Posted by: Michael Kaskey-Blomain
09/08/09 9:56 am EST

iversonnstackAs 76ers legend and eventual Hall of Famer Allen Iverson draws closer each day to reality that he could possibly be a member of lowly Memphis Grizzlies in 2009-10 and one time Sixer great Jerry Stackhouse remains an unrestricted free agent deep into September, Philadunkia’s Michael Kaskey-Blomain took a moment to look back at the 1996-97 Philadelphia 76ers and ponder what could have been…

The career of an NBA player is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.  A new game, new contract, or new season isn’t promised to anyone, and even those at the pinnacle of the sport are not immune to the potential pitfalls placed in front of players. 

Some are thrown from the top due to injuries (Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill), while others struggle with off-court issues that can derail or destroy a promising young career, while still others hit a wall where they become viewed as over-aged and undesirable.  Whatever the case, the NBA is an unforgiving setting, where today’s triumph could quickly become tomorrow’s tragedy. 

This is why, as an NBA fan, one should never be too shocked be any player development.  However, with that being said, I could not help but to be surprised by a couple developments I noticed while gazing at the 1996-1997 Philadelphia 76ers roster poster that hangs on my basement wall.  Not only do none of the players from the team still play for the Sixers, only two were on a NBA roster last year, and as of now, both of these former 76ers remain unsigned as we draw closer to the start of the 2009-2010 season.

JerryStackhouseNow this wouldn’t be a big deal or come as a surprise if we were talking about mid-level NBA role players who served their time in a Sixers uniform and have since moved on to other aspects of life.  No.  We are talking about two franchise-caliber players; two players that were collegiate studs, who were selected in the top three in the draft, and during their primes were among the NBA’s elite.  Therefore, the uncertainty of an NBA career never hit me harder than when I realized that both Jerry Stackhouse and the incomparable Allen Iverson, the backbone of that 1996-97 Sixers team and the duo once considered the future of the 76ers franchise, were struggling to find workthis off-season.  How could two players that have accomplished so much throughout their basketball careers be openly searching for a job…and struggling?  Such a situation led me to come to a realization:  The NBA is a cruel place. 

Wasn’t Allen the toast of the League just a few short years ago?  Was it really that long ago that Stackhouse flushed a devastating reverse dunk on Eric Meek and Cherokee Parks of Duke and was crowned the next Jordan as he headed out of North Carolina into the League?  I guess a requirement to be an NBA G.M. is a short memory span, considering the fact that every single one in the League has forgotten what players like Allen and Jerry can do.

Although the careers might not be over for these ex-all-stars, their time as the brightest stars in the night sky that is the NBA has certainly passed, leaving one to wonder what could have been.  What if the two were able to coexist in Philly early in their careers?  After all during Allen’s rookie season (1996-97), Iverson (23.5 ppg.) and Stackhouse (20.7 ppg.) were one of the highest scoring duos in the NBA. Who knows what heights they could have lifted this franchise to if they and their entourages could have just gotten along. What if Allen had been able to use those 2001 Finals to launch a string of Finals appearances that eventually decorated his own fingers, rather than supplying more bling to Shaq, Kobe, and Phil?  Speaking of that 2001 season, did anyone think at the time that the NBA’s two leading scorers from that season — Allen at 31 ppg. and J-Stack then of the Detroit Pistons at 29.8 ppg. — would both be out of a job a few short years later? What if in the 2006 NBA Finals Stackhouse and the Mavs did NOT blow a 2-0 lead over the Miami Heat and loose in six games?

iversonandmjSince it seems highly unlikely that the Sixers will reunite the once-explosive back-court, one can only hope that both players find suitable homes to continue their careers.  Both players have accomplished much during their time on the court, but both have fallen short of the ultimate goal of winning a ring.  It is easy to look back on a career and point at what was wrong, but it is more rewarding to focus on triumphs, which these guys had many of.  However, neither seems content with resting on their legacies.  Rather it seems that both have more to give to the game, assuming that the game is willing to take them back, which I have quickly realized, like most things in the NBA, is not guaranteed.


9 Responses to “1996-97 REMEMBERED”

  1. Tom Blomain
    8. September 2009 at 17:22

    As always, a great post! The NBA is like much of corporate America these days, with a pervasive “What have you done for me lately?” attitude. It is as Willy Loman metaphorically objected in “Death of a Salesman” to being used up like an orange and then thrown away like a peel. I’m sure both Iverson and Stackhouse still have fuel in their tanks, and I wish the Sixers would bring them both back for at least one wild, last run.

  2. David
    8. September 2009 at 20:27

    Performance is what the NBA is based on. Without it your dead.
    Everyone knows that. The players know it and get paid very well.
    To say this is cruel is pathetic. What is happening in Sudan is cruel.
    Iverson got paid 21 million last year. What a cruel world. Why don’t
    you go spend a year in Sudan. Living exactly like them.
    The question you don’t seem to ask is why Iverson can’t exist with
    other great players. What about his attitude on practices. Didn’t
    he say he make any team a winning team. Denver was a winning
    team before he went. Before he left they weren’t going to make it to
    the playoffs. And look what happen in Detroit.
    Hopefully he’ll change his attitude. But based on the past three years
    he is a cancer who doesn’t make a team better.
    The law of the NBA land is performance. Thats the only way it will
    survive. To think I was paying someone 21 million and he decides
    not to play because he is coming off the bench is pathetic.
    What kind of person takes 21 million from you and thinks he doesn’t
    owe you any responsibilities. That is pathetic. And for you to defend
    this person and say the NBA is being cruel to him. That’s over the top

  3. jeremy
    8. September 2009 at 20:43

    mark bradtke was on that team hes australian thats a good thing

  4. P4P
    9. September 2009 at 00:04

    Dude – you’re talking about 13 years ago!!! a kid goes from Year 1 through College in that time!
    Here’s a hint: try punching in how many players have actually HAD a 13 year career!
    The whole basis for your “NBA is cruel” theory is flawed – Iverson and Stack will get jobs within 2 weeks. Both are where they should be in their respective careers… geez, some of the greatest PFs of all time have never won it all (Barkley, Malone), but Adam Morrison has a ring???
    I think its fair to say the major disappointment in that poster of yours is what the hell happened to DColeman!

  5. Ryan
    9. September 2009 at 02:13

    34 is like 65 in shooting guard years. Athletes who depend on speed and agility peak young and decline fast–it’s the nature of job. If you want a long career, learn accounting. That’s why its so important that they take full advantage of their brief time at the top. There aren’t many spots on an NBA roster, and I’d hate to see some young guys miss their chance because we’re feeling sentimental.

  6. Sean
    9. September 2009 at 03:22

    You’re really surprised that two high volume, low percentage scorers who don’t play defense and over-dribble constantly couldn’t play well together?

    And yes, 8 years after their respective peaks they are out of jobs. So? Guards get old, the wheels fall off, and neither one of these guys has developed any skills beyond scoring off the dribble.

    Speaking of which, what exactly did Stack accomplish in his career? Yeah he almost dropped 30ppg once, but he shot 40% from the field that year. In terms of team success his best years were as a Mav, where he was a slightly above average, often injured 6th man. For his career he average 30% on 3’s, despite taking 3.5/game. Did I forget to mention how turnover prone he is?

  7. marc snyder
    9. September 2009 at 12:41

    both players needed the ball that season detroit ran it’s offense through stack and heshot the most free throws in the league that year

  8. Vittorio De Zen
    9. September 2009 at 13:07

    I enjoyed the look back, but, as the other posters have said, you really shouldn’t be surprised that those two guys have regressed in the past 13 years.

  9. CassavaLeaf
    9. September 2009 at 15:24

    Derrick Coleman was suppose to be this missing piece on so many franchises and never lived up to the hype.

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