If you’re into basketball, you know who Allen Iverson is. And if you know who Allen Iverson is, you know this infamous NBA moment. It was June 6, 2001, and Game 1 of that year’s NBA Finals. That Finals, played between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, showcased just an instance of Iverson’s prowess.
AI had been changing the league for years. His visceral street attitude, complete with cornrows, tattoos, wristbands, hella ice, and shooting sleeves, coupled with his ego and drive to do the impossible, made up for his unimposing physical stature. The man could play, plain and simple. It wasn’t just crossing up MJ, it was the countless others he crossed up and left in the dust.
On this date, Iverson made absolute mincemeat of most of the Lakers’ stars. The broadcast was led by Marv Albert, the voice of the NBA (even after the scandal), and is one of my all time favorite games to listen to. Even before the game started, the home crowd at the Staples Center was chanting “SWEEP, SWEEP,” expecting the Lakers to annihilate the 76ers. The beginning of the game certainly appeared that way with the Lakers scoring 16 straight points for an early 18-5 lead. By halftime, the tide of the game had changed with the 76ers leading 56-50. AI had Kobe moving all over place–Kobe was desperately trying to keep up with Iverson but simply couldn’t. AI’s ball handling was crossing Kobe up left and right, leaving AI with tons of space to take beautiful shots.
After the first two and a half quarters, AI had scored 38 points and given the 76ers a 73-58 lead. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher had performed phenomenally in the 11 Playoff games prior to this fateful Finals game. Kobe averaged 31.6 points in the postseason yet shot 7-for-22 and committed six turnovers in Game 1 against the 76ers. Fisher, who was averaging 15.1, missed four shots did not score once in Game 1.
Lue had locked down Iverson in the second half of the game, guarding him closely and quickly, keeping him to only three points until his outstanding performance in overtime. With less than 2 minutes left in overtime, the Lakers were leading by three. Fouled by Lue on a runner in transition, AI hit both free throws and on the next possession he sunk a beautiful three to bring the 76ers up by two points.
It is what happened next that has become infamous. AI faked to the basket at full speed, pulled back, and hit the fadeaway. He stopped, looked down at Lue who had fallen after his shot, raised his knee, and stomped right over Lue in front of the entire Lakers bench rocking the Reebok Answer IV. Game. Over.
Iverson scored 38 points in the first 29 minutes of Game 1 but only four points in the following 22 minutes. His flurry of shots in overtime brought him these final stats: 48 points, five rebounds, six assists, five magnificent steals, three turnovers, 18-41 FG, 3-8 3PT, and 9-9 FT in 52 minutes.
While the 76ers won that exciting Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals in overtime 107-101, the Lakers shut them out in the next four games. However, it is the postgame press conference of Game that showed just how awesome AI was. He arrived in an Eagles jersey wearing dark sunglasses indoors, Timbs, and so much ice he actually gleamed in the light. When asked about fatigue, Iverson replied, “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity all my life…I’m not thinking about fatigue. Fatigues are army clothes.”
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