I'll preface this piece in saying I've never really liked Allen Iverson the individual,...nor cared for his demonstrative mother. I've seen the ESPN 30 For 30 special dedicated to him and have grasped a much stronger understanding as to why Iverson acquired the attitude he displayed for much of his 14-year NBA career. Still, A.I. was a pain in my childhood's ass.
With retirement in his sights, I can't deny 'The Answer' of being a shoe-in for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall off Fame. I will say though that if the Magic never existed, Iverson's career arc may have been less stellar. The benefits of being possibly the most notorious 'Magic Killer' in team history. Even more than Michael Jordan. Iverson played in 71 career playoff games, averaging 29.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.8 rpg, and 2.1 spg. Four of those came against Orlando. What a nightmarish 4 contests those would be for Magic lore.
In 1999, a 23-year-old Allen Iverson finally got his 76ers to the playoffs in the Georgetown product's third season in the league. The former #1 pick led Philadelphia to a 28-22 record during that shortened Lockout season. It was good enough for the sixth seed in the East where they would face Chuck Daly's 3rd-seeded Magic side. Larry Brown was in his second season with the Sixers. His last playoff encounter with Orlando came in 1995 - a series Pacers fans still hate Orlando for - so you can imagine Larry Brown had extra incentive to pull the upset.
An extra regular season win and the Magic would've gained the #1 seed and would've faced the...oh...the Knicks. Well maybe Daly would've found a way to take down New York in a way the Heat, Hawks, and Pacers couldn't do that summer. Instead, the 33-17 got the 'worst' seed of the 3-way tie. I guess we should've begged for the Pacers' #2 spot so that we could beat the Bucks.
You knew the Sixers could smell blood in the water before the series even started. For one, they annihilated Orlando in Philly both at the start of the season and towards the end of it. The once exception was maybe my favorite conclusion to a Magic regular season game ever - which was also the most brutal 47 minutes I had ever witnessed as indicated by 28.6 FG% - a 74-73 win as a result of Darrell Armstrong stealing a Sixers inbound pass and sprinting to just get off a game-winning lay-up at the buzzer, causing the O-Rena to erupt in disbelief. From then on, Armstrong was dubbed 'Flash'. Thanks for the brain-fart, George Lynch.
Iverson's regular season scoring totals in order: 16 points, 14 points, and 38 points. The latter was of course foreshadowing.
The '99 Magic were old, had little depth, and Penny's injured body was a shell of itself just two years earlier. They had some young blood in rookies Michael Doleac and Matt Harpring. Youth would be greatly outweighed thanks to then 40-year-old Danny Schayes and the Wilkins brothers. So with that in mind, Larry Brown knew his team could out-rebound and out-run Daly's squad.
Chuck Daly knew going into that series that his troops were in trouble, and so the excuses came before the opening tip of Game 1. Orlando loses by 14 to immediately piss away home court advantage.
Iverson set the tone with 30 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards. Clearwater native Matt Geiger decided to punish John Gabriel and the Magic front office for not acquiring him over Penny's recruit Isaac Austin throughout the course of the series. Even when Geiger's scoring drastically dropped in the remaining three contests, he shut down Austin's offense. Ike Austin really deserves a massive chunk of the blame for Orlando's failings, but this was all about Iverson growing up and winning his first playoff game.
Game 2 marked the only contest that the Magic were able to contain Iverson to just 4-of-15 shooting and thirteen points. Penny and company got angry and physical. As expected, it marked Orlando's only victory in a low-scoring affair. In hindsight, Matt Harpring probably should have had more minutes defending Iverson. Also, Bo Outlaw should have taken all of Austin's minutes.
Game 3 shifted the series back to Philadelphia where Iverson would record a masterful 33 points, 5 dimes, 5 boards, and 10 STEALS!!! NBA playoff records are never fun when they happen against you. I swear this game is why I DON'T DRINK COFFEE! Iverson was getting knighted as the prince to MJ's departed throne and Penny was getting ripped for doubting Daly.
The series was at 2-1, but everyone knew Orlando was done right then and there before Game 4 even had to occur. Nick Anderson's 26 points kept Orlando in the game, but it was too little too late. Iverson, again playing the role of demolition man, posted a series-best 37 points and 9 assists.
Daly depended on Penny and Nick to carry the offensive load with Austin hiding in the fetal position.
Their shooting percentages are so disheartening I can't muster the want to post their field goal shooting. Horace was about to be 34 years old and injuries had continued to pile up going back to 1996. You can still argue that Anderson has been mentally cooked in the playoffs since the '95 Finals and that Chuck should have asked more from the remaining supporting cast. Darrell competed well but didn't get nearly the amount of attempts I would have hoped for. Hardaway was still 'the man' even with failing legs and you ride your franchise guy when you have no other options.
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.
What sucks even more about losing 3-1 to an inexperienced Philadelphia roster was the Sixers proceeding to get swept 4-0 by Indiana. Iverson did average 28.8 ppg though...on a not so surprising 44-of-115. WHERE WAS THAT 38.3% SHOOTING THE WEEK BEFORE, ALLEN?! Why couldn't you be the high-volume inefficient chucker that we were accustomed to against Orlando? Well that's quite easy, because his confidence was through the roof after drilling over 50% of his shots in the final two wins versus Orlando. From then on, Iverson would lick his chops in the coming years whenever he faced Orlando.
60 points? Pssshhh:
Miraculous game-winner? Yep:
Clutch free throws? Uh-huh:
There's more, but you get the picture. Iverson will retire as the greatest Magic Killer of all-time.