Philadelphia 76ers' Allen Iverson reacts after scoring a basket during the first half against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, March 12, 1997, in Philadelphia. Iverson scored 37 points. (AP File Photo/Chris Gardner)
BY MARK PERNER, Daily News Staff Writer email@example.com
Posted: March 01, 2013
ALLEN IVERSON played with a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar. It was his fuel.
Sometimes that fuel flooded the engine, but Iverson never backed off a challenge. Maybe it was because of his childhood growing up in Hampton, Va., where he was the man of the house at a too-young age. Maybe it was seeing people from the neighborhood getting killed or going to prison. Maybe it was being imprisoned - wrongly, he believed - and missing out on his senior year of basketball. Or maybe because he was usually the smallest player on the court, feeling he had to prove himself every minute, showing everyone that size doesn't matter.
Whatever the reason, whether we agree with the method, the personality or the background, it all made Allen Iverson one of the fiercest competitors ever to play the game.
On March 12, 1997, as his rookie season was reaching the finish line, Iverson and the Sixers were facing the NBA champion Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
Iverson lit up the Bulls, tying a then-career high with 37 points, although the Sixers, despite a solid showing, bowed to the Bulls, 108-104.
But what defined this game was one move, Iverson's signature, the crossover.
Ever since his high school days, Iverson talked about the mastery of the move on the master, Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
"I used to always tell my friends that when I get on that stage, I'm going to try my move on the best," Iverson said.
Late in the game, Jordan found himself guarding the cocky rookie out of Georgetown and wasn't about to back down. And Iverson, like the young shooter taking on the old gunslinger, wasn't about to back down from a challenge.
"A lot of guys, when you see guys that you kinda looked up to, they kinda shy away from the challenge," Iverson said. "And I just took it on."
Iveron's hair was short and his collection of tattoos small, reminding us how young he was on this night.
He rocked Jordan once with a small crossover and then dropped the big one, moving to his right and swishing a 20-foot jumper just ahead of the flailing Jordan. The crowd at the CoreStates Center, anticipating what was about to occur, rose and erupted in joy. Our guy went one-on-one with the greatest player ever and our guy won, they were thinking. At that moment, Philly fell in love with Allen Iverson. He was ours. He was our David to the NBA's Goliath. We had a star, too.
"I don't think I planned it," said Iverson, who had faced the Bulls twice before, but the situation to try the move never materialized.
"I'll never forget coming off a screen and him switching and [coach] Phil Jackson hollering his name, telling him to switch out on me," Iverson recalled. "And I gave him the first little one, and I see that he's biting on it. And I hit him with the second one and made the shot."
Without making the shot, the move becomes an afterthought.
"I was going to put my move to the test, to see if it was real," Iverson said. "It had to be real if it worked on the greatest player to ever play the game. That made me feel good."
Watch the video carefully next time and you'll see what made Jordan such a great player.
"The craziest thing about it is, I hit him with my best move, and he still almost blocked it," Iverson said, laughing at the moment. "That's what was so crazy about it. That just let's you know how great a defensive player he was."
Two great players showing their stuff. Where have those days gone around here?