In an era of NBA basketball in which superstar players are subject to worship and one- on-one basketball is placed at a premium by fans, no team is better representative of that era than the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers.
The 01’ Sixers were comprised of gritty role players like George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Eric Snow and Aaron McKie; as well as Dikembe Mutombo, an aging defensive anchor acquired in a mid season trade. But, the player you are most likely to remember is the player the team was built around, Allen Iverson. Iverson acted as the undisputed leader and heart and soul of this team; contributing some flash to an otherwise gritty, and bland offensive unit. Iverson’s emergence as a basketball icon was due in large part to his contributions to this specific 76ers team.
With the league well into the post-Jordan era (pre-wizards comeback) it was desperately searching for an heir to the MJ thrown as the face of the league. A number of potential stars appeared to be on the rise; however Iverson emerged as an unlikely fan favorite and league MVP, perhaps to the chagrin of those in the league office.
The 01’ 76ers posted a 56-26 record and nabbed first place in the Eastern Conference, a minor miracle considering the constant rumors of contention between the team’s star Allen Iverson and hardnosed head coach Larry Brown; however the continuity provided by key veterans like Eric Snow and Dikembe Mutombo kept the team from imploding.
The playoffs are where this team, and to a larger degree A.I, left their mark on the league and any fan that had the privilege of watching them. The 76ers stayed true to their identity, riding Iverson for all he had on the offensive end and grinding out games when his shot wasn’t falling. The toughness of the team is something that often gets overlooked; yet if it weren’t for the gutsy play of their role players then the team would not have made it out of the Eastern Conference.
The postseason featured several Iconic Iverson performances including two 50 plus point games against Toronto and back to back 40 plus point games against Ian Segovia’s beloved Milwaukee Bucks. These games will forever be etched into the minds of those who followed the league at that time and still hold up as evidence of Iverson’s unbridled tenacity and will to win– those characteristics are what set him apart from other star players around the league and have propelled his status as one of the most significant basketball players in NBA history.
The high point for the team came in Game one of the NBA Finals (a game that will be covered more extensively next week) when the team pulled out a victory over the heavily favored Lakers, on the back of another huge performance by Allen Iverson—48 points, 6 Assists, 5 steals—and appeared to actually have a shot at dethroning the reigning NBA champs. Unfortunately for the 76ers, that was the closest they would get as they dropped four straight games, and the series to the juggernaut that was the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite their success as a unit, and the contributions of key role players, this team will ultimately be remembered as Iverson’s best chance at an NBA championship. Their season will also serve as a microcosm for Allen Iverson’s career. He left it on the floor every single game; however the limitations in his game ultimately were exposed in the Finals, and thus became the reason why his team fell short. The Sixers’ inability to provide an adequate secondary scoring option to A.I ended their hopes of winning a title; A.I was never able to mesh with any secondary scorer with which he was later matched up with and never got as close to winning a championship as he did in 2001.
It is a tragedy that somebody who cared about the game as much as Iverson , and who meant as much to the game never got another chance to compete for that illusive championship title, but instead of lamenting the shortcomings of Iverson’s career, today we celebrate the best 76ers team he ever played on.
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