The first time I saw Allen Iverson play, the Philadelphia 76ers were a laughingstock. The fact that the game was on April 1 and we would get treated to a wonderful Orlando Magic, Paul Porter April Fool's Joke entertained my nine-year-old mind (I am still looking for the prize-winning dot underneath my chair, Paul!).
Philadelphia had gone 18-64 the previous season, was on its way to a 22-win season in 1997 and had not had a winning season since 1991, before my basketball consciousness really kicked in. At this point, the Magic were the dominant team in the East (having just lost Shaquille O'Neal) and the Sixers were one of the sorrier franchises in the league.
Allen Iverson changed that.
He scored only 15 points that evening and dished out 11 assists. It was not anywhere near Iverson's most impressive performance. But you could tell this kid was going to change the Sixers. Two years later, it was Iverson changing things for two franchises on the Orlando Arena floor and launching himself into true NBA superstardom.
And it did not stop there. Allen Iverson was a constant thorn in the Magic's side throughout his 14-year career. Adam Papageorgiou recapped the moment Allen Iverson ascended at the Magic's expense over at Orlando Magic Greek:
Not only was this series the rise of Iverson, a sneak peek into his NBA Finals trip 2 years later, but this was also the media demise of Penny. It's sad because the man did all he could with limited physical abilities following surgeries. With waning attendance and Anderson plus Penny about to be traded out of town, it was the end of the '90s era Magic that first brought fame and prominence to Orlando.
Yes, Iverson torched Orlando that series. He averaged 28.3 points per game and shot 44.4 percent from the floor. It was a classic Iverson performance. The original classic Iverson performance.
In Iverson's career, he averaged 27.7 points and 7.2 assists per game on 41.3 percent field goal shooting in 40 games against the Magic in his career. He had a higher scoring average against only six other teams in the league.
The Iverson hit train did not stop with that Playoff series in 1999. Adam did a good job chronicling all the hits Iverson kept giving the Magic. One was a 60-point game in February 2005 along with three more 40-point games and 19 total games of 30 or more points. That is right, 30 of the 40 games he played against the Magic, he scored 30 or more points.
Iverson faded into obscurity at the end of his NBA career. The league had passed him by and no team seemed willing to invest in a 30-plus-year-old, ball-doiminating, undersized shooting guard.
For the Magic, it was good riddance.