We all remember Allen Iverson’s incredible MVP season, the step over Tyronn Lue, the Michael Jordan crossover, and of course, the infamous practice rant. But there’s one less-heralded performance that’s stuck with me through the years. February 12, 2005: the night Iverson dropped a career-high 60 points against the Orlando Magic.
First, let’s give this a little context. The scoring explosion happened in the 2004-05 season, 52 games into the Jim O’Brien era. The Sixers were hovering around .500 at the time, but Iverson was having one of his best years.
In the preseason, there were concerns about how Iverson would react to the new coach.
“Coach told me it was my team,” Iverson said. “All the things he talked to me about, they were things that I can control. But saying it and doing it are two different things.”
Their relationship worked, at least temporarily, because O’Brien was “doing it.” He moved Iverson from shooting guard to point guard before the season, which gave him full control of the offense.
That night, O’Brien’s Iverson offense ran smoothly. Right from the tip, Iverson began unfurling a vintage performance, driving to the rack with reckless abandon. The six-foot guard from Georgetown made no bones about it: he was headed straight for the paint over and over again, future Defensive Players of the Year be damned.
Just as AI got his interior game going, he began peppering the Magic with mid- and long-range jumpers. Once those started falling, the Orlando defense stood no chance.
The Answer dropped 17 points in the first quarter, then 12 more in the second, and 31 after halftime. In true Iversonian form, he achieved the 60-point feat while shooting a pedestrian 17-36 from the field by going 24-of-27 from the free-throw line.
“It was just attacking, attacking, attacking all night,” Iverson said after the game. “I guess that’s why I went to the free-throw line as much as I did. I didn’t settle for jump shots.”
Only Kobe Bryant (five times), Tracy McGrady, and Gilbert Arenas have pulled off 60-pointers in the last decade. It was just the fourth 60-point game in Sixers franchise history, according to Basketball Reference. A man by the name of Wilt Chamberlain was responsible for the other three.
“When you’re talking to me, and you’re mentioning Wilt Chamberlain in the same sentence with me, I don’t have (any) words after that,” Iverson said postgame. “I mean, what can I say? You mention somebody that’s 6-feet, 165 (pounds) soaking wet, and somebody seven some feet.”
Iverson, who led the league in scoring that year, had already gone off for 50-plus points in back-to-back games earlier with O’Brien, so this type of scoring explosion wasn’t exactly unprecedented. However, the offense didn’t always execute with Iverson running the point. O’Brien’s Sixers, which had the second fastest pace in the league, ranked 24th in offensive rating. Even with the best scorer in the association, their attack was dreadful.
Two weeks after the 60-point game, Philadelphia landed Chris Webber in a six-player deal. The Iverson-Webber one-two punch was supposed to lift the Sixers to the top of the Atlantic Division, but instead, they finished 43-39 and were eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
This 60-point game isn’t part of the AI highlight reels, in part because that Sixers team didn’t go anywhere. But if you’re looking to summarize the Iverson effect at its best, the magical night in February 2005 should do the trick.