A book has been written about the 76ers’ run to the NBA Finals in 2001, and Kevin Ollie plays an important role in it.
“The 76ers signed Ollie after releasing veteran Vernon Maxwell in December 2000,” says the Clifton Duquette, author of Reliving The Ride. “ With Aaron McKie as the primary guard off the bench, Ollie mostly received minutes whenever one of the guards was out of lineup or if there was foul trouble. Ollie’s role was to provide that stability at the point guard position, someone who could play solid defense and execute Larry Brown’s plays. There’s a reason why Ollie survived in the NBA as long as he did while playing for numerous teams; he followed what the coach wanted by leading by example on the court. He wasn’t extremely talented, but he did the little things necessary to provide stability for the 10 to 15 minutes when Brown needed him.
“My favorite memory of Ollie was Game 3 of the NBA Finals when Brown subbed him in for Dikembe Mutombo. Shaquille O’Neal had just fouled out with about 2:30 left, and with the Lakers going to Robert Horry at center, Brown decided to match up with his own smaller lineup by putting in Ollie. With just under a minute left and the Sixers down four, Ollie rebounded a Sixers miss and scored a 3-point play to bring them within one. They ended up losing that game, but at the time, he had become yet another example of a 76er role player making a big play, which is what helped define that season. After watching him throughout his career, it’s no surprise he’s now coaching UConn.”
Now, why a book about this particular team?
“I was fortunate enough to attend all the 76ers’ home playoff games in 2001,” Duquette says, “when I was in ninth grade. I witnessed them win Philadelphia’s affection. They gave the city one of its most thrilling playoff runs in its history, and it was done in a way that embodied what Philadelphia represents: blue-collar work ethic in an underdog role. Perhaps more impressively, the team responsible for this run was assembled in a unique way — one superstar [Allen Iversen], who was often the smallest player on the court, surrounded by defensive-minded players. The players brought the city’s spirit to life, and even though they ended up losing to the Lakers, it felt more like Apollo Creed beating Rocky.”