Feeling nostalgic, Sixers fans, or fans of Allen Iverson in general? Well you’ve come to the right place. Saturday marks the 19th anniversary (where does the time go?) of Allen Iverson’s iconic Game 1 performance against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals.
The Answer went absolutely ballistic in the series opener, torching the Shaq and Kobe-led Lakers for 48 points on 18-of-41 shooting in the 76ers’ overtime victory. A.I. also contributed five boards, six dimes and five steals in Philadelphia’s 107-101 triumph at the Staples Center. That win marked L.A.’s first and only loss of the 2001 postseason.
In a career chock full of memorable plays, Game 1 against the Lakers stands above the rest as Iverson’s signature moment (unless you’re partial to his legendary “We’re talking about practice” rant). The Hall of Fame guard was at the height of his powers in 2001, winning his lone MVP Award that year while leading the league in scoring (31.1 points per game) as well as steals (2.5). The former Georgetown Hoya put on a dazzling display in the playoffs, finishing second to Orlando’s Tracy McGrady (33.8) in postseason points per game (32.9).
To say the Sixers leaned heavily on Iverson, an 11-time All-Star and four-time NBA scoring champ, in 2001 would be an understatement. The former No. 1 pick logged an exhausting 46.2 minutes per game while averaging an unheard of 30 field goal attempts under head coach Larry Brown in that year’s postseason.
Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals produced easily the most iconic play of Iverson’s 14-year career. Up two with under a minute to go in overtime, the six-foot guard put his helpless defender Tyronn Lue on skates with a filthy crossover, then drilled a long two to extend Philly’s lead to 103-99 with 48.2 seconds left to play. Iverson celebrated his game-sealing jumper by savagely stepping over Lue (who was still on the ground recovering from A.I.’s ankle-breaker) in one of the most disrespectful acts ever perpetrated on an NBA court. That play went on to define both players’ careers.
Lue admitted to hating Iverson for a time after his embarrassing Finals misstep, but in the years since A.I.’s step-over heard ‘round the world, the two have become close friends. “It doesn’t bother me,” Lue told ESPN in 2016. “We won the championship. That’s all that matters.”
Title or not, Iverson’s knockout blow late in Game 1 is a memory Sixers fans will forever cherish.