Seventeen years ago today, Allen Iverson shook Tyronn Lue, buried the jumper, stepped over him on his way back down the court. It’s a play that has been immortalized by time in inescapable video format.
This happened in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, and Iverson hit the jumper with less than a minute left in overtime. Going in with a lot of confidence, Game 1 of the Finals did not go as planned for Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers as they were defeated 107-101 in overtime. The 76ers were clinging to a two-point lead when Iverson shot that fated jumper, a bucket that gave him 48 points for the game. Philadelphia held on to win that night, and all of that matters.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff run in 2001 was one of the most impressive of all-time, as they went 15-1 en route to their second consecutive championship. After finishing 56-26 in the regular season, they went into the postseason as the second seed in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs.
This play was an anointing of Iverson's place among the all-time greats, and as much about the player as it was the play. Iverson had just turned in his lone MVP season, averaging a league-leading 31.1 ppg. Iverson then carried the Sixers to the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly two decades, and to many of Iverson's fans, it seemed as if there were more appearances to come. Iverson finished the game with 48 points as the Sixers won in overtime, 107-101.
The two things often remembered most from this play was the look Iverson gave to Lue as he was stepping over his helpless body and the reaction of the Lakers’ bench, who he just so happened to be in front of. Something that often gets lost in Iverson’s greatness, however, is the fact that Lue actually played amazing defense on him but people only remember the step over.
“It definitely created a buzz,” Lue told ESPN. “When I was going places it was, ‘Oh, that’s the guy Allen Iverson stepped over!’ Well, if you know that, then you know me. So that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. He’s going to arguably go down as probably the best player under 6-foot in NBA history, so I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
This game was also the second time in NBA Finals history when two opposing players scored 40 or more points in the same NBA Finals game. Iverson had 48 points and Shaquille O'Neal also had a monster game with 44 points.
“A lot of people forget but [we were] 15-1 in the playoffs. If it wasn’t for Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue, we’d probably be the best NBA team ever to win a championship. We still have the record. I was a little nervous last year [with Golden State].”
Los Angeles went on to win the next four games of the series, completing the best playoff run of all-time.