Neil Hartman

Allen Iverson Top Moment: His Debut and Dunk

Allen Iverson Top Moment: His Debut and Dunk

Editor's note: This series of articles originally ran in 2014, when the Sixers retired Allen Iverson's number.

Nov. 1, 1996

Just over four months after Allen Iverson was selected first overall in the NBA draft, he made a spectacular debut in front of 20,444 anxious Sixers fans in South Philadelphia.

I was one of those people in attendance that night, curious to see what Iverson could do at the next level. It was odd seeing Iverson receive such a warm reception after being heckled to death by Villanova fans earlier in the year in the same building when he played for rival Georgetown.

It didn’t take long for Iverson to win over Sixers fans, and no play showcased his NBA debut better than his one-handed, fastbreak dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks. We knew Iverson could handle the ball as good as anyone, but this little guy listed at 6-feet had incredible leaping ability and a flair for the dramatic.

It was all part of Iverson’s impressive NBA opener. He finished with a team-high 30 points on 12 for 19 shooting but, like many games in Iverson’s early years, the Sixers fell to the Bucks, one of 60 losses in Iverson’s rookie season.

Iverson played a total of 784 games in a Sixers uniform, and he dazzled us on many occasions. But seeing him rock the Big House on Broad Street for the first time will always be one of Iverson’s special moments as a 76er.

NHL opening weekend: Fans return, Flyers have time

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NHL opening weekend: Fans return, Flyers have time

In Philadelphia and Buffalo this weekend, after overflowing, sellout crowds turned out to watch the Flyers play home openers in both cities, you would never know that the NHL lockout lasted 113 days.

The television numbers were just as impressive. NBCs broadcast on Saturday resulted in the highest hockey rating for a non-Winter Classic regular-season game in 11 years.

The fans at the Wells Fargo Center were in mid-season form, as well. On our pre-game show, a diehard Flyers fan made sure to get in his jab at Penguins star Sidney Crosby, saying, and then asking, Hes a cry baby. Wheres the tissues? Despite 7 12 months without hockey, Flyers fans showed that same passion that has made this city one of the best hockey towns in America.

So Flyer fans are ready, but is this team ready?

An 0-2 start is the not the ideal way to kick off a 48-game season over 99 days, but Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson told me history is on the Flyers side. In the shortened 1995 NHL season, the Flyers got off to a 3-7-1 start and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. That's when the Flyers' Legion of Doom got its start.

So whats in store for this team? Claude Giroux, with his new C on his jersey, has not disappointed anyone in the first two games, scoring two goals, but he is going to need some help. Giroux has become the biggest star athlete in Philly, and hopefully he -- unlike previous stars like Eric Lindros, Donovan McNabb and Allen Iverson -- can lead his team to a championship and win.

This season is a sprint, not a marathon, and the Flyers face an extremely demanding stretch with six games in the next days (five of those games are on the road, beginning Tuesday at New Jersey).

Nothing like easing into the season.

E-mail Neil Hartman at nhartman@comcastsportsnet.com

Philly boxing great Bernard Hopkins turns 50

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Philly boxing great Bernard Hopkins turns 50

I have never seen an athlete more committed to his sport than Bernard Hopkins. That is why he is still competing at the highest level in one of the toughest sports there is.

On Thursday, Hopkins turns 50 years old. “He is a freak of nature," according to his Golden Boy Promotions partner and former World Champion Oscar De La Hoya. How else do you explain a middle-aged man beating opponents half his age in the ring?

I have been covering Hopkins for 15 of his 26 years as a professional boxer. I have always been amazed at how he appears the day after a fight, even a loss. No cuts, bruises or swelling on his face. He always gets back in the gym the day after he fights. There are very few days off for Bernard Hopkins. His secret to success — and there has been an abundance of success in his career — is quite simple: Train harder than anyone else, treat your body the right way, and prepare outside the ring so you know every tendency of your opponent.

These three things have treated Bernard well. The final component to his success is his history. Lessons learned from a troubled youth, which saw him incarcerated for 56 months, have motivated Hopkins his entire life. He was determined to never go back to prison. The weight of the world was on his shoulders after losing his first professional fight in 1988. Bernard knew there were many people living vicariously through him. After 66 professional fights, Hopkins made everyone proud.

The “King of Germantown” turned out to be a Hall of Famer, and he is not done fighting yet. During the CSN taping of Hopkins at 50, which debuts tonight at 6:30, Hopkins told me he plans to fight one or two more times in 2015 before calling it a career. If you saw his last fight versus Sergey Kovalev, Hopkins lost all 12 rounds to the Russian. It wasn’t pretty. Hopkins doesn’t want to embarrass himself or tarnish his legacy by staying in the ring too long. He has never ducked the best fighter available. Bernard knows the time is near for him to hang up the gloves.

“2015 is a year that whatever band, group, player that you wish you could see one more time, no matter the era, I’m that person you want to see in 2015,” he said.

Bernard has had many nicknames over the years. B-Hop, The Champ, The Executioner, and now, The Alien. Whatever you call him, he is a Philadelphia treasure, and we will likely never see anyone like him again.

Happy 50th, Champ!