No Longer the Answer
You could make a pretty sound argument that Allen Iverson is the best basketball player ever to stand under six feet. His ability to score in traffic is unmatched, his tougness is legendary, and, improbably, given the fact that he takes more physical abuse than any other NBA player, when he turns 31 this June he will just have completed what is perhaps the best basketball season of his life. His average of 33 points per game this season is a career high. In fact, when one compares this year's campaign with his 2000-2001 season, which culminated with him being named league MVP, it becomes clear that AI is having his best year ever. Iverson's scoring average (33.0 to 31.9), field goal percentage (.448 to .420), three point shooting (.329 to .320), assists (7.5 to 4.6), and even minutes played (43.0 to 42.0) are better this season. And despite the fact that Iverson is scoring more, shooting better, dishing out more assists, and playing more the Sixers are struggling to make the playoffs, as opposed to the 2000-2001 season when the team reached the NBA Finals.
But Iverson's brilliant career has been tarnished by the Sixers staggering inability to build a championship team around him. Even when Iverson strapped the team on his back and carried them to the Finals in 2001, he did so with shockingly little talent around him. Names like Tyrone Hill, Eric Snow, and George Lynch did not exactly inspire fear in opponents or give them any reason to be scared if they decided to run three guys at Iverson on every important possession. Detractors that claim that Iverson is simply not a team player and that his playing style isn't compatible with his teammates have no answer for Iverson's dominant play in NBA All-Star games and international competition. Despite AI's proven ability to take over a game or get teammates involved, play multiple positions, and be leader both on and off the court, the Sixers have never been able to surround him with the type of talent necessary to win an NBA championship. Their failure to do so over the last eight years Iverson has been a top-five NBA player does not bode well for any efforts they may make to do so this summer. Therefore, as painful as it is to suggest, the Sixers need to part ways with Allen this summer, while he is still an NBA superstar and capable of generating significant interest from the rest of the league. In return for Iverson, the Sixers should be able to obtain at least one promising young player and/or a first round draft pick. These new Sixers will join a nucleus of Kyle Korver, Andre Igoudala, and Willie Green and have a chance to begin the long and occassionally fruitless process of NBA rebuilding. Nevertheless, such a move is in the best interest for both Allen Iverson and the Sixers, as the team has shown time and time again for the last decade that they are simply unable to consisitently excel with the Answer.