Being guarded by a nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, electric 76ers rookie Allen Iverson managed to embarrass Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan at the CoreStates Center in Philadelphia 16 years ago this week on March 12, 1997.
Capitalizing on the moment, the 6-foot, 165 pound Iverson, a four-time scoring champion rated as the fifth greatest shooting guard ever by ESPN in 2008, outmaneuvered a 34-year-old Jordan with a vintage crossover and nailed a 20-foot jumper.
“I’ll never forget coming off a screen and him switching and [coach] Phil Jackson hollering his name, telling him to switch out on me,” said Iverson, a three-time All-NBA First Team choice who captured the 2001 Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
“And I gave him the first little one, and I see that he’s biting on it. And I hit him with the second one and made the shot. I was going to put my move to the test, to see if it was real. It had to be real if it worked on the greatest player to ever play the game. That made me feel good.”
A notorious malcontent who loathes “practice,” Iverson still lauds Jordan’s protection on the ball in the famous highlight.
“The craziest thing about it is, I hit him with my best move, and he still almost blocked it,” said Iverson, who has earned paychecks from five organizations since vacating the oldest Jesuit and Catholic school in the United States. “That’s what was so crazy about it. That just let’s you know how great a defensive player he was.”
Although Iverson equaled a career-high with 37 points, and Jordan led Chicago to a 108-104 victory, fans will only recall “The Answer” slaying “His Airness.”
Challenging a man hailed as “the greatest basketball player of all time,” a young Allen Iverson hinted at becoming one of the fiercest competitors in the annals of the association nearly two decades past this Tuesday.by