Thursday, December 14, 2006

Don't Question the Answer

I don't talk about sports much at this blog (though that'll change once the NFL playoffs roll around) but one story of late has been so amazing that I can't help but vent about it here.

Growing up near Philadelphia I was a die hard Sixers fan. Despite my father's love for baseball and all things Phillies, my brothers and I were more drawn to hoops and the exploits of Dr. J, Mo Cheeks, Moses Malone, Billy Cunningham, Doug Collins and, later, Charles Barkley.

Once Barkley left for the Phoenix Suns the franchise hit rock bottom for a few years, eeking out wins in the 20-35 range and letting us wonder if the good times would ever come again. Then we got The Answer.

Most hoops saviors come in the form of shot blocking, tomahawking big men or silky smooth forwards whose grace at their size is nothing short of amazing. For the Sixers, the savior was Allan Iverson, a wiry guard with lightning speed and a devil-may-care fearlessness that left you gasping for breath every time he drove to the basket.

To see Iverson in person was nothing short of breathtaking and he goes down on the list of athletes that I'm glad to say I saw play in person along with Erving, Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Clarke, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Watching him buzzsaw his 5'11" frame into a forest of big men was nothing short of eye-popping.

Naturally, Philly fans (a largey white bunch) embraced the superstar despite his hip-hop attire, tattoos, and outspoken nature. Why? Because he was like them and like the city... a little undersized with a blue collar attitude and a desire to mix it up. Coaches came and went as did players upper management tried to shoehorn into Iverson's style of play yet Iverson was the one constant on a team that had no right being as good as they were for those few years. Eric Snow? Aaron McKie? Todd McCullough? Wow.

Yet there they were, in the NBA Finals against the LA Lakers with Shaq and Kobe, largely due to Iverson's will and talent. In an era when players with tremendous gifts talk openly about "faking it" or taking plays off (I'm looking at you Owens and Moss), Iverson gave 110% on each and every play.

So here we are. Ten years after coming to the Sixers and almost single-handedly pulling them from the depths of the league, Iverson has finally had enough and asked to be traded. And who can blame the guy? The moves by GM Billy King (easily one of the worst GMs in all of sports at this time) to support Iverson have been laughable and if they wanted to trade him they should have done so six months ago when there was talk of a deal with the hated Celtics (though I was loathe to see AI in Celtic green).

Their solution? Have Sixers/Flyers president Ed Snider go on television during a game and play the organization's hand for everybody to see: the situation with Iverson has become unworkable, he wants to be traded and we'll trade him despite the face that everybody now knows we have to trade him.

As much as I hate to see Iverson go and will never be able to look at him in another uniform (like those days at the end when Carlton pitched for the White Sox) the move is best for all involved. Hopefully the Sixers will trade Iverson to a team like the Clippers, Timberwolves or Warriors where he'll have a chance to take a team to the playoffs and maybe a title. For the Sixers, well, their play during this stretch (I believe they'd lost nine straight as of last night) might have put them solidly in the Greg Oden sweepstakes (though I'm sure King will figure out a way to screw that up, too) and no one player or collection of players they'll get for AI is likely to change that.

Here's hoping a rejuvenated Jeff Garcia can keep the Eagles on the road to the playoffs, because a winter without AI or a Flyers team making a playoff run is a long one.

For more on the absurdity of the Iverson situation here's an outstanding piece from Bill Simmons aka The Sports Guy over at

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