Enrico Campitelli Jr. has bought only one sports jersey in his adult years. It's red, white and blue, with Philly on the front and Allen Iverson's No. 3 on the back. He never wears it outside; it hangs in his closet. But he writes that he's a better Philadelphian for having it there:
I never thought trading Allen Iverson would make me feel so emotional. When I think about my love for Philadelphia sports, there are two guys that immediately come to the front of my mind: Allen Iverson and Donovan McNabb. Sure I have memories of my dad taking me to watch Sir Charles and The Doctor, but it was Allen Iverson whose entire career as a Sixer I followed from start to finish.
I was 15 in 1996 as I watched Pat Croce go nuts at the NBA Draft Lottery show when the Sixers found out they'd get the rights to draft the scrappy guard out of Georgetown. The Sixers drafted Allen Iverson with the first pick, and my hope in a championship coming to Philly was fueled by the lightning quick skills of the barely six footer. Basketball was my first love back then, and The Answer was wearing a Philadelphia uniform. A.I. gave me hope.
It doesn't matter right now what the Sixers got in return, although Bill King did alright. Allen Iverson no longer wears a Sixers uniform. It's a sad day for Philadelphia.
Adam Bonin, at a List of Things Thrown Five Minutes ago, remembers the man who loved the game, if not practice:
It's over. As one of Bill Simmons' readers put it last week, "If he plays 42 minutes in a game, he complains about the six minutes on the bench. He simply loves the game of basketball more than any other player in the league."
Forget the Eagles SB run and other playoff attempts; forget '76-'78, '83, '93 and even 1980 for the Phillies. I never had as much sustained fun as a sports fan as the Sixers' playoff run in 2001, attending six of the home playoff games (including the Toronto and Milwaukee Game Sevens, and the unbelievable Reggie-AI battle in Indiana Game 2), and I've never seen an entire city as in love with a sports team, and its leader, as that one.
I may have told this story before: I actually missed most of game one of the Lakers series because I was traveling with Jen in Portland on her first-ever book tour. (We did catch the fourth quarter and overtime.) The next day, we flew to LA for her next event, and we happened to be staying at the same hotel as the victorious Sixers. I spent about an hour that afternoon just sitting in a small lobby of the RegBevWil, reading the paper, surrounded by about six of the players and their kids. I just wanted to absorb it all, and didn't want to ruin my ability to be there by declaring my fandom and interjecting myself in the scene. (And then, back in Philadelphia, I went to the game where we booed Destiny's Child.)
I keep circling around Iverson, so let me get to the point: the key to understanding Philadelphia fans is that what we appreciate, more than anything else, is stuff that looks like effort. It explains why Scott Rolen was never loved like Lenny Dykstra, and Brian Westbrook gets far more dap than Ricky Watters ever did. And no one gave more effort, and made it show here, than Allen Iverson. No one played hurt more, threw his body around more, willed his teams to win more. I lived in Chicago during the second Jordan run -- but, I'm telling you, Iverson was more gripping to watch.
I'm not sad today, because he's finally free of Billy King's nonsense and this team's mediocrity, and I hope he wins the ring he deserves in Denver. No matter what, we've got great memories -- here's one set of Top 10 Plays, a montage of crossover moves, and, sure, watch him talk about practice.
Anya at Metroblogging Philadelphia goes short and sour:
I feel a emptiness inside because I love Iverson, but I too think its time for him to move on. He won't get a ring with the team here in Philly and I do think he deserves at least one. He is the T.O. of basketball so I can't wait to see the trouble he gets into over there.
Ryan Reads The News recognizes much of a city - and of himself - in the under-sized All Star:
Allen Iverson, despite hailing from the Hampton/Newport News area of Virginia, and coming to Philly via Georgetown, is Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is an afterthought, a red-headed stepchild, always lurking in the giant shadow cast down by its neighbor to the Northeast- New York City. Philadelphia is smack dab in the middle between Washington D.C. and New York City, the capital of the United States and (for all intents and purposes) unofficial capital of the world. It's easy to be overlooked. We're always trying to assert our independence. Once the cultural, political and actual capital of the country, Philadelphia lapsed into relative obscurity in the 20th century. The situation became even worse in the new millennium. What are we known for? Cheesesteaks. That's right- the concept of shredded beef and melted cheese on a roll is the symbol of Philadelphia. A place that houses the Liberty Bell, boasts one of the world's greatest art museums, and has influenced not only America's culture but can actually make the claim that it created America itself, is best known for a soggy roll filled with cheese whiz. New York has the Statue of Liberty, D.C. has the White House, and we have meat and cheese. We have Pat's Steaks.
I relish being overlooked. I champion the cause of the underdog. I love being the one counted out, not believed in. I like when people tell me I can't do something. I like when they tell me I'm not smart enough or don't have the results, or that something is beyond my reach. I love when someone doubts me. It fuels me. It gives me fire. It's made me who I am.
The Phanatic devotes a few inches to the basketball aspect - what Denver gets, what Philly gets, or is promised. But most of Jared Trexler's post has to do with What Allen Iverson, the icon, meant to this place:
Iverson didn't convey his thoughts with alliteration and run-on metaphors. His points were simple, blunt, POWERFUL. He defined a race in a city with every tattoo, some with generational ties and others with messages of struggle and success.
Unlike those with the same roots, the street wasn't his family. His FAMILY was his FAMILY.
Iverson is older than most of his friends. Mostly because many succumbed to the dangers associated with poverty, crime, and life spent around coke instead of on the couch.
A.I. -- the one bouncing his daughter off his knee? Or A.I. -- the mugshot following arrests for marijuana and gun possessions?
Truth be told, he's both. A hoop artist with a sweet 401(k) plan on the court, a confetti artist with a tough edge and short fuse off it.
"I worry about him all the time," former Sixers president Pat Croce once said. "All the time, when he's not in our sanctum or where I can see him."
A.I., still a little kid wearing big shoes.