April 23, 2018
Between the Sixers' return to the NBA playoffs and a second NCAA title for Villanova, the city of Philadelphia is about as hyped up for basketball right now as it's been in almost 20 years.
The last time around, it was Allen Iverson's Sixers supercharging to the NBA Finals, where they fell to a Lakers dynasty led by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neill and Phil Jackson.
It was after Michael Jordan's reign with the Bulls and before the dawn of LeBron James as the league's greatest force on and off the court.
Most of the time, conversations about the greatest NBA player of all time revolve around Jordan and James. It tends to be a modern discussion because 1) we have short memories and 2) legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in what's considered a different era.
In an interview with UNGUARDED, Iverson says he doesn't understand why critics and fans omit Lower Merion's Bryant from the discussion. Colin Cowherd, for example, calls Bryant "Jordan Lite" on a routine basis. The argument generally goes that Bryant wouldn't have been a top-end superstar without Shaquille O'Neill, or that his shot volume and percentages work against his case.
Iverson, who's been cheering on the Sixers during their playoff run, begs to differ.
Based on a history of grueling battles, Iverson's admiration for Kobe is likely a product of the two being contemporaries. In any case, the respect flows both ways. Bryant admitted last year that he was so obsessed with outdueling A.I. that he studied how great white sharks hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. Don't ask what that has to do with basketball.