“The worst thing is, just reading, looking at the newspapers, you see terrorism on the front page, then you see all the deaths in Philadelphia on the local page and all that negativity, then you get to the sports page, and when there’s supposed to be something gratifying, you see even more negativity. You see the Donovan [McNabb] thing, then you see T.O. [Terrell Owens], then you see the trade talks with me. The whole paper is like a book, ‘Tales Of The Dark Side.’ That’s just the way it is here. I realize it. I understand it’s going to be like that. If I’m here next year, if I’m here the year after, it’s always going to be negativity.” – Allen Iverson, Philadelphia Daily News (Phil Jasner), February 3, 2006.

And with A.I. providing his own intro (above), we’ll move on to the Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan, providing a roll call of Philly sporting giants leaving town in their prime.

The parade has a new grand marshal. Unfortunately, it’s not the parade Philadelphia has been waiting for since 1983. This parade – the one that sees our greatest players marching out of town – is perhaps the main reason we haven’t had that other parade.

There go Reggie White and Randall Cunningham, on the Eagles’ float.

Charles Barkley sits in the back of one convertible, laughing. Eric Lindros rides in the next, scowling.

Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen wave from Baseball Heaven, the World Series rings catching the sun.

Oh, and look! The old-timers, Wilt Chamberlain and Dick Allen, are in that vintage Thunderbird.

Finally, there goes Iverson – A.I., The Answer, Bubba Chuck, the Little Guy – as the marching band plays “Thanks for the Memories.”

Every city watches top players leave. That’s part of sports in the modern era, with free agency and salary caps and the fading of that value we used to call loyalty. But there can’t be any city, anywhere, that has seen such high-caliber players leave under such painful and controversial circumstances.

We’re talking about Hall of Famers here, or players who will warrant serious consideration. We’re talking franchise players who, for whatever reason, can no longer coexist with their franchises.

The details differ, but the answer is always similar. The root causes for the continual departure of top players and the ongoing failure to win championships are basically the same. The teams find and acquire these superior players, but never put together the right combination of talent, coaching and chemistry to win a title.

Some Iverson career highlights on YouTube — be sure to read the comments about the choice of musical accompaniment.

The Sports Network’s Warren Blatt recites the usual littany of reasons why this deal “won’t get the Nuggets over the hump” (ie. Iverson “comes with baggage” and, point taken, it isn’t as though Dallas, Phoenix or San Antonio have gotten any worse in the last 24 hours), while ESPN.com’s Marc Stein quotes unnamed Sixers as saying “outsiders can’t understand how difficult it is to play with a guard who wants the ball for 15 to 16 seconds every possession.” Not unless they’ve played with Stephon Marbury, that is.

True Hoop’s Henry Abbott, while acknowledging Iverson’s night owl tendencies will drive others to despair (“Does he stay out late? Indeed, there’s a boatload of evidence. Oh to be omnipotent and be able to provide you with the list of professional athletes who share that trait.”), deftly sums up why George Karl, Rex Chapman and their luxury taxed owner made this fateful move.

Do you understand the kind of heart it takes for a 160-pound man to scare NBA players?

You know those glow sticks they give little kids on Halloween? With the neon goo inside? Where you and I have blood, Iverson has that glowing stuff pumping through him. He’s just on fire, all the time. If you could spread that magical juice throughout your roster, you’d win the title every year–talent and size be damned.