PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Allen Iverson came back to Philadelphia to announce his retirement on Wednesday, three years after he last played in the NBA.
Iverson’s announcement came on the day the Sixers start a rebuilding campaign that may have been best served starting when the originally traded Iverson a decade ago. The Sixers have not won 50 games in a season since trading Iverson to the Denver Nuggets.
Iverson took the stage at the Wells Fargo Center along side his manager and children with a smile, wearing a backwards black baseball cap and a black and white leather jacket with his college coach John Thompson in the crowd, as well as another Sixers legend, Julius Erving.
“We’d like to welcome a member of our family back, one of the best players ever to wear a Sixers uniform, number three, Allen Iverson,” Sixers owner Josh Harris said as he introduced Iverson. “[The Wells Fargo Center] is his house, and he’s always welcome here, forever and ever.”
“I gave everything I had. The passion for basketball is still there, but the desire to play is not,” Iverson said.
“Obviously, everybody knows why we’re here. I’m retirement from basketball. I thought that once this day came, it would basically be a tragic day,” Iverson said, voice cracking. “I never imagined the day coming, but I knew it would come. I feel proud and happy to say, I’m happy with my decision and I feel great. I’m at a great mindset making the decision. I have to thank god for just giving me the opportunity, to not really accomplish all the things I accomplished in the NBA, but just give me the opportunity to be drafted.”
Iverson went to 11 All-Star games during his career, won one MVP award, two All-Star Game MVPs, the league Rookie of The Year in 1996-97 after being selected first overall by the Sixers out of Georgetown University. Iverson was selected to three first team All-NBA teams, and three second team All-NBA teams.
“People ask me all the time what was my greatest moment in the NBA, and it was just being drafted,” Iverson said. “I always believed in myself, my mom told me I could always be anything I wanted to be, and I always truly, actually believed it. And I fought. I made it through a lot to get right here.”
Iverson thanked Thompson, as well as his high school coach, as well as the greatest player the league has ever seen.
“I’d like to thank Michael Jordan for just giving me that vision. He basically showed me the way, gave me that path that I wanted to walk on,” he said.
Iverson thanked his Sixers coach as well, Larry Brown. “Early in my career, I didn’t take criticism the right way. But it was always positive criticism from coach Brown,” he said. “I’m proud to be able to say that I changed a lot about this culture, and about this game,” Iverson said as he noted that the cornrows that once made him an outcast, he now sees on police officers.
“I cheated out of my kids out of a lot, as far as being a father. I didn’t have the time to be the father I wanted to be. All I thought about, as far as retiring, was that I could be a 24/7 dad. That made it so much easier as far as hanging them up,” Iverson said when asked about his plans now that his playing career is over. “I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do after basketball, There will be a lot of fishing, but whatever I do, I want to give it my all like I did on the basketball court.”
The highlight of Iverson’s career with the 76ers was the team he led to the Finals in 2001, and winning the first game of the series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the only game the Lakers would lose during the entire postseason. Iverson was named the league’s MVP, scoring 31.1 points per game, along with 4.8 assists in an astounding 42 minutes per game.
Though his work ethic was often questioned, his “talkin’ about practice” press conference will always be a part of his legacy, no one played with more effort and toughness during a game.
“I’m going to always be Sixers, till I die. I’m going to always be a Hoya, till I die,” Iverson said. “There is no perfect basketball player, and there is no perfect man, so no, I wouldn’t change anything.”
In the end, it was Iverson’s imperfections that endeared him to Philadelphia Sixers fans, and will continue to.
“I promise you, it is a happy day for me,” Iverson said. Hopefully, he’s able to find a little peace along with that happiness.