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Allen Iverson gives Hall of Fame speech for the ages

Allen Iverson gives Hall of Fame speech for the ages

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The applause erupted before he even took the stage. As emcee Ahmad Rashad started his introduction by talking about swagger, the camera panned to Allen Iverson in his seat. 

“There is no debating style" Rashad said as Iverson appeared on the monitors. Then he stopped. The crowd burst into a wild cheer, cutting off Rashad for the next 35 seconds.

So began Iverson’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which 38 minutes later could have been headlined as “A.I.’s Special Night with his Fans.”

From the moment Iverson walked up to the podium, his speech was more than about basketball. It was a declaration of appreciation. 

Iverson’s career is marked by his unique personal style, on and off the court. The gold chains, baggy jeans and T-shirts, cornrows, shooting sleeves — Iverson has been identified by his outward appearance. 

He admitted on Thursday he was uncomfortable wearing the orange Hall of Fame inductee jacket, which he sported with a handful of necklaces and a Yankees cap. But on Friday, Iverson arrived in a simple, tailored, all-black suit, shirt and tie. No flash. No flare. When he stepped on to the stage and the bright lights shined down on him, the focus only was on his emotional words. 

From his mother who insisted he attend youth practice to the coaches who poured themselves into molding him, his relatives who provided a solid foundation in the hectic world of a professional athlete to the fans who stood by him regardless of the circumstances, Iverson shared the special moment by giving thanks to those who helped him become a Hall of Famer.

He called out specific mentors in the basketball world, including his three presenters. Iverson began with former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, who he credited for saving his life. Next was former Sixers head coach Larry Brown. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but Iverson said once he began to listen to Brown, he became an All-Star and MVP. 

Iverson then thanked Julius Erving for supporting him during his entire tenure with the Sixers. Later in the speech, Iverson called out former Sixers president Pat Croce, who drafted Iverson first overall in 1996, for recognizing his potential to lead a franchise. He noted, “I love you, Pat.” 

There are so many people involved in the daily operations of basketball, and Iverson made sure to recognize those on court and behind the scenes. He praised handfuls of former teammates, basketball operations staff and broadcasters. The Sixers had front office and former players in attendance, including Eric Snow, head coach Brett Brown and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. 

Much of Iverson’s time was spent talking about his family. Each member received a special message, and Iverson expressed how much the stability they give means to him. 

“I thank y'all for being my crutch in my career,” he said. “When I had hard losses, didn’t play well, the media treated me like they did throughout my career, I always came home and forgot about all of that once I saw y'all.” 

Iverson took the listeners through a journey of his life. There were somber pauses and tearful acknowledgements, and then there were jokes and humorous anecdotes. 

In a speech that covered all aspects of his personality, Iverson drew a reference between meeting Michael Jordan to Chappelle's Show (see video) and thanked artists, including Michael Jackson, The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac for being the theme music of his career. He paid tribute to fierce competitors like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and shared comical exchanges between him and Tyronn Lue. He even closed his night by thanking the negative people he got out of his life. Regardless of the topic at hand, Iverson had the audience waiting on every word. 

Some attendees showed their dedication by wearing Iverson jerseys, donning Hoyas, Sixers and Nuggets gear. Others stood and rooted while he spoke. It was only fitting that he gave a special shoutout to his supporters, a group that filled the balcony and was so loud the hall sounded like it was packed just for him.

“Philly fans!” Iverson called out. Nearly half a minute of cheers ensued, fans bowed, and some chanted “M-V-P” (see video).

“My relationship with the fans in Philadelphia is like no other,” he said. “Thank y’all for the support over the years. Y'all let me grow. Y’all let me make my mistakes. Never jumped off the bandwagon, continued to support me like true fans are supposed to.” 

Iverson embodied the impact of his family, friends and fans in his induction speech. He was the one playing basketball, but made it clear he could not have done it alone. On a night that celebrated his personal achievements, Iverson made it about everyone else. 

“The ones that stuck by me throughout my journey, I love y'all,” he said (watch speech). “I love the fact that now y'all can walk around and stick y'all chest out and say y'all Hall of Famers.” 

Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

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Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 29 points, DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 24 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Lonzo Ball's quiet NBA debut with a 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Lou Williams added 12 points in the Clippers' first game since Chris Paul spurned the perennial playoff team after six years and forced an offseason trade to Houston. The Clippers will have a new look this season, but they were still miles ahead of their Staples Center co-tenants in both teams' season openers.

Ball had three points, four assists and nine rebounds in 29 minutes during the first game for the No. 2 overall pick from UCLA.

The Los Angeles-area native is expected to revitalize his hometown team this season, but the rookie started out with all the nerves and mistakes that might be expected from any 19-year-old point guard with the weight of a 16-time NBA champion franchise on his slender shoulders. Along with a handful of good-looking passes and a 3-pointer late in the first half, he went 1 for 6 from the field and committed two turnovers.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points in his debut for the Lakers, and Jordan Clarkson added 18.

Patrick Beverley, acquired in Paul's trade to the Rockets, had 10 points in his Clippers debut while introducing Ball to high-level NBA defense (see full recap).

Thunder debut new Big 3 in win over Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 105-84 on Thursday night in their first regular-season game with All-Star additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony

Westbrook, the NBA MVP last season when he averaged a triple-double, had with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

Paul George, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers, led the Thunder with 28 points. Anthony, who was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder right before training camp began, had 22 points against his former team.

Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Enes Kanter, who joined the Knicks in the deal that sent Anthony to the Thunder, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. No other New York players scored in double figures.

George broke away for a dunk as time expired in the first half to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead. Porzingis scored 19 points before the break to keep the Knicks in it.

Kanter made three buckets early in the third quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but Westbrook found Steven Adams and Andre Roberson for back-to-back alley-oop dunks to give the Thunder a 69-52 lead.

After that, it was time for the Westbrook triple-double watch. He reached double digits in points and assists midway through the third quarter. He grabbed his 10th rebound with about four minutes remaining in the game (see full recap).

Raptors cruise past Bulls in season opener
TORONTO -- Jonas Valanciunas had 23 points and 15 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 22 points in his Toronto debut and the Raptors beat the short-handed Chicago Bulls 117-101 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

Norman Powell added 15 points, Delon Wright had 13, and Kyle Lowry 12.

The Raptors, who intend to shoot more 3-pointers and move the ball more this season, were 13 of 29 from long range and had 26 assists on 39 baskets. Lowry had nine assists, and DeMar DeRozan and Wright each had five.

Miles was 6 for 9 from 3-point range and had five rebounds.

Playmaking proved an effective avenue for DeRozan on a night when he made just two of nine field goals and did not attempt a 3-pointer. DeRozan finished with 11 points, going 7 for 8 at the free throw line, and had six rebounds.

Chicago center Robin Lopez scored 18 points, rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 in his NBA debut, and Justin Holiday added 15.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said forward Nikola Mirotic is doing OK but is still sore two days after suffering facial fractures and a concussion in a practice fight with teammate Bobby Portis. Chicago suspended Portis for eight games following the altercation. Mirotic is expected to be out from four to six weeks (see full recap).

Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers' first home game is Friday night, and if their season opener in Washington, D.C., was any indication of the fans’ excitement level, the Wells Fargo Center will be rowdy. 

Sixers fans traveled to the Capital One Arena on Wednesday and started a “Trust the Process” chant less than a minute into the game, much to the dismay of the Wizards crowd.

That enthusiasm and loyalty was not lost on the players. They are ready to feed off the vibe at the Wells Fargo Center when they host the Celtics. 

“First of all, Philly fans are passionate and I love that about them,” Joel Embiid said. “Just me going out there, playing hard and making plays just to get them off their seat and cheer and yell and just go crazy, I just love that type of atmosphere. It gets me going, too.”

Some players block out the noise from the stands, especially if they aren’t hitting their shots. Embiid, though, wants to hear the support and repay it on the court. 

“If I miss foul shots and then they’re cheering, I know that the next play I’ve got to do better,” he said. “I’ve got to make a crazy block or I’ve got to make a crazy play to get them going. Then that gets me going too because I love the excitement. Since I’ve been in Philly, I’ve embraced it and I just love it.”

The players don’t want the fans to hold back, either. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has played in intense game environments overseas and welcomes the high energy in Philadelphia. 

“Here, whenever you go in the street, people call your name, cheer for you,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “During the game, it gets you going. The crazier they are, the better you feel and the better you’re going to play. It’s the best thing.”

Brett Brown always has emphasized the responsibility he feels to give the crowd a quality product. He reiterated that doing his job well is on his mind every game. For the first time in his tenure, Brown can debut a roster constructed with direction and a foundation.

“I’m confident and comfortable with what we’ve built, that we can deliver this year’s team to a court knowing that the base is there, there are people we really like and see as part of the future,” he said. 

Fans at the home opener will receive a t-shirt with caricatures of Brown, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric on it. 

 

The team also is launching the PhilaFanGram camera system that fans can use to take photos with a specially-designed Sixers-themed filter. 

Back-to-backs for Embiid?
Embiid is awaiting word from the medical staff to hear if he will be cleared for back-to-back games. Following Friday's game against the Celtics, the Sixers travel to Toronto the play the Raptors on Saturday. 

"Yesterday I played and my body feels great today," Embiid said. "My knee feels amazing. I feel like if I had to play today, I feel like I would play depending on how I feel. But I feel like I’m ready."

Embiid was held out of consecutive games last season.