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#FlashbackFriday: MVP is The Answer



19 years can feel like a long time. For some current NBA players, 19 years is nearly their entire time on Earth, and for many others the changes in basketball 19 years ago created the only NBA they’ve ever known. 19 years ago in NBA history is at least two generations of players removed from “modern” basketball. But for anyone watching the NBA intently 19 years ago, 19 years ago feels like it was yesterday.

19 years ago, on May 15th, 2001, the NBA awarded the MVP award to the shortest and lightest player to ever win the award: Allen Iverson. “The Answer” took his Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals that post-season before falling to the juggernaut LA Lakers.

A.I. had an incredible 2000-2001 season. The Virginia native led Philly to a 10-0 start, and finished the season at an Eastern Conference best 56-26. He earned the scoring title after averaging a then-career-high 31.1 points, and led the league in steals. NBA All-Star weekend was held in the closest NBA arena to his hometown (Washington D.C.), and Iverson won the NBA All-Star Game MVP after scoring a game high 25 points. Iverson’s 2001 was filled with highlight after highlight, but perhaps none stuck out like “the step over.” Iverson, in front of the Lakers’ bench, charged the baseline for two steps. He then stopped, on a dime, crossed the ball back behind his right leg, and quickly stepped back for a 22-foot two-point jump shot. Ty Lue leaped to defend the shot and ended up laid across the ground next to Iverson. In what have become the most famous footsteps of his career, Iverson stepped over Lue while staring down to look at him on his way down the floor. That night, Iverson had a game-high 48 points, 5 steals, and handed the Lakers their only loss of the entire post-season (LA’s first loss in 67 days).  Iverson’s dagger iced the game with just under a minute to go in Overtime.

Allen Iverson played 14 years in the NBA for four different franchises and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. In Philadelphia, he second to only Wilt Chamberlain in minutes per game and points per game, second to Hal Greer in minutes played, and he leads the franchise all-time in steals per game and made three-pointers. His number 3 is retired in Philadelphia, but his bigger legacy might be that it’s been one of the NBA’s most popular numbers in the other 29 franchises since his retirement. The City of Brotherly Love has had the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Dolph Schayes, and Dr. J… but the most impactful on the culture of basketball has been Iverson

On the floor, even though it was just four years into his fourteen-year career, the 2001 NBA MVP is Iverson’s peak in many ways. It was the closest he got to an NBA Championship, one of the three seasons he was a first-team All-NBA player, and one of the four times he led the league in scoring. The season before (1999-2000) he and Philadelphia were bounced in the second round. The season after (2001-2002) they were sent home in the first.

But 2001 is also the peak of Iverson’s career because, on top of all of the crossovers, all of the spin moves, the breakaways, the threes, and even the dunks… the stepover from 2001 is the iconic moment in Iverson’s career.

That Iverson’s most memorable moment is something he did just after shooting a basketball is also, in itself, poetic.

Iverson the person had an impact on basketball far more than any crossover highlight reel could conjure. Iverson was the epitome of the shift in the NBA from the mid-90s until the late-00s. Iverson was unapologetically himself, for all that that came with. Nicknamed “Bubba Chuck,” Iverson grew up in a rough neighborhood in Hampton, Virginia. He brought the fearlessness that upbringing required to the NBA when he got there. He was an All-State Quarterback and Safety on the football field, and he also brought that physical toughness with him. Iverson was thrown in jail at 17-years-old after a bowling alley altercation, and he brought that resilience with him, too.

While we watch The Last Dance, we are reminded of the exponential growth of basketball’s popularity, and the consumerism that came with, in the 1990s. Michael Jordan wasn’t just an incredible basketball player, he was a brand. Iverson became a brand while he was in the NBA as well. But unlike Mike, Iverson’s brand was less manicured and less calculated… it was unintentional because it was authentic.

Iverson became the face of the “Hip-Hop Movement” in the NBA because of his unabashed style on and off the floor. The sleeves, both of tattoos and nylon, became calling cards of his. The braided cornrows and headbands on the floor became iconic 2000s NBA in-game style, and his du rags, hats, jerseys, and baggy clothes off of it inspired an even wider audience. Iverson changed basketball because he took the popularized game and brought it back to the neighborhoods many NBA players grew up in. He forced the league to institute a dress code, he made David Stern confront him about his own controversial rap lyrics, and he made friends with Hip-Hop artists in night clubs.

Iverson’s game on the floor did not age well. His high volume shooting has been eradicated by analytics in the modern era. If his most iconic moment is the step over Ty Lue, the shot just before (a long two-pointer, with his heels inches inside the three-point arc) is considered the worst type of attempt in basketball. His playoff career scoring average (29.7) may be second all-time to Michael Jordan, but coaches in modern basketball don’t teach kids to play like Iverson. His ball-handling may have inspired the next generations of basketball players to work on shifting gears and directions in ways unseen before, but few hold the ball for as much of the possession as Iverson did.

Granted, much like Mike, none of that off the floor brand means anything if Iverson weren’t a Hall of Fame level basketball player. He led the league in scoring three times and he was an eleven-time NBA All-Star. And his crossover was magical. It was the ultimate “now you see me, now you don’t” move that left even the best defenders grasping for air. His spin move was so quick opposing teams swore he was traveling. Yes, Iverson’s brand was far more than basketball… but it wasn’t not basketball either. It was raw speed, raw energy, and raw emotion… Emphasis on being raw.

But the branding off the floor? Being yourself, unapologetically, and representing where you’re from? That has stayed and is never leaving basketball. That is Damian Lillard wearing 0 (or a big O) for Oakland. That is Gerald Green tatting the I-45 highway sign at the sleeve of his jersey. That’s LeBron James doing it “for the ‘Land.” It’s Russell Westbrook getting a 20-20-20 triple-double for LA Rap icon Nipsey Hussle. It’s star players picking out the pre-game warm-up music, and it’s front offices letting those same players have a say in what uniforms they wear. Iverson forever changed the NBA, even if the peak of his career came on May 15th, 2001.

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Zach LaVine Is The Missing Piece For The Sixers by Chris Allen




Zach LaVine is a 6’6 catch and shoot lob threat. This 25-year-old two-time slam dunk champion has spent his career trying to make it to the playoffs or keep the Chicago Bulls at 500. In contrast, he’s averaging over 25 points per game since 2019, per basketball reference. LaVine is bound to be an All-Star this year, having career highs in both points and FG shooting percentage. His skill set, and size, might be the missing piece for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 76ers have themselves projected anywhere from a 2-4 seed coming out of the Eastern Conference. Ben Simmons is the best playmaker and on-ball defender on the team. Joel Embiid is a beast in the post and spreads the floor. Tobias Harris is a solid shooter anywhere on the floor and can create his own shot. Out of the three, the most tradeable player is Harris in exchange for LaVine. Depending on management, you can make LaVine sign an extension or throw in Danny Green and Otto Porter Jr. to offset the salary cap.

How would the 76ers offense and defense schemes work? In theory, depending on matchups, Simmons would play the four on defense for the most part and alternate with LaVine or another guard to play the one. This allows for more explosive offensive firepower surrounding Simmons and still creates space for Embiid to operate in the post or stretch the floor. This open space leaves room for your slashers, Simmons and LaVine.

With all the movement and attention on the central core, spot up, catch and shoot three-point shots will thrive. Matisse Thybulle, Seth Curry, & possibly Porter Jr. offer the Sixers solid shooting on the floor to make this a solid offense. Simmons at the four on defense allows him to turn into the point guard as soon as he gets the rebound hitting LaVine on the fast break for quick transition points.

LaVine can do something that Simmons can’t do, which is the ability to shoot from outside the paint. Whatever position you put them in, they could cover each other’s weaknesses and keep Philadelphia’s offense potent. Philly still has depth with Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey for guards if Simmons and LaVine ran as your forwards.

No one wants LaVine to have career numbers on a struggling team. Simmons and Embiid are rare in their skill set. They could use an independent scorer to take away attention and get a bucket when needed. With LaVine holding the ball more, there’s less talk about where Simmons sits in the offense with his lack of shooting. With the trade deadline coming, it will be interesting to see whether LaVine will stay a Bull or find himself with a contender for a ring.

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Damian Lillard Named Cover Athlete for NBA 2K21



There aren’t many players in the NBA that are as exciting to watch as Damian Lillard. The Portland Trail Blazers point guard can drop 50 points on any given night, putting up statistics only seen in video games.

Due to his gaudy play this year, Lillard has been announced as the first of three players that will grace the cover of the NBA’s premier video game franchise, NBA 2K.

Lillard was in the midst of a remarkable season prior to the league shutdown, as he averaged a career-high 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game. If the season resumes next month, Lillard will look to close a 3.5 games gap across an eight-game schedule to get his Trail Blazers into playoff position.

Regardless of how this season ends for Lillard though, it will still go down as another incredible campaign for the five-team All-Star. One worthy of his first selection as the cover athlete on 2K.

Lillard will be on the cover of NBA 2K21 for all the current-gen gaming consoles including PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC and Google Stadia systems. 2K still needs to announce another cover athlete for the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles.

For the 29-year-old point guard, this honor is very gratifying as it continues to solidify his status as one of the game’s most elite players.

Due to the continued fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still unclear whether NBA 2K21 will be released at it’s regularly scheduled drop-date in September, or if it will be pushed back to accommodate the league’s changed schedule.

If the season is played in it’s entirety, many don’t expect the 2020-2021 NBA season to start until late November, if not some time in December.

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Stephen Jackson: Journey Man



Nearly two months ago, when the NBA announced the 2020 Hall of Fame class, and in the midst of having no sports to televise, ESPN ran a series of important games from Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan’s careers. For Duncan, ESPN played his near quadruple-double to seal the 2003 NBA Finals. In the fourth quarter, when the Spurs needed buckets, the New Jersey defense collapsed in on Duncan, who kicked to a wide-open, third-year NBA player named Stephen Jackson. Jackson hit three big three-pointers, Spurs win. For many, some combination of that performance (being the secondary star in a non-primetime, 17-year-old basketball game) and his All The Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes was the most thought given to Stephen Jackson in quite some time. Jackson went on, after a brief stint in San Antonio, to play for six franchises in eleven years before retiring in 2015. Many would call him a journeyman for his travels in the NBA, and assumed his life would settle down after that.

Last week Stephen Jackson put himself, and his cause, in front of everyone. Following the brutal murder of George Floyd by four police officers, Jackson took to his Instagram to let the world see and hear the pain he had for his lost friend. Floyd grew up in Houston, Jackson in Port Arthur. For those not acquainted with Texas’ geography, the two went to high school just over an hour apart. Many in Port Arthur residents, like Jackson as a child, go into the city of Houston when they need things you’d find in the city. Port Arthur is a tough-minded oil town that functions as both a suburb of the city of Beaumont and the city of Houston. It’s produced the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Pimp C, and Bun B… but Stephen Jackson is the only notable NBA alum that cites it as home. You can see Port Arthur’s toughness in Johnson, Charles, and Jackson. You can see its swagger in Pimp C, Bun B, and Jackson.

And now, you can see him representing Port Arthur, and making a difference.

Everyone ended their Memorial Day weekend watching the same horrifying viral video. It hit everyone differently. For some, it was a wake-up call to the deadly realities of police brutality. To others, it was an anger-inducing “another one?!” To still others, it was horrifyingly close to home, with a mirror-like reality. And to Jackson? It was his lifelong friend. His “twin.”

Jackson and Floyd have known each other since childhood. Both were active athletes from similar neighborhoods and backgrounds, but the “twin” moniker came not only because they were figuratively brothers, but because they look eerily similar to one another. The two played pick-up basketball in the Cuney Homes housing complex of Houston’s Third Ward. (Jackson has, in the last week, really done an intentional job of pointing out how talented of an athlete Floyd was. To be frank, it is very important. The difference in Floyd’s life cut short and Jackson’s life in the NBA can come down to a few breaks or ball bounces here and there.)

While much of the nation’s initial anger over George Floyd’s murder was in their own homes for the initial twenty-four hours, Stephen Jackson’s was cast for the world to see.

In the following days, Jackson continued to post homage to Floyd while he made his way to Minneapolis to lead protests. Once there, he made his message clear: no one was going to diminish Floyd’s name. No one was going to rest until action was taken. Change was coming, and Jackson was ready to work for it.

Jackson was surrounded by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie, actor Jamie Foxx, Houston area rap artist Trae the Truth, amongst other protestors. After speaking to the crowd, Jackson and others went outside marched to the Hennepin County Government Center.

Protests and marches have been commonplace all over the United States of America this week. In an effort to combat police brutality, communities are banding together to have their voices heard. Both in-person and online, at the forefront of these protests continue to be high profile athletes and celebrities. In North Carolina, Dennis Smith Jr. and J. Cole were mixed into the marches like everyone else. Jaylen Brown did the same in Atlanta. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an op-ed for the LA Times. It clearly did not take being connected to the situation like Stephen Jackson to take the lead in the community.

In the week since publicly sharing his pain, Jackson has become the face of NBA players involved in the protests, and his movements are seeing results. Within hours of his statements in Minneapolis, the police officer who murdered Floyd was arrested. Protests have continued, calling for both the arrests of his three partners who watched him idly, and for their four convictions. Since Jackson spoke out, major shoe brands, EA Sports, and even Adam Silver have come out in support of the protests. Jackson, who made a career as a reserved tough guy, pushed much of the NBA world to the point of speaking up. While COVID quarantine certainly helped further the cause (everyone is stuck at home with little other distractions, searching social media), Jackson’s activism is the inspiration we look for.

What’s both fascinating and disturbing is George Floyd was not the first unarmed black man murdered on camera. He wasn’t even the first of such since the COVID quarantine started, and the violent reaction to the protests imply he won’t be the last victim of police brutality either. But, his name and case are pushing people to a protesting brink at a national level. There are several factors, but Jackson and the ensuing NBA involvement is certainly a big one.

The murder of an unarmed person at the hands of the police shouldn’t need celebrity grief to become a tragedy. NBA players shouldn’t have to remind the public they’ve been wearing “I CAN’T BREATHE” tee-shirts since 2014. The news should sting on its own and, if you’re paying attention, it always does.

However, in Jackson’s grief he helped elevate this particular case. The NBA, and pro sports, can humanize black people for many white audiences that otherwise don’t get to interact with people that don’t look like them. For decades neighborhoods, schools, and public spaces have been (intentionally or unintentionally) segregated through various means. As pointedly illustrated in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crowe, these systems can perpetuate cyclically and lock people into only being around folks that look like them. Humanized professional athletes can bring new faces into white neighborhoods, as they connect with and idolize people on their team. Jackson is one of those faces, and he isn’t just “involved” in the ongoing fight in Floyd’s name. In his own words, he’s “all in.”

Jackson’s activism can bring those conversations into white homes, neighborhoods, and families. It can help force the issue and conversation. Recent generations of NBA players have been very socially active, and time after time we see the issues they take up carry significant weight. It’s sad to admit, but in many ways it’s vital. It makes the stories human to more people, because Jackson is a human known by more people.

Jackson has spent the last week publicly riding an emotional roller coaster. He mourned the loss of his friend, was firm in pursuing justice, and was open in sharing his story.  As we enter week two of Jackson’s journey, he has accepted being the leader of the current athlete activists.

“Like, I’m honest with you: I did not expect to have the role and to have so many people waiting to see what I have to say and what’s the next move,” Jackson told ESPN. “Like, I didn’t ask to be in this position, but I’m embracing it. I’m embracing it.”

But what does that mean? What does embracing it look like for Journey Man Jackson?

“We got to vote,” Jackson continued. “I’m not just talking about the president. I’m talking about the local city council. I’m talking about your police chief, your fire chief. We need to vote for all that type of stuff because all that stuff’s going to matter at the end. And what we’re doing now as far as protesting everywhere around the world, we got to use that same energy when it’s time to vote.”

“Coming into this, I’ve seen so many situations not pan out right,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen the impossible happen also. And I think this is that situation. I think this [is] going to be the change. My brother’s death is going to be change. I think we’re going to get convictions for all of them. I think they’re drawing it out right now because this is the typical system. That’s why we got to change the rules — they look out for each other. They try their best to look out for each other. So this is expected by me.”

“But we’re going to fight. This is a marathon. And we’re going to continue this fight, and we’re going to outfight them. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep this thing going. They’re going to get tired of hearing about George Floyd. They’re going to get tired of hearing his name.”

The word “journey” carries a lot more positivity than “journeyman.” A journey can be life-changing, and it can be historically impactful. A journeyman is a wanderer; he’s lost or he has no home. A journey is going to be important. Calling someone a journeyman implies they weren’t important enough to stick in one place.

However, in the NBA journeymen are often beloved by other players because they have to be good teammates to survive. Journeymen change clubhouses frequently, and they’re more appealing to more teams if their past teammates can attest to their characters. But to fans, and outsiders, they tend to be the periphery of the storylines of the league. Sure, Stephen Jackson hit a barrage of three-pointers in the 2003 NBA Finals, but they were off of Tim Duncan’s assists. He’s an emblem of toughness, but Jackson never stayed in the same organization for more than two complete seasons (though he did have two separate two year periods in San Antonio).

Players love Jackson, that’s evident in his podcasting and TV appearances. But he was never integral to the NBA’s story throughout his journeyman-days. He was always going to be remembered as the guy who scored on Duncan’s kick out, or the teammate that got traded, or the veteran on a one-year deal. If you watched the NBA in his 14-year career, you knew who he was… but his playing days didn’t indicate he’d be an unforgettable piece of the story of the league.

But as the latest chapters of Jackson’s story is being written, he’s looking more like a man on a journey than a journeyman. If you persist he is a journeyman, he’s clearly chosen to focus on the breakdown of the word regardless of your perception.

And his leadership has proven far more than necessary in connection to the story of America in 2020 than it ever was in connection to the NBA.

If you have the means to, or would like to donate to help the cause Jackson is at the front of, please consider the following places to start:

The George Floyd Fund

Black Lives Matter

Bailing Out Protestors

Know Your Rights Camp

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Secure The Block


Gianna Floyd Fund

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