The 76ers’ entry into the 2001 NBA Finals capped off one of the most iconic seasons in franchise history. And at the forefront of it all was the duo Allen Iverson and Larry Brown.
Philadelphia started the magic year with a 10-game winning streak en route to first place in the East by a record of 56-26. How special was the season? Four 76ers took home awards at the end of the season, including Iverson, who was named league MVP, and Brown, who was named coach of the year.
Brown and Iverson’s unique relationship will be explored in the upcoming NBATV documentary Everything but the Chip, which takes a look at a special season that saw just three wins shy of an NBA title.
— Billy King (@bkdefend) May 26, 2023
Sporting News takes a look back at the complex relationship between superstar and head coach, along with some of the moments and obstacles that tested – and strengthened – their bond.
Larry Brown and Allen Iverson’s relationship explained
Iverson came to Philadelphia first by being selected first overall by the 76ers in the 1996 NBA draft. And while AI picked up Rookie of the Year honors for averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 76 games, Philadelphia posted a 22-60 record and fired head coach Johnny Davis.
Brown comes in.
Just four days after Iverson was named Rookie of the Year, it was announced that the Sixers had signed Brown to a five-year contract.
To put the attitude in context, Brown had over 30 years of coaching experience. Having won as a college player in Kansas in 1988, he then coached the Spurs, Clippers and Pacers before taking the job with the Sixers in 1997.
Given Iverson’s rapidly rising fame and Brown’s established excellence as a head coach, there were early and frequent clashes between the two during their partnership. Brown commented on Iverson’s discipline, his passing game (or lack thereof), shooting selection, dress code and his tendency to be late for practice or skip it.
In December 1999, Brown benched Iverson for the last 20 minutes of a game and the feud went viral.
The partnership also proved fruitful as Brown led Philly to the playoffs in his second year at the helm and helped the franchise end a seven-year post-season dry spell.
In Brown’s fourth year, he and Iverson managed to turn things around, earning the team an impressive run to the 2001 Finals.
As Iverson said on the Geto Boys Reloaded podcast in March 2022, things changed once he understood the ways Brown was trying to reach out to him.
The change came in 2000 and I thought he was going to criticize me and I couldn’t accept constructive criticism. When I realized that he loved me and what was best for me and the team, I went from Allen Iverson, who was a good basketball player, to a Hall of Famer.
And although the two competed against each other, there was never a lack of respect. Before Iverson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Brown spoke about how his star allowed him to grow as a coach.
“He made me a better coach because of the relationship we had and the time we spent together,” Brown said of Iverson. “Being able to coach him has made me a better person and taught me how to interact differently with children.”
Although her NBA partnership ended in 2003, Brown was one of the onstage presenters at Iverson’s induction into the Hall of Fame in 2016.