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Sixers bringing back Iverson would be a temporary solution to a much bigger problem


Let's be honest here: The Philadelphia 76ers  are in dire, dire straits. There were more people at Mad River's Happy Hour than at the Sixers game Allen Iverson. Photo: blogs.phillyburbs.comagainst the Grizzlies last Friday. On Thanksgiving eve, a local bar in Philadelphia decided to show the Magic vs. Heat on their big screen as opposed to Sixers vs. Celtics. Elton Brand, heralded by Sixers GM Ed Stefanski as a high character guy whose work ethic is superb, is now riding the bench because Eddie Jordan is apparently frustrated with that same work ethic Stefanski once praised. The only question now is who was a bigger bust as far as his contract goes? Brand? or Matt Geiger? Hey, at least Geiger took down Reggie Miller in the 2000 playoffs. Lou Williams  is now missing eight weeks after surgery on his broken jaw and Marreese Speights is out until at least January. In other words, this team is a rudderless ship wallowing in mediocrity. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so when I awoke this morning to the talk of the Sixers considering bringing back Allen Iverson, I was not surprised. In the automobile business, we used to call this "bandaiding the problem." If "the prodigal son" does return to the Sixers, they just took another three steps back on their road to respectability. Anyone else out there thinking "Been there, done that?"

Obviously, the Sixers are trying to salvage anything they can out of this already lost season. The franchise is waving the red flag and for the most part screaming "We are doing this for attendance," if Iverson comes back.  Only problem is, everybody knows this will last for about 10 games and the novelty will wear off. Attendance was in decline in 2005. That was even before Iverson and Chris Webber  spat in the faces of the Sixers fans on "Fan Appreciation Day" the next year. The same Sixers team who wanted Iverson out of here for all the right reasons would now welcome him back? The inmates would again be running the asylum, but the Sixers are THAT hard up. Do I think Allen Iverson should return to Philadelphia? Absolutely not. My feelings regarding Iverson and the Sixers organization have been hot and cold over the last fifteen odd years. However, it wasn't always that way.

Do you guys remember the early-mid nineties in Sixerville? Not many people lived there during that time, but I was one of the residents. During this era, I had to sit through the likes of Thomas Jordan, B.J. Tyler, Sean Green, Jerome Harmon, Bill Edwards, and a slew of other "10-day contractors" who were never seen or heard from again after their time with the Sixers was over. You could easily score tickets to see Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Gary Payton, and Shaquille O' Neal  kick the crap out of the home team up close and personal. I can't stand the guy personally, but to this day, seeing Michael Jordan  at the Spectrum in January of '96 is a sports moment in my life I will cherish forever. Poetry in motion if I ever saw it. Then came the 1996 NBA Draft when the Sixers selected Iverson with the number one overall pick. Sixerville would NEVER be the same again.

Here is where I am torn: You have to give credit where credit is due. Whether you like it or not, Allen Iverson single-handedly rescued this Iverson with David Stern on Draft Day 1996. Photo: www.alleniversonlive.comfranchise from the lowest depths of nowhere, and made those awful years in the early-mid 90's seem like a bad dream. Iverson was unlike anything this town had ever seen: in appearance and in talent. People who were never basketball fans now watched Sixers basketball. Add a likeable owner and a dynamite head coach into the mix, and you've got yourself a revitalized franchise. Pat Croce MADE you want to like the Sixers. Larry Brown's track record spoke for itself. Moreover, for the first time EVER, the Sixers were a marketable commodity and drew record crowds. This is a team who had previously NEVER put people in the seats. Not even with Doc, Moses, or Barkley- three NBA Hall Of Famers who once roamed the Spectrum floor-at the same time! While in college, a bunch of us had just finished finals and were ready to party, but we were all glued to our television until the Sixers game ended against Detroit. These were happy times in Sixerville. In 2001, Sixerville almost tasted NBA immortality when Iverson carried his team to the threshold of a title.

However, into years three and four, there were signs of the Sixers brass tiring of Iverson's shenanigans. They originally thought that Iverson was just young, and that he would eventually ditch "Cru Thik" and end his foolish behavior. It never happened. I absolutely loved watching Iverson play. After a while however, I began to wonder why none of the other Sixers on the team were ever compatible with Iverson. Was he THAT much better than they were? Were the other players THAT bad? Turns out, maybe a little of both, but Iverson didn't like to practice, and it drove Larry Brown  nuts (and eventually out of town). All you have to do is look at the NBA greats, their behavior on the court, their work ethic on and off the court, and then look at Iverson. The Sixers worked out at my school after the 1999 strike- and Iverson was the only Sixer NEVER there. How bad was it? Even Matt Geiger showed up most of the time. Can you imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Jordan ditching practice? That never would have been tolerated by those organizations, who held their stars to a much higher standard. I'm sure once in a blue moon those guys would miss a few. However, do you think James Worthy, Kevin McHale, or Scottie Pippen would have had the careers they had if those guys weren't taking part in practice with those legends?  Iverson never believed in that, because after all, the rules didn't apply to him and never did. Jabbar and Jordan have six rings, Johnson has five, Bird has three rings, so what do they know? Let's not kid ourselves, Iverson didn't suddenly start to practice in 2000-2001 when the team wa son a roll. Winning cures many things. So when the team came back with a mediocre 2001-2002 campaign, Iverson "wasn't practicing again."  I think we all know what happened next as far as that was concerned.  Shortly after these events, it became apparent to many that our team's greatest asset was also its greatest liability.

You can't just blame Iverson here: the Sixers tolerated his nonsense time and time again until that night in 2006, when it became obvious to all of Kobe Bryant and Company were too much for Iverson and the Sixers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Photo: www.espn.go.comPhiladelphia that things had to change. The fans that cheered for Iverson time and time again and stood by him despite his constant acts of pomposity were dissed by him and that fraud of a time-out caller. Iverson even sold out Maurice Cheeks- a Philly legend, and a man he considered a "friend." The same guy he "wanted to kiss on the mouth" during Cheeks' introduction as the new Sixers coach. "Fan Appreciation Night 2006" forever changed my opinion of Allen Iverson. I couldn't stand by anything he did from that point on. He never gave a crap about anyone but Allen Iverson, and THAT is why he will never win anything. That's what really infuriates me about him and still does. The team did have some success that I will look back upon fondly. Problem is, if he would have done things differently, who knows what else Iverson could have accomplished on the court or what else he could have done for the Sixers. Maybe they could have actually won a few titles. Truth be told, when he was finished burning his bridges with Memphis and NO other NBA team would touch him, I thought that karma had finally caught up with him. And in a weird way, I was glad. His skills have deteriorated to the point where not even his talent can let him get away with anything. Before everybody mistakes my opinions for underlying cruelty, let's just remember something here: it's not like he's going to starve if he retired today. I'll always be grateful for Iverson and the thrilling moments he provided for Sixers fans. But it could have been so much better, and the ending of his tenure in Philly left a bad taste in my mouth that has yet to be washed out.

Have no fear however, the Sixers might be coming to his aid! Truth be told, it's not that the Sixers don't care about integrity anymore. There are respectable people in that organization. However, none of them are collectively making smart basketball decisions. As previously mentioned, desperate times require you to do things you normally wouldn't do. I've been there. I understand. The bottom line however, is that it never should have even gotten to the point where this franchise should entertain the thought of bringing Iverson back. The high standards (no matter what Stefanski says) are simply not there. If they were, this franchise wouldn't be where it is. We would be mentioned in the same breath as Los Angeles, Boston, and Cleveland. As long as the Sixers continue with their best Indiana Pacers impersonation of the early 1990's, they will make the playoffs every year, lose in the first round, and not be bad enough to land a high draft pick.

Not only that, you might have Allen Iverson showing Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, and Thaddeus Young that hard work, practice, and selflessness is what makes an NBA Champion..................

thumbnail: AP Photo/Lori Shepler