Tuesday, December 19, 2006

THE ANSWER IS DENVER: One of the first posts ever on this blog, back when this was a solo proprietorship handing out five soft pretzels for a dollar, was an appreciation of Allen Iverson, and lord knows I've returned to that well a few times -- and that link doesn't include times where I just referred to him as "A.I.", which Google's just going to confuse with that pop singing show.

Anyway, it's over. As one of Bill Simmons' readers put it last week, "If he plays 42 minutes in a game, he complains about the six minutes on the bench. He simply loves the game of basketball more than any other player in the league."

Forget the Eagles SB run and other playoff attempts; forget '76-'78, '83, '93 and even 1980 for the Phillies. I never had as much sustained fun as a sports fan as the Sixers' playoff run in 2001, attending six of the home playoff games (including the Toronto and Milwaukee Game Sevens, and the unbelievable Reggie-AI battle in Indiana Game 2), and I've never seen an entire city as in love with a sports team, and its leader, as that one.

I may have told this story before: I actually missed most of game one of the Lakers series because I was traveling with Jen in Portland on her first-ever book tour. (We did catch the fourth quarter and overtime.) The next day, we flew to LA for her next event, and we happened to be staying at the same hotel as the victorious Sixers. I spent about an hour that afternoon just sitting in a small lobby of the RegBevWil, reading the paper, surrounded by about six of the players and their kids. I just wanted to absorb it all, and didn't want to ruin my ability to be there by declaring my fandom and interjecting myself in the scene. (And then, back in Philadelphia, I went to the game where we booed Destiny's Child.)

I keep circling around Iverson, so let me get to the point: the key to understanding Philadelphia fans is that what we appreciate, more than anything else, is stuff that looks like effort. It explains why Scott Rolen was never loved like Lenny Dykstra, and Brian Westbrook gets far more dap than Ricky Watters ever did. And no one gave more effort, and made it show here, than Allen Iverson. No one played hurt more, threw his body around more, willed his teams to win more. I lived in Chicago during the second Jordan run -- but, I'm telling you, Iverson was more gripping to watch.

I'm not sad today, because he's finally free of Billy King's nonsense and this team's mediocrity, and I hope he wins the ring he deserves in Denver. No matter what, we've got great memories -- here's one set of Top 10 Plays, a montage of crossover moves, and, sure, watch him talk about practice.

Thanks, A.I.

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