While Iverson’s debut with the Sixers will no doubt steal the show tonight, he’s also returning to Denver, where he spent two seasons after leaving Philadelphia. SB Nation’s Andrew Feinstein, of Denver Stiffs, looks back at his time in Denver:
Make no mistake about it. When the Nuggets acquired Iverson on December 20, 2006 in exchange for point guard Andre Miller, power forward Joe Smith and two first round draft picks, I was elated. Like many Nuggets fans, I was convinced that the Nuggets overwhelmingly got the better end of the deal and were going to contend with the Lakers for the Western Conference crown for years to come. I remember my friend and fellow season ticket holder Dan sending an email around to a bunch of us Nuggets fans proclaiming “basketball dynasties follow me wherever I go!” (he had just moved back to Denver from Los Angeles at the time).
Upon arrival in Denver on a very snowy night in December, it appeared as though Iverson gave us more than our money’s worth as ticket-paying fans: he hustled tirelessly, never stopped moving, played hard, took big shots, made big shots and kept the Nuggets afloat as they had been ravaged by suspensions to Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith after the “Madison Square Garden Melee” brawl. With Iverson leading the way, the shorthanded Nuggets finished a respectable 7-8 during Melo’s 15-game absence (although the Nuggets did suffer an embarrassing, one-sided home loss to Miller’s 76ers during that stretch) and in his first 50 games as a Nugget, Iverson averaged 24.8 ppg, a career second best 45.4% shooting from the field along with 7.2 apg and almost two steals per game. Almost immediately, Iverson was cementing his status as the second best shooting guard to ever wear a Nuggets uniform behind David Thompson and ahead of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, another undersized shooting guard who technically started at point guard like Iverson.
When Melo returned from the suspension, I too thought we had a new Nuggets dynasty on our hands that would match the Alex English/Fat Lever Golden Era of Nuggets basketball. […]
Perhaps we were blinded by Iverson’s undeniably solid effort on the floor, because many of us – me included – never faulted him for the Nuggets shortcomings. But the evidence was right in front of us. Along the way to that playoff sweep, anyone who followed the Nuggets in Denver had heard the rumors about Iverson’s off-court partying, the alcohol-on-the-plane story was routinely brought up on Denver sports radio and we heard the whispers about Iverson influencing Melo and the younger, more impressionable J.R. in all the wrong ways off the court. We’ve even learned since that Iverson was granted special permission by the Nuggets to skip some practices (kudos to Denver Stiffs reader GottaLoveMelo for finding this). As Iverson’s tenure in Denver went on, it was clear that he was indeed a leader – but not the kind that the Nuggets brass, coaching staff and us fans had hoped he would be. And nothing made Iverson’s inability to lead the Nuggets in a positive fashion more clear than that playoff sweep combined with what has happened since his departure (and replacement by Chauncey Billups, the definition of a true leader).
It’s a comprehensive look at his time in Denver, and also evocative of larger paradoxes that have characterized much of Iverson’s time in the NBA. For the full article, click here.