If there was ever one individual that embodied the anti-authority swagger like a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, only real, it be Allen Iverson. The literal embodiment of the rebel without a cause, all Iverson cared about was playing ball and being the best. Conversely, all David Stern cared about was making the NBA marketable and inoffensive. It is because of Iverson the NBA instituted a dress code that’s since been relaxed under Adam Silver. It is because of Iverson the NBA and hip-hop blended together like peanut butter and jelly.
Sadly, unlike the “Texas Rattlesnake,” Iverson never delivered a stunner to the commissioner, or win a championship.
Throughout his career, “The Answer” struggled to fit in even with his own team. Often clashing with Sixers head coach Larry Brown. Even in his landmark season in 2001, the Sixers crashed the NBA Finals and Iverson won the MVP over Shaquille O’Neal, he nearly was traded to the lowly Pistons. Only to be saved by an unlikely face. Backup center Matt Geiger was on a hefty six-year, $47 million contract that also came with a 15 percent trade kicker worth approximately $3.3 million. If traded, Grieger would have to waive his trade-kicker or else the figures deal wouldn’t work. Of course, Geiger refused and Iverson remained in Philadelphia.
This happened at the halfway point of the 2000-01 season. Right when the Sixers are making a push for the number one seed. The Iverson trade that essentially would have jumpstarted a reboot involved four teams, themselves, the Pistons, Lakers and Hornets.
Philadelphia: Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, Jerome Williams, and Dale Ellis
Detroit: Allen Iverson and Matt Geiger
Charlotte: Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner, and Travis Knight
Lakers: Anthony Mason, Toni Kukoc, and Todd Fuller
For Philadelphia, they likely find themselves in the lottery, meandering in the mediocrity that makes that’ll make Sam Hinkie cry. Jones was one of the NBA’s premier scoring wings. However, he’s no Iverson, and Jones didn’t exactly bring wins whenever he went. Famously going AWOL in the ‘98 WCF with the Lakers.
Charlotte went 46-36 in 2000-01, with David Wesley playing shooting guard, averaging 17 points a game. Stackhouse averaged nearly 22 points, but for the lottery bound Pistons. He’d likely come off the bench for Wesley, the thinking in Charlotte being “he scored a lot of points for those bottom feeders, he’ll have to produce for us!” Stackhouse was an excellent reserve for the Mavericks in the mid-2000s.
Laettner would have been thrown into the meat grinder, fighting for playing time against veteran power forwards Elden Campbell, Derrick Coleman and Otis Thorpe. With scorers Baron Davis and the aforementioned Wesley, the Hornets likely defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2nd round with Laettner and Stackhouse as sixth and seventh men.
In our timeline, Philadelphia was taken to the brink by the 41-41 Pacers, Vince Carter’s Raptors, and Ray Allen’s Bucks. While the Lakers cruised behind Kobe and Shaq, the East was a bloodbath and a handful of teams potentially could have crashed the finals that year. The Hornets could have been one of them.
If Indiana returned to the dance, despite the ineptitude of Isiah Thomas at the helm. I see the series going six in favor of Los Angeles. If Vinsanity continued into June, the Raptors put up a valiant effort, ultimately falling short in six. The Ray Allen, Sam Caswell and Glen Robinson Bucks fall in the same amount of games. Now, if the Hornets made it…
They still lose. C’mon. It’s Shaq and Kobe.
For the Pistons, they hardly are a super team and likely lose the ability to trade for Rasheed Wallace, thereby relinquishing their 2004 championship. In 2002, the Pistons are plugging in A.I into the Michael Curry role at the two-guard next to Chucky Atkins. In ‘02 they still fall to Boston, and in 2004 lose to New Jersey in six, as opposed to a sweep in OTL. The Pistons in the early-2000s with Iverson is a poor man’s attempt to remake the “Bad Boy” era teams. The guards handling all the scoring load, while the forwards and center provide the defense and muscle. Except Atkins is no Joe Dumars, and I doubt the Pistons can afford to sign Billups and keep Iverson.
In 2004, the Pacers or Nets make it back to the finals to get squashed by the Lakers and Shaq still skips town that summer to play for Miami. The Heat likely make the finals and takedown San Antonio in the process, meaning Shaq wins two without Kobe; each of them tying Jordan with six total championships. No Detroit in the way, means LeBron makes it to the East Finals in 2006, losing to Miami; and again in 2007, falling short to Ben Gordon and the Chicago Bulls.
Yup. The Bulls make it to the finals for the first time without Jordan. Jerry Krause completes his rebuild and while Chicago falls short against the Spurs, it’s not a bad feather to be put in your cap.
So to recap:
- No championships for Detroit
- Bucks/Pacers/Raptors/Hornets vs Lakers in 2001
- Pacers/Nets vs L.A in 2004
- Lakers win in 2004
- Heat win in 2005 and 2006
- Bulls make it to the finals in 2007
- NBA is robbed of one of their greatest stars and most iconic moments in its history.