On June 6, 2001, Tyronn Lue was in his third and final season as a backup point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.
That evening he was tasked with trying to lay Philadelphia's Allen Iverson to rest during a game when the former Georgetown little man known for playing big when the spotlight shined brightest scored 48.
It was the National Basketball Association Finals and this particular contest had not only spilled over into an extra session, it was so close it was looking as though that was about to happen again. But, with just over a minute to play Iverson called for a clear out from the right corner directly in front of the Los Angeles bench and got it.
The former Hoya then dipped his head and right shoulder and took two small, quick steps towards towards the baseline, dribbling between his legs on the second step before pulling back and shooting.
What followed was about the longest two-point shot possible and Lue couldn't have come much closer to, if nothing else, grazing that ball. He almost altered the shot, but almost doesn't mean much nearly two decades later. Instead, in true Iverson style, that ill-advised shot with 1:03 left in the extra session sounded exactly like this from announcer Brent Musberger on Youtube:
"101-99. Here's Iverson. Lue the defender, stays right with him. Allen wants to go. Wants the baseline...fadeaway...yes! He's way too good. He steps around Lue. That's rolling...and the Sixers have scored nine in-a-row."
Iverson didn't step around Lue, he stepped over him. Yeah, it's that play, meaning that night Philly fans might have gone out and celebrated, but in hindsight they almost had to. That victory was literally the closest the man know for the phrase, "Practice? We talkin bout practice?", ever got to winning a world championship.
"Seven straight points by Iverson. It looked like he was dead in the water. Sixers by four. Forty seconds left."
Not to ruin it for those who haven't seen the game, but while Philadelphia won that battle 103-99 it was Los Angeles that won the war in five games to claim the title. After that Lue went on to play another 11 seasons starting with a two-year stint with the Washington Wizards where he played 146 games with two dozen starts and averaged 8.2 points, 3.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game according to basketball-reference.com. For his career Lue played in 554 games and started 173.
When you combine the championships Lue won while playing for Phil Jackson with the one he earned while coaching the Cav's and compare it to his humble beginnings, that's a fairly straight forward rags-to-riches, underdog kind of story most people can get behind. Iverson's is much more of a roller coaster than a freeway, though, and that's purely a situation he created by being the individual those close to him affectionately refer to as, "Bubba Chuck", or, "Jewelz".
Alter egos are never a good thing. For example, Michael Vick's alter ego was, "Ron Mexico". Then came the rumors, "Ron Mexico has herpes". The rumors surrounding Iverson aren't quite so vitriol, but, like Vick, do stem from him keeping an oversized entourage. The tales range from what his wife said in divorce court to the money he doesn't have anymore and the list goes on.
Despite all that A.I. was still pretty great on the court. While being far from infallable, he play in 914 games from 1996-97 to 2009-10 and in that time Iverson averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds while shooting .780 from the free throw line, .448 from two-point territory and .313 from behind the three-point-line.
That being said, when both their careers were over only one of these two could call themselves a world champion. This begs the question, when, "The Answer", was stepping over Tyronn and giving him that scowl so many people remembered for such a long time, do you think he had any idea that when it was all said and done the former Bulldog would be a multi-time titlist and he'd have absolutely no idea what that was like? Perhaps that's one question, "The Answer", simply doesn't have an answer for.