As a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Allen Iverson carry this team to the NBA Finals on his own back. I’ve seen Andre Iguodala nail two free throws to carry the Sixers to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2003. I’ve also seen Jrue Holiday blossom from an unknown youngster from UCLA to an All-Star point guard. While I’ve seen the ups, the downs have also been unavoidable. All three of these All-Stars had illustrious beginnings with the Sixers, only to see them comeback in a different uniform and have a memorable homecoming.
This summer, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie shocked the world (and Holiday) by trading Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick. The former Philly point guard returned to Philadelphia for the first time on Friday night. Between Holiday, Iguodala and Iverson, it’s obvious the connection is deeper than basketball in Philadelphia…
Allen Iverson built his own house of hoops in Philadelphia. Anyone that knows anything about basketball in Philadelphia can’t deny that. From breaking Michael Jordan‘s ankles, to stepping over Tyronn Lue after securing an NBA Finals victory, “The Answer” always had exactly that for Philadelphia. If you don’t understand the connection AI had with Philadelphia, imagine LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then multiply it. But in December of 2006, Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets, which truly ended an era in Philadelphia.
Iverson made his return to Philadelphia as a member of the Denver Nuggets on March 19, 2008. Just like old times, after being introduced as a member of the Nuggets, Iverson trotted over to the Sixers logo at midcourt and kneeled down and kissed it. Everyone in the arena that night wanted one thing: A Sixers victory while seeing Allen Iverson score 30-plus points. As fate would have it, both things would be delivered. The Sixers won 115-113 that night and Iverson led all scorers with 32 points.
“I dreamed it up a certain way, and it was better than that,” Iverson told the media. “Everything was perfect but one thing, and that was not winning the game.”
When Allen Iverson left Philadelphia, he took the town’s basketball passion with him. It would take a special player to bring that energy back to Broad Street. Enter Iguodala.
The relationship between A.I. 2.0 and Philadelphia would be far from a storybook ending. Often ridiculed for not being the superstar the city wanted him to be, Iguodala spent much of his eight years in Philadelphia being maligned and booed. There was a lot of hate towards Iguodala, even though he is among the top 10 in franchise history in points, defensive rebounds, assists, steals, field goals, three-pointers and minutes. Iguodala also took the Sixers to the playoffs five out of his eight years in Philadelphia. However, even with a rocky relationship with Philadelphia, Iguodala could not be denied his signature moment.
Iguodala captured Philly hearts after those free throws, arguably his most memorable moment in Philadelphia. As fate would have it, those free throws would be some of his last. In the summer of 2012, after being selected as an All-Star for the first time in his NBA career (and the first Sixer to be selected since Allen Iverson) and a member of Team USA in the 2012 London Olympic Games, Iguodala was traded to Denver for Andrew Bynum.
“Money always plays a role in how someone is perceived or looked at as far as production,” he said about his time in Philly. “I feel like I made a huge impact on my team night in and night out, whether it showed up on the stat sheet or not, and it was always brought up. Every night, you’re thinking, this last game I played good, but it’s still not enough, not enough, not enough.”