Allen Iverson gives Hall of Fame speech for the ages

Allen Iverson gives Hall of Fame speech for the ages

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The applause erupted before he even took the stage. As emcee Ahmad Rashad started his introduction by talking about swagger, the camera panned to Allen Iverson in his seat. 

“There is no debating style" Rashad said as Iverson appeared on the monitors. Then he stopped. The crowd burst into a wild cheer, cutting off Rashad for the next 35 seconds.

So began Iverson’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which 38 minutes later could have been headlined as “A.I.’s Special Night with his Fans.”

From the moment Iverson walked up to the podium, his speech was more than about basketball. It was a declaration of appreciation. 

Iverson’s career is marked by his unique personal style, on and off the court. The gold chains, baggy jeans and T-shirts, cornrows, shooting sleeves — Iverson has been identified by his outward appearance. 

He admitted on Thursday he was uncomfortable wearing the orange Hall of Fame inductee jacket, which he sported with a handful of necklaces and a Yankees cap. But on Friday, Iverson arrived in a simple, tailored, all-black suit, shirt and tie. No flash. No flare. When he stepped on to the stage and the bright lights shined down on him, the focus only was on his emotional words. 

From his mother who insisted he attend youth practice to the coaches who poured themselves into molding him, his relatives who provided a solid foundation in the hectic world of a professional athlete to the fans who stood by him regardless of the circumstances, Iverson shared the special moment by giving thanks to those who helped him become a Hall of Famer.

He called out specific mentors in the basketball world, including his three presenters. Iverson began with former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, who he credited for saving his life. Next was former Sixers head coach Larry Brown. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but Iverson said once he began to listen to Brown, he became an All-Star and MVP. 

Iverson then thanked Julius Erving for supporting him during his entire tenure with the Sixers. Later in the speech, Iverson called out former Sixers president Pat Croce, who drafted Iverson first overall in 1996, for recognizing his potential to lead a franchise. He noted, “I love you, Pat.” 

There are so many people involved in the daily operations of basketball, and Iverson made sure to recognize those on court and behind the scenes. He praised handfuls of former teammates, basketball operations staff and broadcasters. The Sixers had front office and former players in attendance, including Eric Snow, head coach Brett Brown and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. 

Much of Iverson’s time was spent talking about his family. Each member received a special message, and Iverson expressed how much the stability they give means to him. 

“I thank y'all for being my crutch in my career,” he said. “When I had hard losses, didn’t play well, the media treated me like they did throughout my career, I always came home and forgot about all of that once I saw y'all.” 

Iverson took the listeners through a journey of his life. There were somber pauses and tearful acknowledgements, and then there were jokes and humorous anecdotes. 

In a speech that covered all aspects of his personality, Iverson drew a reference between meeting Michael Jordan to Chappelle's Show (see video) and thanked artists, including Michael Jackson, The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac for being the theme music of his career. He paid tribute to fierce competitors like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and shared comical exchanges between him and Tyronn Lue. He even closed his night by thanking the negative people he got out of his life. Regardless of the topic at hand, Iverson had the audience waiting on every word. 

Some attendees showed their dedication by wearing Iverson jerseys, donning Hoyas, Sixers and Nuggets gear. Others stood and rooted while he spoke. It was only fitting that he gave a special shoutout to his supporters, a group that filled the balcony and was so loud the hall sounded like it was packed just for him.

“Philly fans!” Iverson called out. Nearly half a minute of cheers ensued, fans bowed, and some chanted “M-V-P” (see video).

“My relationship with the fans in Philadelphia is like no other,” he said. “Thank y’all for the support over the years. Y'all let me grow. Y’all let me make my mistakes. Never jumped off the bandwagon, continued to support me like true fans are supposed to.” 

Iverson embodied the impact of his family, friends and fans in his induction speech. He was the one playing basketball, but made it clear he could not have done it alone. On a night that celebrated his personal achievements, Iverson made it about everyone else. 

“The ones that stuck by me throughout my journey, I love y'all,” he said (watch speech). “I love the fact that now y'all can walk around and stick y'all chest out and say y'all Hall of Famers.” 

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

With the NBA's glorified exhibition in the rearview mirror, we reenter reality of the remaining NBA season. The Sixers still are looking for suitors for Jahlil Okafor while questions swirl around about the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

Some claim they are tanking still, and if those people are talking about the recent NBA power rankings then they would be right. 

Games before the All-Star break
Last Monday and Wednesday the Sixers split their two games before the break, beating the Hornets and losing to the Celtics. 

Dario Saric continues to be the Sixers' most productive player in the absence of Embiid. In the short week, he averaged 19 points (a team leader in that category both games) and 11 rebounds. 

T.J. McConnell continues to control the floor at the point, dishing out seven assists against the Hornets and eight against the Celtics. 

An inability to finish has been the story for the Sixers without Embiid. The Sixers led by one at the half against the Hornets and were tied with the Celtics at the midway point. These are good signs, but these guys are far from being contenders in the east. The experts agree. 

What's next
Only two games this week for the 76ers: Friday at home against the Wizards (7 p.m./CSN) and on the road on Sunday to play the Knicks (7:30 p.m./CSN).

What the experts say
ESPN’s Marc Stein had some fun with his rankings this week using tweets and memes to describe a team’s current situation. The Sixers dropped from 20 to 23 in his rankings — not a significant drop but a drop nonetheless. 

He used this one in his evaluation of the Sixers:

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann bumped the Sixers up from 22 to 21 this week. He sees great improvement in Saric’s game stating: “Saric has already shown a lot of improvement and TLC, with his length on the perimeter, could prove to be a great fit next to the other core pieces if he can knock down shots.”

He added a positive thought on the Demarcus Cousins trade and how the Sixers still made out well even though they were not able to ship Okafor to the Pelicans. 

“The Sixers lost a potential trading partner with the DeMarcus Cousins trade to New Orleans, but still came out a winner in the deal, because they can swap first round picks with the Kings this year and own Sacramento's pick (with no protections) in 2019.”

Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes did not move the 76ers from the 21 spot on his list last week. He writes that he is intrigued with this processing team: “Sorry, but I'm never going to stop being delighted by the Sixers finding ways to win.”

He made his prediction for games won by the Sixers if they get Embiid back on the court: “It's hard to know what Simmons might bring, but Embiid's contributions are well understood. If he makes it back and looks healthy, Philly could easily win 30-plus games.”

Finally, Fox Sports’ Andrew Lynch dropped the Sixers from 27 to 28 – yikes! His outlook is very pessimistic as he looks exclusively at the injuries of Embiid and Simmons. He writes that a complete shutdown of Simmons would make sense as the season’s end gets closer by the day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give and Go: Do Joel Embiid's injuries limit his ceiling?

Give and Go: Do Joel Embiid's injuries limit his ceiling?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we describe Joel Embiid's rookie season.

Haughton
There are so many different ways to go when describing Joel Embiid's long-awaited rookie season.

The numbers say dominant. Embiid leads all rookies in points (20.2), rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.4) per game. He's also second in field goal percentage (46.6) among first-year players.

Of course, the injury situation — and handling of it by the team — has made Embiid's first season a bit frustrating. After waiting two seasons for the center to overcome foot injuries, you can understand the team's cautious approach. However, the almost random playing patterns at times and the near radio silence on his medical status has left a bad taste.

Still, overall I would say Embiid's rookie campaign has been refreshing for the franchise. Following three straight seasons of absolute abysmal basketball, the Sixers finally appear to have a real building block. 

Not only that, but Embiid also gives them a charismatic personality that is filling up the Wells Fargo Center again and being recognized on a national stage. You can't ask for much more after what the organization endured in recent years.

Hudrick
Describing Embiid's season depends on which perspective you're looking at it from. 

When he's been on the court, it's been unbelievable. He's a 22-year-old Cameroonian who's only been playing the game of basketball for a few years. He also didn't play for two years after two foot surgeries. Even with all that, he's been the most exciting basketball player this city has seen since Allen Iverson.

From a statistical standpoint, his numbers align with some of the greatest rookie big men of all time. While mentioning Embiid and Hakeem Olajuwon in the same breath may be premature, it's an indication of just how spectacular he has been. Their rookie seasons actually compare favorably.

Of course, the injuries are concerning. Will he ever be a full-time player? Embiid recently expressed his interest in playing back-to-back games. The organization won't give him the opportunity this year and I'm not sure how many opportunities they'll give him in the future. 

With that said, Embiid can still make an impact in 60-something games a season. When he's on the court, he can be one of the most dominant players in the league. When healthy, Embiid is the most exciting athlete in Philadelphia.