PHILADELPHIA -- What will be Allen Iverson's legacy in Philadelphia?
Will it be that Iverson was a charismatic, uber-competitive guard who put his body on the line for nearly 11 years with the 76ers while garnering seven All-Star selections, four scoring titles and one MVP award and leading the team to the 2001 NBA Finals along the way? Will he be remembered for the
Or will Iverson's legacy be one of a malcontent? Was he less a fabled star and more the man who once expressed an open disdain for practice, put his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion and had his share of run-ins with the law? Will he be considered the player who led Philadelphia to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings at the end of last year before being unceremoniously shipped out of town?
Whatever you think of Iverson -- I believe the former assessment to be more true than the latter -- his contributions to the Philadelphia franchise deserved to be honored, and they were (to a certain degree) Wednesday night. Iverson, with THXPHILA etched on his sneakers, received a 49-second standing ovation from the capacity crowd at the Wachovia Center in his first visit here since being traded to Denver 15 months ago. The 76ers did not prepare any sort of tribute to their former franchise player but did introduce Iverson first and allowed the ovation to carry on as Iverson walked the floor acknowledging the crowd. During the game, whenever Iverson touched the ball, a cheer rose from the crowd.
"I dreamed it up a certain way," Iverson said. "It was better than that."
"Whenever we would score, the fans cheered," the 76ers'
It was clear that Iverson was determined not to be controversial in his first trip back to the city he once called home. Iverson deftly deflected questions about his rocky relationship with
"A lot of the time when things didn't go my way I acted angrily," Iverson said. "Especially when I thought it wasn't fair. But [the Sixers] took care of my family. I never had any contract disputes."
Iverson's return cast an unintentional shadow over the real story in Philadelphia: The Sixers are a pretty good basketball team. Wednesday night's 115-113 victory over Denver was their 16th win in 20 games. Since bottoming out at 14th in the East in early December, Philadelphia has climbed all the way to seventh.
"Nobody wants to play them in the first round," an assistant coach from an East team said.
How have the Sixers turned things around? The credit begins with
It helps when you have the horses. Iguodala,
"Everybody on this team is playing like they have something to prove," Iguodala said.
Young, the Sixers' top pick in the 2007 draft, was a non-factor in the first month of the season. But by virtue of his freakish athleticism and ability to swing between the two forward positions, he has become a valuable role player.
"Thaddeus could be a great 4 in the West," Iguodala said. "He has a real knack for finding the ball."
Moreover, the Sixers are a motivated bunch, particularly Iguodala, who turned down a five-year, $57 million extension in the offseason and is seeing his stock rise by the minute. It's a fact that is not lost on Iguodala.
"What good is it if we tank it and go to the lottery?" Iguodala said. "What good am I to a team this summer if I played for a team that was tanking games?"
Maybe that is a part of Iverson's legacy too. The Sixers are a hard-working team with no quit in them. That attitude reflects leadership, and for many of the current Sixers players, Iverson is the only true leader they know.
• Not to be overlooked in the Rockets' winning streak has been the play of
• Speaking of Mutombo, his return to relevancy presents an opportunity to ask a frequently revisited question: Why in the name of
According to an NBA rule that was clarified in 2001, a player is allowed to wag his finger if it is not done "in a taunting fashion," which basically means he can do it at the crowd (which Mutombo did) and not in the direction of another player (which Jefferson did). The rule is absurd because no matter what direction Mutombo is wagging his finger, it is still taunting. But it's also not likely to change. Mutombo, one of the most philanthropic players in NBA history who has -- among other things -- opened a $29 million hospital in the Congo, is a Stern favorite and will be allowed to wag his finger anywhere he wants.
• The Knicks' reported interest in Pacers CEO
The answer to the last question is a resounding no. Thomas has lost the team. The bulk of the roster has quit on him and -- judging by his demeanor during a loss to Indiana on Monday, when he rarely left his seat on the bench -- he has quit on them.
Still, Thomas won't quit. He has survived some of the worst treatment any person could be asked to endure. He has been splashed on the back pages of the New York tabloids more often than
• Timberwolves owner
It wasn't the first time the Timberwolves tanked, either. While jockeying for draft position two seasons ago, Minnesota lost a double-overtime game to the Grizzlies in the season finale. In that game,