There's another aspect to Iverson's brilliance, something the ESPN guys tried to describe last night: Quite simply, he's the most menacing player in the league. There's just something different about him, a darker edge that the other stars don't have. Once I was sitting midcourt at the Fleet Center when Iverson was whistled for a technical, yelped in disbelief, then followed the referee toward the scorer's table and screamed, "[Bleep] you!" at the top of his lungs. The official whirled around and pulled his whistle toward his mouth for a second technical.
And I swear on my daughter's life, the following moment happened: As the official started to blow the whistle, Iverson's eyes widened and he moved angrily toward the official, almost like someone getting written up for a parking ticket who decides it would just be easier to punch out the meter maid. For a split-second, there was real violence in the air. Of course, the rattled official lowered his whistle and never called the second T. By sheer force of personality, Iverson kept himself in the game.
Look, I'm not condoning what happened. It was a frightening moment. At the same time, I haven't seen a player bully a referee like that before or since. And that goes back to the "seeing him in person" thing. Iverson plays with a compelling, hostile, bloodthirsty energy that the other players just don't have. He's relentless in every sense of the word. He's a warrior. He's an alpha dog. He's a tornado. He's so fast and coordinated that it genuinely defies description. He's just crazy enough that officials actually cower in his presence. And none of this makes total sense unless you've seen him.
Now Philly is holding a freaking tag sale for him, replete with a leverage-killing deadline and a "40% OFF -- EVERYTHING MUST GO!" sign. Since one of the worst GMs of the decade (King) will decide where he goes, it's impossible to predict what will happen. Just know these four things.
First, as soon as this trade happens, Iverson will play out of his mind coming out of the gate, followed by a series of stories and features from his new teammates saying things like "I can't believe how good this guy is" and "he's completely transformed this team, we think we have a chance to win every night now," followed by the Sixers fans flipping out and demanding King's departure. I wish there was a way to wager on this scenario in Vegas. I can't believe softer contenders like the Magic, Nets or even the Mavs have underestimated the undeniable force of his personality, the potential of his crunch-time scoring if there were other scoring threats on the court, or even the fury he'll unleash on a new team. He will practically KILL HIMSELF trying to haunt the Sixers over the next three season. Mark my words.
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images Hey, Isiah ... here's your Answer right here.Second, in the ironies of ironies, Isiah Thomas kept stockpiling dreadfully expensive contracts and waiting for a superstar tag sale, finally giving up this season and buying out Jalen Rose's deal. Now he probably could have had Iverson and C-Webb for Rose's expiring contract, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, Marbury and the Bulls' pick. Classic. Even when Isiah isn't involved in a major story, he still comes off terribly.