Originally created 02/08/00

Iverson's point: 50 ways to lose your critics



PHILADELPHIA -- Dribble, dodge, spin, shoot. Run in circles, get knocked down, get up, catch the ball, toss it off the glass.

Every which way, from every conceivable angle, Allen Iverson kept shooting -- and scoring.

The Philadelphia 76ers star had the second 50-point game of his career Sunday in a 119-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings, launching 40 shots along the way.

Yes, he has issues. No, he doesn't always go to practice. But Iverson still does one thing better than anyone else now playing in the NBA. He scores, pretty much at will.

For a change, his team is winning and his sensational talent is not just a sideshow.

"That guy is not wild," said Sacramento assistant coach Pete Carril, who has seen all kinds of players score in all kinds of ways during a 46-year coaching career. "He's just good."

Not only that, he's better in countless ways since the last time he put the magical No. 50 on the scoreboard.

He first did so as a rookie on April 12, 1997, capping a string of 40-point games that was memorable for more than statistical gaudiness. That performance, in the Cleveland arena where Iverson had been booed during All-Star weekend, gave him four straight 40-point games to break Wilt Chamberlain's rookie record.

Iverson went out two nights later against Washington and scored 40 to extend the streak to five. The Sixers, in the throes of a miserable 60-loss season, lost every one.

Now they are headed for a second straight playoff appearance after an eight-year drought. Iverson, a 6-foot, shoot-em-up scoring machine, stands at the center of a resurgence that is as much about personal redemption as team success.

"He's had a lot of pretty incredible games, but I think that was about as good as it gets," Sixers coach Larry Brown said.

Brown was talking before Iverson's 50-point outburst, about the previous game in which he scored 40 in a 109-106 loss at Houston.

"I don't think he can do it every night," Brown said.

And then Iverson did it again.

The Sixers are 3-10 when Iverson, the defending NBA scoring champion and current scoring leader, scores 40 or more. It is a sore subject with him.

"I've been getting so much flak in this city about me playing a game like it's my last and ending up with 40 and not winning. ... When I score 40 and we win, what can you say about it then?" he said.

Iverson, averaging 31.5 points and 27 shots per game, touted his latest accomplishment as a slap in the face to his critics.

"It makes me feel good because it lets me know that I can score the way I'm capable of scoring and we can win," Iverson said.

In this regard, Iverson isn't much different from when he was as a rookie. He jumps at any chance to disprove his critics, to hold up his irreverent style as the only way he can play.

After scoring 50 in Cleveland, Iverson boldly claimed the rookie of the year award belonged to him.

"There are other great rookies," he said. "But when you talk about the No. 1 rookie in the league, I think I'm that."

He was right. He added rookie of the year honors it to the MVP trophy he claimed that winter in the rookie game at All-Star weekend. That was the night Iverson had 19 points and nine assists and overshadowed the West's flashy rookie, Kobe Bryant.

It was the night Red Auerbach, Iverson's coach for a couple of hours, said this about him: "The kid is coachable. With all of his great talent and flamboyance, he's coachable. I love him. I love him."

Some in the crowd thought Bryant deserved the award, and they booed Iverson when he received the trophy. In a secluded hallway of Gund Arena, Iverson was distraught. "You have no idea how much this means to me," he said to a member of the 76ers staff.

Other accolades have followed. He won the scoring title last year and will start his first All-Star game on Sunday in Oakland.

"He's 24," Brown said. "I think he can get better."



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