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.