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Ball Don't Lie

Allen Iverson will return to Philadelphia on Saturday when 76ers give out A.I. bobbleheads

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

View photo

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A link to the past that wobbles when you touch its head. (Image via @AschNBA)

If you're a Philadelphia 76ers fan, there's not much for you to be excited about right now. The guy your front office imported to be the low-post centerpiece of a new era has been hurt all year, just underwent surgery on both knees that eliminated any chance he'd return to the floor this season and is poised to hit free agency, meaning there's an excellent chance that the net result of the Great Four-Way Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum/Andre Iguodala swap for Philly is the right to pay a 32-year-old and injured Jason Richardson nearly $13 million over the next two seasons. (Which is especially crummy when you see ex-76er draftees Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless developing into useful, inexpensive pieces in Orlando.)

Your team has been difficult to watch and cheer all season, struggling mightily to produce consistent offense given a lack of reliable shot creators, floor-spacers and free-throw generators; this is the NBA's fourth-worst offense in points scored per possession (according to NBA.com's stat tool) for a reason. The Evan Turner bet still hasn't really paid off, the "let's pay Kwame Brown and Nick Young rather than Elton Brand and Lou Williams" decision definitely hasn't paid off, you're getting heavy doses of a not-exactly-future-building Damien Wilkins and you're assured of a sub-.500 season record. There are admirable things about the Sixers — the team-carrying play of first-time All-Star Jrue Holiday, the all-court impact of Thaddeus Young, the refusal to roll over and tank despite being seven games out of the playoffs with 11 games left — but it's been a brutal season, it's coming to a brutal end and, prospective cap space aside, there doesn't appear to be a ton of hope for significantly brighter days in the team's near future.

[Also: Ex-Laker A.C. Green's NBA championship rings stolen from his home]

And so, this weekend, the 76ers will reach back to the past, celebrating legendary guard Allen Iverson's contributions to Sixer history with a commemorative bobblehead doll ... and, as it turns out, celebrating the man himself, who has accepted the team's invitation to be in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. From The Associated Press:

Sixers CEO Adam Aron says Iverson rearranged his schedule to make the trip to Philadelphia. The Sixers will salute one of their greatest players with a video tribute. [...]

Aron says Iverson decided to return because "he loves his fans and he loves Philadelphia."

Iverson will reportedly present the game ball prior to tip-off of the 76ers' Saturday game with the Charlotte Bobcats, reprising a role he played last spring, when he appeared before Game 6 of the Sixers' second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Despite his two prior ignominious exits from Philly — the acrimony preceding his trade to the Denver Nuggets during the 2006-07 season and his brief, less-than-smooth-and-successful 2010 return to the franchise — the Philly faithful showered Iverson with affection during that appearance, lauding him for a 76er career that included 19,931 points (second only to Hal Greer in franchise history), the 2000-01 NBA Most Valuable Player award and a trip to that year's NBA Finals that served as the peak of his Sixers tenure.

Iverson hasn't played professional ball since a 2010 stint with the Turkish club Besiktas; he declined an invitation to join the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, earlier this season. Off the court, he's had a very rough start to 2013, losing his Atlanta mansion to foreclosure, going through a bitter divorce from his ex-wife Tawanna and losing custody of his children.

[Also: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lobbies for the vacant UCLA coaching job]

All told, things aren't especially sunny for Iverson or the Sixers these days; the former star has fallen on difficult times and (D-League invite aside) seems to have made no headway in his hoped-for return to the NBA, while his former employer struggles toward the lottery on the court and toward laughing-stock status in the stands, where average attendance has fallen sharply from last year's numbers, leading to tickets going for mere pennies on the secondary market. Maybe bringing Iverson back to the site of his greatest achievements for one night, and giving fans an opportunity to reconnect with the franchise's last real stretch of glory for one night, will be a nice boost for all involved. And hey, even if it isn't, at least everyone will get a neat collectible out of it.

Photo of the figure via NBA.com's Steve Aschburner.

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