With basketball still about a month-and-a-half away at the earliest, it's time to take another look back into The Vault at a game from the past with D.C. area connections. Today, we revisit the 1996 Big East Tournament Final between the Georgetown Hoyas and Connecticut Huskies.
That was back when Allen Iverson was ruling college basketball at Georgetown, the No. 6 team in the country. Connecticut was the No. 3 team and had a shooting guard by the name of Ray Allen.
Both would go on to become NBA legends. But before that, they squared off in a college basketball classic. Here are five takeaways, plus GIFs of the best plays and moments.
Iverson vs. Allen
This game was billed as a marquee event; two certified college superstars destined to do big things in the NBA duking it out at Madison Square Garden.
Iverson would be the first overall pick just months later and Allen would go fifth. It was one of the most stacked NBA drafts of all-time with players like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash also selected alongside many other recognizable names like Jermaine O'Neal, Marcus Camby and Stephon Marbury.
Really, this was the type of appointment television you don't often see anymore in NCAA hoops. Allen was a junior and Iverson was a sophomore. Nowadays, both guys likely would have jumped to the NBA after their freshman years.
All eyes were on those two players, yet neither played particularly well. Iverson had 13 points while battling turnovers and foul trouble, while Allen had 17 points but shot 5-for-20.
Their scoring highlights were relatively fleeting moments in an otherwise competitive game between both teams.
Passing stole the show
While both Allen and Iverson went on to become NBA superstars mostly due to their scoring, their passing stood out in this game. Both guys had a series of passes that suggested they would be excellent distributors at the next level.
Both Allen and Iverson were good passers in the NBA and averaged enough assists to consider it a strength. Iverson, in particular, had five seasons where he averaged more than seven assists per game. But it wasn't a true calling card for either of them.
Allen had hops
Allen played so long that there were basically two versions of him in the NBA. The most famous one was his later years when he won championships with the Celtics and Heat. By then, he was basically known exclusively for his shooting.
But in his early days, Allen was an all-around scorer with more athleticism than he is often given credit for. He could drive and finish at the rim with a solid handle and he had a decent vertical leap.
In this game, you saw a flash of it on a block. Allen was never associated with blocking shots in the pros, but he got up there for this one.
Allen, in fact, never averaged more than 0.2 blocks per game in the NBA. His career-high for a season was 25 total blocks and, somehow, that happened when he was 34 years old.
So much talent
Call it waxing poetic about the past, but watching this game was a reminder of how much better college basketball used to be. This game was loaded with talented players beyond Allen and Iverson, two future Hall of Famers.
There were five players in this game who would be first-round picks just months later: Allen and Iverson, plus Othella Harringon and Jerome Williams of Georgetown and Travis Knight of UConn. There was also Doron Sheffer, who was picked in the second round that June.
Also in this game was future Wizards big man Jahidi White, who played for Georgetown. And also Victor Page, who was good for the Hoyas but never made it to the NBA.
With guys leaving school early so often, you rarely see a college game with that many established stars and future pros.
Oftentimes no matter what happens over the course of a game, the ending is what is remembered most. And the final moments of this game are why it has stood the test of time as a classic.
Allen had yet to make a field goal in the second half and had missed 14 straight shots when he got the ball in the closing seconds with his team down by one.
He then made one of the more ridiculous go-ahead, game-winning shots you will ever see. He had to adjust in the air and barely got it off, all while being guarded by Iverson, a two-time conference defensive player of the year.
Allen would go on to make many clutch shots at the NBA level, most famously the corner three he hit for the Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. This was 17 years before that shot and just a glimpse of more to come.
MORE FROM THE VAULT:
Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan in 2003
Bullets-Bulls Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Playoffs
Bullets-Sixers Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Playoffs
Michael Jordan vs. Len Bias in 1983
Bullets-Sonics Game 6 of the 1978 NBA Finals
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