Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Duel to Remember

Now that Miami advances to the Eastern Conference Finals waiting for Indiana versus New York series winner same with Memphis as they anxiously wait for the winners of Spurs versus Warriors, we all could agree that only the Spurs-Warriors series is exciting to watch. With D-Rose out for the Bulls, with Westbrook also out for the Thunder, and the Knicks being unable to knock down their shots, this is clearly a bad second round playoffs.

We flashback to time when Kenyon Martin was the first overall draft pick, Mike Miller was the rookie of the year, the East won the all-star game, Canada still has two teams in the NBA namely Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies, Shaq was still very dominant and NBA  at that time was still filled with talented big men, and AI was still the scoring champion. That's right gentlemen, the 2000-2001 season. We all know that the Lakers dominated the playoffs at that time with a 15-1 win-loss record in the playoffs, which up to now is still the best winning percentage in playoffs history, and the man to watch during that time was NBA's shortest and lightest player ever to win an MVP award - Allen Iverson. 

00'-01' season was filled with dramas; coaching changes, injuries, tears, achievements, upsets, and promises. Among the headlines of the news: Rick Pitino resigning as the Celtics coach, Heat star center Alonzo Mourning's announcement of kidney disorder, a come from behind victory by the East all-stars over the west, but it was a second round confrontation in the Eastern Conference Playoffs between the Carter-led Raptors and Iverson's Sixers that made the season memorable. It highlighted two of the league's elite players, on their prime, going at each other with an epic 7-game nail biting series that is claimed by many as the greatest duel in playoffs history. 

With coach Larry Brown earning the coach of the year award, Dikembe Mutombo for Defensive Player of the Year Award, Aaron Mckie for Sixth Man of the Year Award, and Allen Iverson as the all-star MVP, scoring champion for the second time, and season MVP,  the Sixers look to finish their season bagging home the championship trophy. After finally getting past Indiana in the first round, they are set to be face the Toronto Raptors which had no plan of being eliminated in the playoffs after moving on to the second round for the first time in franchise history. 

On this legendary series, Allen "The Answer" Iverson proved to the world that on a sport normally dominated by big men, listed as 6 feet,  his heart could fill the stadium.
Iverson and Carter Stats
And for Carter, known to be a high flyer, he dazzled the Sixers defense and made jaw dropping finishes inside the painted area without regard for Dikembe Mutombo. Carter also displayed on the series how he had fallen in love with jumpshot.

The Raptors stole the opener in Philly; AI evened the series with 54 points in game 2. Carter answers with a 50 of his own to come along with an NBA record-tying nine shots beyond the arc in a game 3 blowout. Iverson then outscored Carter 82-41 on victories in games 4 and 5. 

Though Toronto would force a game seven in Philly, Carter made one of the most questionable moves in playoffs history resulting them to lose the game and made himself criticized for a last minute travel. Carter attended his graduation ceremony in North Carolina that same morning. Carter arrived in Philadelphia afternoon, five hours before game time. It doesn't matter if it's the jet lag, the distraction, or the lack of focus; what's done is done, Carter missed a potential game winning buzzer beater and Iverson won the battle (232 points to 216) and the war.

Vince Carter (left) and Allen Iverson (right)
"It was incredible. (Carter) had great games at home and I had some great games at home, but both of us were trying to put our teams on our back and win basketball games. It is great just having those memories and being part of something like that" - Allen Iverson

We all remember that it was the Sixers and the Lakers collided in the NBA Finals, that moment when Iverson stepped over Tyrone Lue was an instant classic. They eventually lost to the Lakers 4-1 but it doesn't matter. I don't wanna sound like the Laker-hater I used to be now. The 2001 match-up between the Sixers and the Raptors is one of my favorites with 2 of my favorite players in their prime trying to top each other's performance game after game. 

It would be interesting how much things would've changed if VC made that shot. Toronto never got back to its winning ways after this loss and Carter was never the same when he got that jumper's knee and got traded to New Jersey. For Iverson, though he made personal achievements like adding more scoring titles and MVP's, he didn't have another chance to compete on the higher stage after being bothered by personal problems. Now both of this  men are just couple of somebody's in the sport today but for what they have done, they shaped the game we know today by this one of a kind duel to remember.