Iverson pulls in MVP
Guard is first 76er since Moses to win honor
Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2001 7:13 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson sat in a chair, smiled and patted his right thigh, waiting for Larry Brown to sit in his lap.
Brown jumped into Iverson's arms, embraced his star player and whispered in his ear. It was a moment nobody could have predicted a year ago.
Iverson was picked as the NBA's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday after leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the best record in the East and their best season in 16 years.
"It's special because of everything I went through last summer," Iverson said. "I had to look in the mirror and see things I didn't do right as a person or a player. I promised myself when I look in the mirror after this season, I'll know I did everything right."
Iverson got 1,121 points to beat out San Antonio's Tim Duncan (706 points) and Los Angeles' Shaquille O'Neal, last year's winner, who had 578 points from the panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada.
The award caps an amazing turnaround for Iverson, who was nearly traded last summer because of his contentious relationship with Brown.
But Iverson promised to change his ways before training camp opened and lived up to it, taking over as team captain, playing unselfishly and becoming a leader on the court.
"It's one of the neatest things I've ever seen happen when you think of the way he was thought of five years ago and the way this franchise was perceived and what he's done to put us where we are and the change in him," Brown said. "He's not only the best player on the team, he's become a great teammate. I'm like a proud father watching him develop and the way he plays and to recognize the heart he has."
At 6-foot and 165 pounds, Iverson is the shortest and lightest player in NBA history to win the award. He had 93 first-place votes out of a possible 124 to 18 for Duncan.
Iverson is the first Sixer to win the award since Moses Malone in 1982-83, the last year Philadelphia won a championship. Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving also won the award for the Sixers.
Joined by family, friends and several teammates at an afternoon news conference, Iverson said he wondered if he'd ever reach this point.
"I didn't know because of all the baggage I came here with," Iverson said. "I was 20 years old, and people wanted me to be 30. I had no space for error. But I never stopped and worked on all the things people said I couldn't do, and now I'm the MVP of the league. It's something I always wanted."
Iverson led the league in scoring for the second time in three years, with an average of 31.1 points per game; was first in steals (2.51); and tied for first in minutes (42.0).
He earned MVP honors in the All-Star Game after his 25-point performance led the East back from a 21-point deficit, was NBA Player of the Month for January and was Player of the Week twice.
Iverson scored 40 or more points 17 times during the regular season, including a career-high 54 against Cleveland on Jan. 6. He matched that with a scintillating performance last week in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto.
"He's the same person, but a little more professional," Sixers guard Aaron McKie said.
Last year, Iverson was the only player other than O'Neal to get an MVP vote from 121 cast. O'Neal would've been the first unanimous MVP choice.
"I could hope and pray, but I could never picture it happening," Sixers president Pat Croce said about Iverson's dramatic turnaround.
Team chairman Ed Snider, who also holds the same title with the Philadelphia Flyers, compared Iverson to former Flyers star Bobby Clarke, who is now the Flyers general manager.
"This guy is probably the most special athlete I've seen since Bob Clarke," Snider said. "To stand here and talk about his shortcomings, he's quite a man."
In addition to Iverson, Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo won the league's Defensive Player of the Year award and McKie was the sixth man of the year.
Philadelphia is only the fifth team to get three awards in the same season. The Sixers would become the first team to win four awards if Brown gets Coach of the Year.
Before the season began, Iverson had to overcame controversy surrounding the pending release of his debut rap CD, which contains lyrics that NBA commissioner David Stern called "coarse, offensive and anti-social."
He was fined $5,000 by the NBA for shouting a derogatory remark about gays toward taunting fans in a game on Jan. 28.
"I'm still the same person, but I'm older, I'm wiser and I'm more mature," Iverson said, adding that he's focusing on winning a championship.
The Sixers and Toronto Raptors are tied at 2 games apiece heading into Wednesday night's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I think the student taught the teacher a lot about life, and
I'm grateful for that," Brown said. "I'm really grateful for the
opportunity to coach Allen, and I never thought I'd say that."