Allen Iverson retired from the NBA on Wednesday during a press conference in Philadelphia, where he spent parts of 12 seasons starring for the Philadelphia 76ers and in many ways shaped a generation's relationship to professional basketball, its players and its attendant culture.
“I’m formally announcing my retirement from basketball,” Iverson said. “You know, I thought once this day came, it would be basically a tragic day. I never imagined the day coming, but I knew it would come. I feel proud and happy to say that I’m happy with my decision, and I feel great.”
Joined by family members and his manager, the 38-year-old Iverson — clad, appropriately, in an oversized T-shirt, varsity jacket, black fitted hat cocked back at an angle and a chain — greeted a throng of reporters to speak words we'd heard were coming two months ago and that we've known were coming for a couple of weeks, addressing a reality with which most of us have long since made our peace.
Watch him say them:
During the press conference, Iverson thanked Michael Jordan for "giving him a vision" (and, lest we forget, a national coming-out party). He talked about his famed "practice" rant, about the "ass-kicking" he received in the court of public opinion for being himself, about planning in retirement to make "catch-up time" with his oldest daughter after cheating his children out of a lot during his playing days, and about the lasting bonds between the Sixers franchise, the city of Philadelphia and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft.
“I’m gonna always be a Sixer, ‘til the day I die,” Iverson said. "These fans are me. I am Philadelphia. When you think Philadelphia basketball, you think Allen Iverson. And I fought for that. I earned that."
(Over at The Point Forward, Ben Golliver has a full transcript of Iverson's remarks, plus the 10-minute speech in his entirety, if you'd like to watch it uninterrupted.)
I won't try to wax philosophical, poetic or authoritative about Iverson's life and career. For one thing, this isn't our first A.I. retirement rodeo. As a site, we've been here before, and said a lot already. I've written about him before, but I never covered him; I got this job after his playing career was, for all intents and purposes, over (if only unofficially). Most of what I've written about him hasn't been very fun to write, or had much to do with what made him so singular, so electric, so compelling; it would feel like an unearned attempt to big myself up. Trying on ill-fitting clothes. Besides, plenty of great writers have already done that beautifully. I'd much rather point you to the existing body of brilliance on him than try to match it here.
What I will say is that I am 100 percent positive that I am never going him thanking the people of Philadelphia while his mother raced to half-court to kiss him before he raised the 2000-01 Most Valuable Player trophy. I am never going to forget Game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals and the coldest step-over ever. I am never going to forget how badly I wanted this player — one who not only didn't play for my New York Knicks, but routinely hung heavy, heavy point totals on them — to bend the NBA world to his will, how capable he was of doing so at times, how close he got to doing it for eternity in those '01 playoffs, and how remarkable to watch it all was.
That's what I'll spend the next few minutes recalling as I watch both the best plays of Iverson's 14-year NBA career:
... and, thanks to Dave Zirin, the 10 best plays he made that didn't count:
... and check out the NBA's Instagram page, where they're taking a stroll down memory lane with the 11-time All-Star. Hopefully, you will, too.
Iverson's formal retirement closes the book on a career that saw him average 26.7 points per game, the sixth-highest career mark in NBA/ABA history, and score 24,368 total points, the 24th-best number. He's also 12th all-time in steals, 38th all-time in assists and 45th all-time in minutes played. Basketball-Reference.com pegs the statistical probability of Iverson earning enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at 99.8 percent, which sounds about right to me, because Allen Iverson was one of the greatest and most important players ever to lace up a pair of high-tops.
Good luck in retirement, A.I. Thanks.
- - - - - - -