As far back as die-hard Ray Allen fans can remember, he didn’t have to wait until 2008 to compete for and win an NBA title. For them, it should’ve happened in 2001, when Allen and the Milwaukee Bucks rivaled with Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers were bigger
At the time, Iverson and the Sixers were the most celebrated team in the East, and Allen and the Bucks were underrated but equally exceptional. Philly finished the season as the No. 1 team in the East with a 56-26 record, while the Bucks were slightly behind with 52-30.
As expected, the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a dog fight, so to speak. Iverson and Allen dueled every time they stepped on the court, forcing the series to reach Game 7.
The Sixers and the Bucks picked up where they left off in the final game of the series. However, Allen smelled something fishy when the referees began making calls in favor of the Sixers. Though it’s hard to believe Ray-Ray’s claims, Milwaukee’s 12 technical and five flagrant fouls to Philly’s three technical and zero flagrant fouls could somehow back it up.
In the end, the Sixers beat the Bucks and advanced to the NBA Finals. Seventeen years later, Allen is still convinced the game was fixed, and he certainly knows why.
“I don’t know if they were manipulating it, it just seemed like it was not going to go in our favor,” Allen told Sporting News in 2018. “It’s hard to understand now, it was so far in the past, what the tone was. But they had the Sixth Man of the Year [Aaron McKie], they had the MVP [Iverson], they had the Defensive Player of the Year [Dikembe Mutombo].”
“We were the lowly Milwaukee Bucks,” he pointed out. “Small market, everyone always was talking about ratings, the ones we did not draw that much of.”
The fans wanted Iverson vs. Kobe
Another thing that baffled Allen was the league’s decision to suspend the Bucks’ then-starting center Scott Williams, who was a reliable frontcourt defender. It can be recalled that Williams elbowed Iverson as he drove to the basket in Game 6, and the refs whistled for a flagrant. Williams wasn’t ejected for it, but to Allen’s surprise, he was suspended for the next game, the most important game of the series.
For Allen, the answer was right in front of them – everybody was yearning for an Iverson vs. Kobe match in the Finals. And that’s what happened.
“You suspend one of our crucial players for a deciding game that would send us to the NBA Finals?” Allen questioned. “That, to me, is beyond me. How do you tamper with a game that much? People around the world and in the NBA wanted to see AI-Kobe. That was the sentiment…But let us decide it, let us duke it out. It was a hard play, he elbowed him, but it wasn’t anything worth suspending him the next game.”
After all, Allen still had a coveted NBA career. He won two NBA titles, one apiece, with two storied franchises, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. However, we can understand Allen’s frustration of not winning one with his original team, especially losing in such a controversial way when you were just one game away from making it to the Finals.