By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Allen Iverson taking questions from reporters at his retirement press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Photo by Webster Riddick.
PHILADELPHIA—Allen Iverson may have stood a few inches under 6-feet, but on the court he was as tall as Wilt Chamberlain and could fly as high as Dr. J., Julius Erving.
Like Chamberlain and Erving, Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick in the 1996 draft out of Georgetown, did some incredible things on the court. He also left a hip-hop sensibility in his wake similar to Chamberlain’s signature headbands and Dr. J’s ‘fro.
And he owns every bit of it.
“I took an ass-kicking for me being me in my career, for me looking the way I looked and dressing the way I dressed,” Iverson said. “My whole thing was just being me. Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows. Know what I’m saying? I took a beating for those types of things.”
On Wednesday, Allen Iverson returned to the Wells Fargo Center, the place where he made his mark, to formally retire from the game of basketball as a 76er, and to thank the fans that supported him the most throughout his career.
He leaves the game with no regrets, despite the on and off the court drama that sometimes accompanied him, Iverson said.
Iverson also leaves knowing that he made it a lot easier for the nonconformist in the NBA due to his hard-charging, uncompromising style both on and off the court that gave a voice and a platform to an often-criticized and misunderstood generation of young people.
“I’m proud that I’m able to say I changed a lot in this culture and in this game,” he said. “It’s not about how you look on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside.”
During the ceremonies, Iverson acknowledged his former coaches–Georgetown head coach John Thompson and 76ers head coach Larry Brown–and former Sixers vice president Pat Croce for helping him to shape his career as a basketball player and as a man.
Poster featuring the many faces of AI. Photo by Webster Riddick.
Known as one of the best pound-for-pound players in the history of the game, the 38-year-old Iverson won four NBA scoring titles, was an 11-time NBA All-Star, a seven-time All-NBA selection, a two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2001. He was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year during the 1996-1997 season. He also averaged 26.7 points per game during the regular-season, giving him the sixth highest average all-time, and scored 29 points per game during the playoffs.
With those numbers, there is no doubt that Iverson is a Hall-of-Famer, possibly on the first ballot. He was arguably one of the best little men to play the game along with guys like Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Isaiah Thomas and Bob Cousy.
“I don’t think anybody would dispute that,” said Theo Ratliff, Iverson’s Sixers teammate during the 2001 season. “A guy that put up the numbers and do what he did throughout his career at 160 pounds and being one of the best scorers to ever play the game, you can’t beat that.”
Of course, Philly sports fans no doubt remember how Iverson led the Sixers on a magical run to the NBA Finals. Though the Sixers would lose in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers, Iverson played well, especially in game one of that series when he scored 48 points and hit that memorable jump shot over Lakers guard Tyronn Lue who leapt to block the shot.
During his retirement press conference, Iverson said he was glad to have had the opportunity to play in Philadelphia and be mentioned in the same discussion with greats like Dr. J. In the times that Iverson has made appearances at the Wells Fargo, the roar of the crowd is the same when Erving is in the building.
“When I think about Philly fans, that’s what I think about. I always wanted them to treat me the same way they treat him when he comes home,” he said. “When people tell me that it’s Doc and it’s A-I when you talk about Philly basketball that’s like one of the biggest compliments someone can give you. You put my name in the same sentence as Doc. That’s why this day is so special because of things like that.”
Iverson’s years in Philadelphia didn’t come without its share of controversy or vitriol. Aside from the braids and tattoos, people didn’t like the company he kept, the way he partied and caroused, or his inability to take criticism from his coaches and the media. He also had his brushes with the law, most notably an incident involving his now ex-wife Tawanna. There were more than a few people in the community who thought him to be rude and arrogant.
And then there was 2002’s press conference that rocketed him into the Jim Mora stratosphere of sports-related meltdowns with the line “We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice!”
Iverson acknowledged all of that and admitted that some of the criticism hurt, especially when his kids heard it.
But through it all, Iverson said he has no regrets about his time as a basketball player in Philadelphia.
“It’s easy to say I wish I would have did it this way. I can’t go back and rewind it and do it all over again,” Iverson said. “I’m happy with the way I’ve done it because it taught me a lot. To answer the question, no I don’t regret anything. If I could take back all the mistakes I made throughout my career, I would have missed no shots, I would have made no turnovers, I would have gone right instead of going left. I would have got on I-76 at 4 o’clock instead of five…
“I don’t regret it because it was blessing to get me here to the point to where I can retire. …Coming from Newport News, Va. what more could you ask for? My family is taken care of for the rest of their lives. What do you mean, regrets?”