Forget the fact that the Sixers are 5-16 and sitting in next-to-last place in the Eastern Conference (with only the lowly New Jersey Nets behind them). Forget the fact that they lost their 10th straight game Monday, 93-83, to the Denver Nuggets. It is very rare that you can say this in sports, but winning is not the most important thing. Not tonight at least.
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It’s all about Allen Iverson. It’s all about getting one last chance to see the man who gave fans so many great memories in his decade as a Sixer suit up for the hometown team once again.
I was one of the 20,664 people who attended this game, the first sellout the Wachovia Center has seen for a Sixers game in a long time. It was a surreal night that brought back so many memories.
The crowd was revved up and ready to go long before the game started. It went nuts when the team came out for pregame warm-ups, when they showed Iverson on the big board, and, of course, when he was introduced in the starting lineup. Iverson went out to center court and kissed the logo of the team that made him an international superstar. The place was so loud that you could not hear anything past “a six foot guard from Georgetown…” as the public address announcer introduced him.
It did not stop when the game started. Every time he touched the ball, people cheered. When he finally scored his first points five minutes into the game, the place erupted.
Prior to the game, the team showed a package of video and audio highlights of Iverson’s first stint with the team they had put together for the occasion. It was great to hear everyone around me yell out which moments were their favorites. Everyone had a different story as to why they have come to adore the man known as “The Answer.”
Here’s mine: in April of 2001, my mom died of cancer. I was just ten years old and it was the hardest time of my life. But also that spring, the Sixers made their magical run to the NBA Finals led almost single-handedly by Allen Iverson. It provided me with a great distraction from the horrible event that had just occurred in my life.
My dad and I saw them several times that spring, including game 7 of the conference finals when they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks and clinched their spot in the NBA Finals. They weren’t able to defeat the mighty Lakers, but it didn’t diminish what they had done for me.
Looking back, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through that time in my life without the Sixers to distract me. I give credit to Allen Iverson for helping me through the toughest time of my life. For that, I will be forever grateful.
That is why I was there tonight. I wanted to see my favorite player play for my favorite team again. I wanted to show him the appreciation I have for him and experience the love that the city as a whole has for him. That is what tonight was about. It was an extremely special night.
No matter how the rest of this Iverson part two experiment turns out, tonight made the signing 100 percent worth it. It’s a night I, and 20,663 of my closest friends, will never forget.
– Brad Allen ’13