Allen Iverson will always be adored in Philly.
The Hall of Famer and former 76ers great celebrated his 46th birthday Monday. This week also marked the 20-year anniversary of the Iverson-led Sixers facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals.
He did the epic step over Ty Lue in a Game 1 after he hit a jumper on June 6, 2001. Allen had 48 points in the Sixers’ 107-101 victory that night at the Staples Center.
“The legend of Allen Iverson is just so huge,” Matisse Thybulle said Tuesday. “It’s funny, I’m gonna go on a little tangent here. But one of the knocks that people make on Philly is like the most famous athlete from Philly isn’t even real and they’re all referring to Rocky.”
Thybulle is referring to the fictional Kensington boxer, Rocky Balboa, who went from an underdog to heavyweight contender to champion in the series of 1970s and ’80s films. There’s a real-life sculpture of the favorite fictional son of the City of Brotherly Love in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
However, Iverson is a global icon for his style and play on the court.
In October 2013, the Sixers played a preseason game against Bilbao Basket at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain. This was four seasons after Iverson’s second stint with the Sixers.
Yet fans were decked out in No. 3 Allen Iverson Sixers jerseys. Two hours before the game, Aritz Urra and Erik Vega were at the arena making a sign that read: “We Miss You AI3 Go! Sixers!!”
Iverson is still very much celebrated in Philly and the NBA.
“Being a Sixer, you realize how big of an impact Iverson’s had on this city and this team and in the legacy of this team and what it means to be a Sixer today,” Thybulle said. “We have a lot to thank him for that. Happy birthday, AI.”
Iverson, a nine-time All-Star, played with the Sixers from 1996 to 2006 and during the 2009-10 season. He also had stints with the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies during his NBA career. Iverson also briefly played for Besiktas Milangaz of the Turkish Basketball League in 2010-11.
He averaged 26.7 points in his NBA career and carried the Sixers to their only NBA Finals appearance since 1983.