Allen and Iverson aren’t typically considered to have the most outstanding rivalry. Yet, their battles trace back to college and extended well into the early parts of their respective careers. The rivalry began in earnest with one of the most memorable finishes in college basketball history.
Ray Allen and the UConn Huskies drove a dagger into Allen Iverson and the Georgetown Hoyas in 1996
The 1996 Big East Final pitted two legendary programs against one another.
Jim Calhoun’s Connecticut Huskies squared off against John Thompson Jr.’s Georgetown Hoyas at Madison Square Garden. Two of the greatest coaches in NCAA history going head-to-head at The Mecca. What could make the matchup any better? Well, how about two NBA Hall of Famers playing starring roles in the final seconds?
Ray Allen won Big East Player of the Year as the Huskies went 17-1 in conference play. He averaged 23.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists on an absurd 46.6% shooting from beyond the arc. But Iverson was hardly an afterthought.
The Answer led the country in total points and the Big East in points per game (25.0), also leading the nation in steals en route to Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The sophomore sensation spearheaded a Hoyas team that seemed primed to compete for an NCAA title.
Allen and Iverson took center stage at the end of the contest. Georgetown led 74-73 with under 20 seconds to play when the man who became known as Jesus Shuttlesworth hit a wild, off-balance runner to give the Huskies a one-point lead. Iverson’s ensuing game-winning attempt clanged off the rim, giving UConn a dramatic victory in the Garden.
Ray Allen had shot just 5-of-20 from the field, but still managed to break Iverson’s heart. Iverson would get his revenge five years later, though he’d do so in a somewhat infamous fashion.
Iverson and the Sixers defeated Allen’s Milwaukee Bucks in an epic seven-game series in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals
Allen Iverson and Ray Allen met again when the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks squared off in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. Once again, the two Hall of Famers played starring roles in one of the more underrated playoff fixtures in NBA history.
An MVP Iverson scored 34 points to lead the Sixers to a series-opening win. The two teams traded blows from there. Allen scored 38 points in Game 2, and the Bucks took a 2-1 advantage after winning a low-scoring affair in Game 3. But the Sixers responded, winning a pair of nail-biters to come within a single win of the NBA Finals.
Yet, the Bucks came up big in a do-or-die situation. Milwaukee raced out to a 29-point lead in the first half and withstood a 46-point fourth quarter from the Sixers. Iverson’s 46 points weren’t enough, as Allen scored 41 of his own to push the series to Game 7.
The winner-take-all is when AI really took his revenge. He scored 44 points on 17-for-33 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. His stellar play steered the Sixers to a win and an unlikely Finals berth.
However, Philly’s series win was not without controversy.
Allen and the Bucks cried foul during the series
Ray Allen and the Bucks were convinced the NBA was against them in the middle of the series.
Milwaukee’s one-point loss in Game 5 was earmarked by a pair of flagrant fouls and a technical foul. Those calls essentially made all the difference in the contest. Allen said before Game 6 that his team was at a disadvantage.
“I think there’s no question about that. “The league, as a marketing machine, the bottom line is about making money,” Allen said at the time, via ESPN. “It behooves everybody for the league to make more money, and the league knows that Philadelphia is going to make more money with LA than we would with LA.”
The frustration had begun before Game 5, however. Milwaukee felt things began to fall apart at the end of Game 4, with Allen and then-Bucks head coach George Karl expressing skepticism about the NBA’s rooting interests.
The timing of certain calls or no-calls will always be a marker of the series, as will the foul shots. Philly took 186 free throws during the series compared to Milwaukee’s 120 attempts.
Ultimately, though, it came down to the Bucks’ inability to keep Iverson down. The Answer shot 33-for-120 from the field through the first five games. But he scored a combined 90 points for the final two contests, with the Game 7 performance becoming one of the defining moments of his career.
It took five years, but AI finally got his retribution for that devastating loss in 1996. Still, that vengeance did not come without a ton of contention.