It was the end of the 1996-97 season. The Chicago Bulls were on their way to another NBA title, and the Philadelphia 76ers were on their way to another lottery appearance, but something happened along the way which will live forever.
Allen Iverson happened.
Very few players in the NBA ever stood up to Michael Jordan after he won his first title in 1991. Jordan defeated most opponents with a psychological advantage well before the game even started.
It was the most frustrating part about rooting against Michael Jordan, the realization that the league was full of punk-bitch players afraid to challenge Jordan out of a legitimate fear of being publicly embarrassed.
Then along comes this cocky little snot-nosed punk named Allen Iverson, a rookie, six-feet tall and all of 165 pounds "soaking wet," as they say.
A baby by NBA standards (you might have been able to see his pamper through his uniform at the time), in one moment Allen Iverson showed he had more heart and courage and was more of a man than 99.9% of the players in the league at that time.
Philadelphia was playing Chicago in Philadelphia.
Iverson got the ball. Michael Jordan switched out on him. The crowd rose to its feet. And the scene was set.
Allen Iverson vs Michael Jordan, man to man (8:22).
Here is more for those who want to enjoy it in slow motion.
Unlike Byron Scott and many others before him, Allen Iverson didn't punk out when he got his chance to go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan.
Iverson "gave him a little cross to see would he bite on it," he says.
He then hit Jordan with his patented crossover and splashed cotton in Jordan's eyes from about 17 feet away. It is one of the most classic rookie moments of all time.
No one did this to Michael Jordan.
No one, especially not a player in his first year in the NBA.
But Allen Iverson did it.
He went up against the "greatest player of all time" and didn't back down. Not only that, he succeeded, and in a big way.
It was unheard of at the time.
This year, there is another crop of rookies entering the NBA who will be looking to establish themselves and show signs of their future greatness.
Here are some of their games and matchups from the first month of the season.
Wall probably has the easiest time of all rookies to start the season. It was hard to find many good matchups for him, but there are some games to look out for.
Individual Matchups: at Derrick Rose (Nov. 13); at Rajon Rondo (Nov. 17).
Big Games: vs Evan Turner (Nov. 2); vs Evan Turner (Nov. 23); at Miami (Nov. 29).
Evan Turner probably hasn't slept since the schedule came out.
That is because his first game (Oct. 27) is at home against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Good thing he has Andre Iguodala to help him. Here are some of his other matchups.
Turner and Iguodala: at Paul George and Danny Granger (Oct. 30); vs Paul George and Danny Granger (Nov. 3); at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 26); vs Brandon Roy and Luke Babbitt (Nov. 30).
Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 19); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 10).
Wesley Johnson and Corey Brewer form one of the youngest and most exciting wing combinations in the NBA.
When Jonny Flynn comes back from injury, look out! Things will be really exciting in Minnesota.
The only question is can they win? Wesley Johnson's key matchups from the first month of the season are small in number but large in impact.
Individual Matchups: at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 15); at Kevin Durant (Nov. 22).
Johnson and Brewer: at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Nov. 2); at Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 9); vs Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 19).
As John Wall has the easiest, Gordon Hayward has the hardest start to the season.
The league didn't do Hayward any favors with the slate of tough individual matchups they gave him out of the gates. Like Turner starting off against Wade and James, it will only make him stronger.
Individual Matchups: at Carmelo Anthony (Oct. 27); at Kevin Durant (Oct. 31); at LeBron James (Nov. 9); at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 13); vs Kevin Durant (Nov. 15); at Luke Babbitt (Nov. 20); vs Ron Artest (Nov. 26);
It is always nice to have help, and Paul George has a pretty good running mate in Danny Granger. They could turn out to be the most exciting and entertaining duo north of Miami.
Take a look at some of George's not-previously-listed games during the first month of the season.
Individual Matchups: vs Vince Carter (Nov. 20).
George and Granger: at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 22); at Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest (Nov. 28).
Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 5).
Luke Babbitt landed in one of the best situations of all of the rookies. He is surrounded by so many talented teammates that he won't be the focus of another team's defense probably all season.
On top of that, Portland is going to win a lot of games. Plus, he has minutes waiting for him. All he has to do is perform. He'll get a chance to do that in the following games.
Big Games: vs Phoenix (Oct. 26); vs Oklahoma City (Nov. 4); at Lakers (Nov. 7); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 12); vs Denver (Nov. 18); at Boston (Dec. 1), had to slip that one in.
Rookies are my favorite players in every sport. There is just a certain magic to rookies which can't be explained. They are talented, inexperienced, young, fun, energetic, naive, fresh, new, funny and more.
It will be interesting to see whether or not one of the current rookies can establish himself and make his mark in the NBA by putting on a big performance in a big moment, one like Iverson in 1997 or maybe even better.