May 25, 2023
The NBA playoffs have been cruel and soul-crushing for 76ers fans over the last several years, including three spectacular Game 7 collapses in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It hurts to even type that.
It can be a struggle fighting the cynicism toward the team this time of year. Only the proud legacy of past Sixers triumphs can sustain the desire to abide the process, if not trust it, during dark times.
The last time the Sixers made serious noise in the postseason was the team's seemingly invincible 2001 run to the NBA Finals, propelled by MVP Allen Iverson and a confident cast of role players who gelled around him. The Sixers survived two seven-game playoff series to emerge from the East, only to be painfully overmatched by the Lakers at the peak of their powers, with Shaquille O'Neil and Kobe Bryant surrounded by ridiculous shooting from Robert Horry, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher.
Next week, NBA TV will debut a documentary, "Everything but the Chip," that covers the Sixers' magical 2001 season and the key figures involved. The 90-minute special, part of the network's "Basketball Stories" series, will feature interviews with Iverson, head coach Larry Brown, Shaq, Pat Croce, Billy King and more. It will air on NBA TV on Wednesday, May 31 at 8 p.m. and can also be accessed on-demand using the NBA app.
We all know the basic story of how that 2001 season culiminated. Philly stole Game 1 of Finals on the road, punctuated by Iverson's iconic stepover of Tyronn Lue, and then proceeded to back their way into a gentleman's sweep as the Lakers rolled them despite a few hard-fought contests. In Philadelphia sports lore, that season is arguably the closest thing to a championship without being a championship (although the Eagles' Super Bowl LVII loss to the Chiefs in February feels similar).
There are some moments and accolades from the 2001 season that aren't as well remembered as others. The team's 10-0 start to the season set a tone and they never looked back. Iverson was electric in a wild NBA All-Star Game comeback. The team went all in with the major trade that swapped Theo Ratliff for Dikembe Mutombo. Brown won Coach of the Year and Aaron McKie, who's also in the documentary, earned Sixth Man of the Year honors. And of course, there was the riveting playoff march through the Pacers (remember that ugly Game 1 loss?), the Raptors (sorry, Vince Carter) and the Bucks (back when Philly fans despised Sam Cassell and called him an alien).
The documentary appears to focus on the relationship between Iverson and Larry Brown, which could offer some new insight into their best combined effort during an often rocky relationship. The special will debut on the eve of the NBA Finals, when the Nuggets face either the Heat or Celtics, if Boston somehow manages to come back and win a Game 7. Just go ahead and end the Sixers if that happens.