LeBron James carrying Cavaliers to NBA Finals like Allen Iverson did with Sixers

AP Images

LeBron James carrying Cavaliers to NBA Finals like Allen Iverson did with Sixers

Allen Iverson, for all his flaws, is a god in the City of Philadelphia.

His most memorable season was his MVP year in 2000-01. That season, Iverson carried a team of misfits all the way to the NBA Finals. Sound familiar? Like maybe something exactly like that is happening right now?

LeBron James, for as much hate as he got for “The Decision,” is Cleveland’s prodigal son. 

This season is one of his most memorable, playing all 82 games for the first time, leading the NBA in minutes per game and scoring 27.5 points a game – his highest mark in almost a decade. James has now carried a team of misfits to the NBA Finals. Like déjà vu all over again.

As Game 1 approaches of Round 4 of Cavs-Warriors, it’s amazing to see the parallels between what A.I. did and what LeBron is doing.

They eerily played the same opponents in the first two rounds: The Pacers in Round 1 and the Raptors in Round 2. Both teams had two of their three playoff series go to seven games, including both Eastern Conference Finals.

And they both took on dynasties in the Finals. Iverson had to deal with the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers at their peak. L.A. was going for its second of what turned out to be three straight titles. LeBron is taking on the star-studded Warriors for the fourth straight season. The Warriors have won two out of the three previous matchups.

Iverson scored 723 total points during his run, third-most in playoff history. James has 612 points already this postseason and is averaging 34 points per game. If he continues at this rate, even a sweep would put LeBron at 746 points, which would be second only to Michael Jordan in 1991-92 (759). Offensively, these are two of the most dominant runs in NBA postseason history.

It’s amazing the disparity in scoring numbers both players had compared to their supporting casts. Aaron McKie was the second-leading scorer for the Sixers (336) while Mutombo was third (319). That’s a 387-point difference from McKie and a 404-point difference from Mutombo. Kevin Love’s 237 points are second to James and Kyle Korver’s 176, are third. That’s a 375-point and 436-point differential. 

For some perspective, Shaq (487) and Kobe’s (471) differential was 16. Kevin Durant (493) and Klay Thompson’s (348) is 145 – factoring in that Stephen Curry missed the first six games of the playoffs with a knee injury. 

Can James pull off what Iverson couldn’t and beat a juggernaut with little help? The odds aren’t great. 

The Warriors are listed at -12 for Game 1. That’s the biggest NBA Finals Game 1 spread since – you guessed it – A.I. and company went into Staples Center and took the first game. Golden State is at -900 to win the series (That number rose as high as -1200 at one point). James has been the underdog in seven of his nine trips to the Finals. 

There is one big difference between the situation surrounding Iverson and James: LeBron might not be back in Cleveland. Iverson was just hitting his prime and was beloved in Philadelphia. James is 33 – though still performing as if he’s at his peak – and will enter free agency. 

If LeBron decides to leave the Cavs and sign with A.I.’s former team, don’t expect him to carry this big of a load.

Remembering Kobe Bryant's legendary reunion with his high school point guard

Remembering Kobe Bryant's legendary reunion with his high school point guard

Ideas for sports content are a bit like jump shots. Sometimes you’re Kevin Ollie and it’s brick city for days. Then once in a rare while an idea takes on a life of its own, the stars align, the hoop starts to look like an ocean, and you drop 81 and it’s a masterpiece.

That latter was the case for the segment The700Level Show did back in 2015 when Kobe Bryant played his final NBA game in Philadelphia against the Sixers.

We were lucky enough to have The Evster writing and working for the site. Evan was quite the baller in his day and was a point guard for Lower Merion back in the 90’s and teammates with Kobe during the future NBA legend’s junior year there.

It was a great idea to pair Kobe with his old high school point guard but if you’ve ever worked in the sports media world, you know you can absolutely never count on athletes to help deliver on any creative ideas you may be working on.

But you can always shoot your shot.

As you can see in the final product, Kobe and Ev’s relationship was real. The chemistry was still there decades later. All the planning and prep work in the world can’t produce that.

The final video is hilarious. It was one of those rare instances where the final product was even better than you could have hoped for.

Perhaps my favorite part of it all is similar to one my friend Ev will remember as well, “the fact that so many people said we were able to show a side of Kobe they’d never seen.”

Our thoughts go out to Ev and all of those affected by the tragic events in Calabasas.

Joel Embiid honors Kobe Bryant, channels his own 'Mamba Mentality' in return

Joel Embiid honors Kobe Bryant, channels his own 'Mamba Mentality' in return

It was a strange night at the Wells Fargo Center. Then again, everything has felt strange since we found out that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others tragically died in a helicopter crash Sunday.

But on Tuesday, it was time for Joel Embiid and the Sixers to play basketball again. The team honored Bryant, the NBA great and Philadelphia native, in a touching pregame tribute.

Embiid did it by returning to the floor after missing nine games and scoring 24 points in a 115-104 win over the Warriors (see observations), drawing upon the way Bryant played his decorated 20-year career.

“It was tough,” Embiid said. “Like I keep saying, Kobe meant something different than anybody else. It was tough, but I know just looking at his career and what he was about, that 'Mamba Mentality.' It was about outworking your opponent, outworking everybody else and I know he would want everybody to go out and compete hard and play the game and try to win. That's what he was about. It was tough but that's how you honor him.”

Beyond his play on the floor, Embiid reached out to another Hall of Famer for help to honor Kobe.

Bobby Jones’ No. 24 was retired by the Sixers in 1986. Known as “The Secretary of Defense,” Jones was a five-time All-Star and an 11-time All-Defensive Team pick. Sixers equipment manager Scotty Rego, who’s been with the team for over 32 years, had a hand in helping arrange everything. A phone call was arranged for Embiid and Jones earlier in the day.

Jones’ only caveat was that Embiid have a strong defensive effort — like Jones and Bryant, a 12-time All-Defensive Team pick himself.

“Bobby, he's a legend,” Embiid said. “He's got his number retired. He's a Hall of Famer. It's always tough to be in that situation, but he was incredible. He was forthcoming. I'm really grateful that he let me have this opportunity to wear that number. It's a tough decision, but he was all for it and I'm really thankful.”

Will he continue to wear it?

“No, I'm not keeping it. It was just for one game. You can't disrespect the greatness of Bobby Jones. He was a great player at his time. His number is retired. Like I said, I'm extremely grateful that he let me have that opportunity to wear that. I'm back to my number.”

Embiid getting the opportunity to play and wear the number wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Embiid was listed as questionable pregame and had to be cleared by a hand surgeon. He'd missed the past two and a half weeks after tearing a ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. 

When he spoke to reporters last week for the first time since his surgery, he mentioned the team’s spot in the standings has fueled him to want to get back in the lineup faster. With their win tonight, the Sixers are a half game ahead of the Pacers for the fifth seed and just 2 ½ games behind the Raptors for No. 2.

They also have a difficult stretch of games upcoming. After traveling to Atlanta to take on the lowly Hawks, they finish the road trip with games against the Celtics, Heat and Bucks — all teams ahead of them in the conference.

Embiid is gearing up for that slate but didn’t look all that rusty Tuesday aside from his five turnovers. Most importantly, he said his finger wasn’t in any pain.

“No, it's not,” Embiid said. “I'm fine. I'm wearning a lot of straps on it. I will probably blame that on the amount of turnovers I had today. So that was the reason, but I'm wearing a lot of straps on it so takes a lot of adjustment, but it's fine.”

With the Sixers beginning to pull away in the fourth, Embiid got the ball in the post on Eric Paschall. It was an obvious mismatch and Embiid went to work. With a double team looming, Embiid turned toward the baseline.

He hit a fadeaway. Wearing No. 24. Earning his 24th point of the game.

“Well, that was cool. I didn't know it was actually 24 points as I shot that fadeaway — that was what [Kobe] was about. I actually yelled ‘Kobe.’ A lot of us, since I started playing basketball, that's how we've always done it. You shoot something in the trash and you just go ‘Kobe,’ so that was cool. And then for it to be the 24th point and me wearing 24 means a lot.”

It was a fitting end to a difficult night.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers