Who was the biggest villain in Toronto Raptor’s history? You might already know “The Answer”. Allen Iverson was the definition of a Raptors villain.
There have been many who have torched the Toronto Raptors over the course of their careers. For some, seeing the Dinos on the floor allowed them to dial-up better performances than usual. There’s no better example of this than with Philadelphia 76ers legend, Allen Iverson.
Iverson was the embodiment of a soul crusher for the Raptors. He played 14 seasons as a guard in the NBA and took the league by storm. Before he wasn’t talking about practice, Iverson was drafted by the Sixers, going first overall in 1996 draft after playing two seasons for the Georgetown Hoyas.
In college, Iverson was named Big East Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in his freshman year. As a sophomore, he became a First Team All American and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the second time.
In the NBA, Iverson continued to be recognized for his outstanding play. He won the Rookie of the Year Award and was named to the 1997 All-Rookie Team. He was an 11-time All-Star and earned the MVP in two of those games. The Answer won the season MVP in 2001, was a seven-time All-NBA player, led the league in scoring four times, and led in steals three times.
Allen Iverson’s stats against the Raptors
Iverson’s basketball resume was undeniably incredible. However, it was what he did playing the Raptors that made him stand out as a true villain in Toronto.
In AI’s career, he averaged 26.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. When playing the Raptors, those totals spiked to 29.7 points, 4.0 boards and 6.2 dimes.
That point per game average is the best he owned against any team.The Atlanta Hawks were the second-most tortured team by Iverson and had nearly a point per game of relief in comparison.
Against the Raptors, Iverson had some of the best games of his career. In January of 2001, he shredded the Raps, racking up 51 points in what was his personal best against the Raptors. He also had games against the Raptors where he totalled 44, 42, and 42 points in three separate contests.
Iverson eclipsed the 30-point mark 19 times and hit 20 an additional nine against the Dinos. He never scored less than 11 points against Toronto. And even that came at the end of his career, when he was nearly 34-years-old. Even then, he couldn’t help but play well against the Raps.
Though Iverson seemed to tear the Raptors up every time he was on the court, it was one specific event that defined AI as one of, if not the biggest enemy the franchise has ever known.
Allen Iverson in the 2001 playoffs
Prior to the 2016 season, the Raptors had never advanced to the Conference Finals. In 2001, the franchise was playing its best ball yet. They qualified for the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the first time. The organization hadn’t even won a single playoff game before that season.
With a record of 47-35, the 2001 Raptors entered the postseason as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, second in the Central Division. They’re lineup featured All-Star Vince Carter who averaged a ridiculous 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. That fabulous stat line was good enough to help him finish 11th in voting for the season’s MVP. The award Allen Iverson took home.
The rest of the Raptors roster was filled out by some memorable role players. In 2001, Charles Oakley, Antonio Davis, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams, Kevin Willis, Dell Curry, and Keon Clark all dressed in purple.
The Raptors looked good in Round 1, beating New York in five games, in a best-of-five series. That set up a meeting between Toronto and the best team in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers. The series was must-watch with two of the premier superstars in the league, Carter and Iverson, going head-to-head.
The Raptors won the first game in Philadelphia, shocking the 76ers. However, Game 2 went down much differently. Iverson refused to allow his team to fall behind 2-0 at home. He went off for 54 points, essentially saving the Sixers season.
When the series was tied at 2-2, Iverson went back to work in Game 5. He continued to dazzle, dropping another 50 point game on the Raps (52 to be exact). He also added four steals and seven assists. Thanks to Iverson’s point explosion, the 76ers blew out the Raptors 88-121.
As expected, Carter came back strong in Game 6, posting 39 points compared to The Answer’s 20.
That set up a Game 7, where for the first time, Carter and Iverson both looked ordinary. It was in this game where Carter missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer allowing the Sixers to escape with a one-point victory.
Iverson had stolen the Raptors best chance at going to the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly an NBA finals. It took them 15 years after that devastation to once again make it out of the first round. If not for Iverson, Raptors history would have looked far different.
It’s hard to find anyone who excelled the way AI did playing against Toronto. That’s why he’s a real contender to be the biggest Raptors villain ever.