Friday, December 4, 2009

Allen Iverson: Brotherly Love

After watching the Flyers lose yet again last night, getting shut out for the second straight game, I was going to write about how much I dislike John Stevens and why he should be fired, but I couldn't really work up any energy to do it. Plus, I've already done that before.

Truth be told, my mind is elsewhere in the sports world, which I'm pretty sure you already noticed. And no, I'm not talking about the Eagles taking on the Falcons this weekend or potential bowl matchups for Penn State. I'm talking about Allen Iverson.

A lot has been said about Iverson's return to Philadelphia. How appropriate it feels, how happy everyone who doesn't hate the guy is for him to return to his professional basketball home. But to be perfectly honest with you, I don't think anyone outside of this city truly understands just how emotional this is for people like myself, people like Arkansas Fred, silver fox, The Charles, my countless other friends and the true Allen Iverson AND Philadelphia 76ers fans. To the outside world, they may look at what Iverson has accomplished in his career, at how successful he was in Philadelphia, and feel that it's the appropriate place for him to land. But I don't really think any of them can comprehend the true meaning behind this all.

In his press conference yesterday, Iverson said it perfectly: "The relationship I have with these fans is like no other, I think, in sports. I have a love for them, and they love me." That's the god honest truth. Philadelphia loves Allen Iverson. I mean really, truly loves him. No, not everyone in the city, not every 76ers fan. There are plenty of people who never have and never will "love" Allen Iverson. But for those of us in this city who did, who do, it's a love like no other between an athlete and a city. None. That's not to say Philadelphia loves Allen Iverson any more than Chicago loves Michael Jordan, Cleveland loves LeBron James or anyone else for that matter. It is to say that Philadelphia loves Allen Iverson in a way that no other city has ever loved an athlete. It's a different kind of love. An unusual love. A unique love.

Think about it. Can you honestly name one other athlete — on the same level athletically, culturally and controversially — that has brought so many problems on himself yet has had the majority of his fanbase stand behind him the entire way? I know Allen Iverson was far from a perfect player, far from a perfect man, but dammit, I loved Allen Iverson like family. I love Allen Iverson like family. He had his faults and his troubles, many of which were his own doing, but he also had a passion, a grit, a true sense of who he was and who he was going to be. Allen Iverson wasn't perfect. He was great, exciting, incredible, but far from perfect. Yet we stood behind him, stand behind him because he was always real, always passionate, always embodied the true essence of Philadelphia. We live in a flawed, trouble city, many of problems brought upon ourselves. There are more murders than one can wrap their head around, an embarrassing amount of segregation among the neighborhoods, but somehow, it's a city that understands itself, knows its flaws but won't hesitate to stand up for its own, defend its own no matter what. Stay true to itself. Just like Allen Iverson. He connected on that level. He showed the passion every time he took the court, the same passion this city prides itself on. He showed his toughness every time he got knocked to the floor by a 7-foot behemoth and bounced right back up, the same toughness that defines this city. He played hurt, never backing down from a fight, in true Philadelphia fashion. And he was real, showing himself warts and all, just like the City of Brotherly Love.

He embodied us, loved us, and we loved him back. We still do. The fact that he will once again take the court as a Philadelphia 76er means more than any potential high draft pick, more than making the playoffs, more than just about anything beyond winning a championship, which this franchise is far from doing. Philadelphia and Allen Iverson were a match made in heaven. Or maybe hell. But a perfect match nonetheless. Few things in sports have ever made me more happy, made me love the game more than watching Allen Iverson give every ounce of his being once that ball was tosses in the air. Because while he's doesn't really know me and I don't really know him, somehow, it feels like we've known each other our whole lives. Through his actions on and off the court, good and bad, he was one of us. He was ours, and we were his. In a way, we always have been, even before he got here and after he left, and certainly now more than ever since he's returned. Say what you want about Allen Iverson the player, Allen Iverson the man. Both the criticism and the love are warranted. But no matter what, now matter how this next (maybe final?) chapter ends, we will always love Allen Iverson, always defend Allen Iverson. Because he is one of our own, the good and the bad. Allen Iverson belongs to Philadelphia, belongs in Philadelphia.

Welcome home, A.I. We've missed you, even though you really never left our hearts.

BallHype: hype it up!

1 comment:

  1. He looked like a beaten man, a humbled man during the press conference. I know you got on me about saying he should retire, and for a minute there, it looked like that was gonna happen, but if he was able to end up anywhere, I'm glad it was where it all started. I just hope this stop ends on a great note.