at will from all over the court. The Sixers ultimately fell short to the Bucks, but Iverson gave Philly a glimpse of his imminent superstardom and put the rest of the league on notice. The #1 pick would go on to finish his rookie season averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.2 steals a game. Iverson’s rookie campaign was filled with highlights, as he won the Rookie Challenge Player of the Game, was awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year, and most notably, he crossed and scored on the greatest player to ever touch a basketball.
The 6ft combo guard dazzled the NBA world with his astonishing athleticism, crazy acrobatic ability around the rim, and ball handling supremacy. The Virginia native oozed confidence and an on court swagger unmatched by anyone in the league. Not a single ounce of energy was reserved as Iverson gave the Sixers everything he had. He left it all on the court on a nightly basis, and the fans reciprocated his efforts with a massive amount of love and support. Philly finally found the answer to bring them out of the NBA gutter they’d been in the previous five seasons, and it was only the beginning of a new era.

After his superb rookie campaign, A.I went on to play 10 consecutive seasons for the Sixers. Iverson was an absolute monster and one of the most prolific scorers during his tenure. A.I was an 8x All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 3x Steals Leader, 4x Scoring Champion, and an NBA MVP (2001) during this span. He also had four(!) 30+ PPG seasons in the decade. Iverson was a superstar in every fashion of the word and was the driving force in one of the franchise’s most successful eras. The productive PG ranks ​2nd​ in Sixers history in minutes played, field goal attempts, free throws, steals, and points. This is incredibly impressive when you consider the franchise had HOFers Hal Greer, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Dr.J play most of their careers in Philly (and that A.I wasn’t too fond of practicing).


In his third playoff run, Iverson lead the No.1 seed Sixers to their first Finals appearance since 1983. The Sixers were matched up against a loaded Lakers roster, but Philly faithfuls were confident, and for good reason. Iverson was averaging a shade over 30 PPG going into the series and was primed to go berserk in his first Finals appearance. The reigning MVP did just that. Iverson recorded a 48 point, 6 assist, 5 rebound, and 5 steal performance to propel the Sixers to a thrilling 107-101 overtime victory.

Everyone was amazed at how Iverson overcame the lack of offensive help around him, but that would ultimately be the team’s achilles heel. Philly never topped 100 points again in the series and Iverson was the only player on the team to score 20+ points more than one time. The Kobe and Shaq led Lakers beat the Sixers for the championship title in five games, ending Philly’s historic season. Although they fell just short of the goal, one thing was abundantly clear; #3 was The Answer to Philly’s search for a franchise player and a future first ballot HOFer.

Unfortunately, a championship ring would elude Iverson for the rest of his career and the Sixers haven’t been back since, but his legacy in Philly is unrivaled. After brief stints in Denver and Memphis, A.I signed a one-year deal to finish his career where he started, in the City of Brotherly Love. A.I continued to be an inspiration to the city and one of the most iconic players to ever suit up for a Philly franchise. His contributions in Philly were immortalized in March of 2014 when the Sixers retired his jersey. The Answer revolutionized the game whilst turning the franchise into a perennial contender, and there will never be another #3.


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports