The delivery of the 600 basketballs has taken much of the morning. Three men, supervised by a young woman in a blue dress, did the job. They placed box after cardboard box onto two metal dollies, piling the boxes six feet high. They pushed the dollies off the loading ramp, through a set of swinging doors, down a corridor in the new Crozer-Keystone Healthplex Sports Club in Springfield, Pa., through another set of doors, then another, onto an elevator, off the elevator and to a room in the basement. The room in the basement is now filled with the boxes containing the 600 basketballs.
"What's the deal?" I ask.
"These are for Allen," I am told.
"From one of those shop-at-home networks. These are for Allen to sign."
I sort of love this. Yes, I do.
I am here at the beginning. I am here at the start. The rocket ship has achieved ignition and liftoff has begun, and the 600 basketballs have arrived for Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers to sign. I sort of love this.
When did you first see him play? What do you remember?
"There was a game against the Lakers, just before Thanksgiving near the end of the first month of the first year of his career, back in '96. The Sixers lost, and he shot something like 6 for 27, but he was absolutely electric. You couldn't take your eyes off him. He was the whole show. Then the next day I went to practice, and they were delivering these 600 basketballs for him to sign...."
Iverson is in a small office, maybe five feet wide and 12 feet long. The office belongs to new Philadelphia general manager and vice president of basketball operations Brad Greenberg, but Iverson is behind the desk. The desk is new. The office is new. The Healthplex is new. Everything in Iverson's life seems new. New team. New teammates. New league. New opponents. New owner. New arena, the CoreStates Center, where the Sixers play. Every day and night seems to arrive wrapped in cellophane.