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Heart of a Champion

I love Allen Iverson. Sure, the Sixers aren't having a very good season, and with every passing game it appears less and less likely that Iverson's going to get them the holy grail of the NBA, a championship ring. In fact, the Sixers went into Wednesday night 25-27 SU and 22-29 ATS, not hallmarks of a team that's gonna win the title. So how can I say I love Iverson? Start with his rant against Larry Brown, who is the father figure in basketball. Sure, he's not the oldest around, but Brown is the guy who nobody can stand to be around until he's gone.

It's like the old Mark Twain quote: "When I was 14, I couldn't believe how ignorant my father was. When I turned 21, I couldn't believe how much he had learned in seven short years." Iverson feels the same way about Brown, but there was a time when the two couldn't get along.

It wound up as one of the best sound bites of all time, as Iverson screeches "Practice! I'm a franchise player, and we're talking about practice." The high point of his discourse was when Iverson realized that he had his audience - the reporters - going, and played to them. A showman at his best. We'll move on to the next quality, Iverson's heart of a champion. This guy has played through just about any injury imaginable, and shown his mettle in his career. Iverson alludes to that in his tirade, making note of his devotion to the game by saying that he wasn't being asked about "the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last.

" Sure, it's a run-on sentence. But the meaning is there. Iverson is a warrior. Want proof? Look no further than the fact that he's barely six feet tall, but winds his ways through skyscrapers in the lane, getting beaten around night in and night out. Look at the brace he wears on his left elbow as a badge of his injuries.

Look at the fact that he's averaged 42 minutes per game in his career. Look at how he's been the face of the Sixers, suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous Philly media corps for years, and has found himself in the echelon of the appreciated athlete. At this point in his career, Iverson would do well to be the athlete who works his way onto a contender as a role player, becoming the missing piece of the puzzle that leads a team to the title. That's not how Iverson wants it to be. The man wants to win a title for Sixers fans; if that were to happen, he could retire happy.

Unless it does, Iverson's not going to have a restful sleep. Philly fans may say they are tired of Iverson. What their energy would best be spent on is the team management that hasn't figured out a way to build around one of the most dynamic players of our time. .

By: Lenny Del Genio



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