Since last playing in the NBA in 2011, NBA legend Allen Iverson has gone through a not particularly respectable period of time typified by news stories alternately unfortunate and ridiculous. However, things appear to be looking up for Iverson, in part because he finally announced his official retirement from basketball shortly before the Philadelphia 76ers' opener in October. The hope is that, with this chapter closed, Iverson can transition into a less volatile lifestyle and build on many of the fond memories fans have of his career.
Now, the Sixers have decided to formalize Iverson's meaning to the franchise and honor his excellent career. As announced Wednesday, the franchise will retire his iconic No. 3 jersey on March 1. From the official press release:
The Philadelphia 76ers today announced that they will officially retire Allen Iverson’s number “3” in a special halftime ceremony on Saturday, March 1, 2014 when the Sixers host the Washington Wizards.
Iverson is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history despite his small stature (6’0 and 165 lbs). He led the 76ers to their first Finals appearance since 1983 and played in front of thunderous cheers and sold out crowds. Known as “The Answer,” he is one of the greatest finishers in the game. He leaves a lasting legacy forever in the hearts of Philadelphia fans. With boundless talent, he was always exciting to watch and had a flashy style that endeared him to fans all over the world.
“Allen Iverson is, without question, one of the most iconic players to ever wear the Sixers uniform,” said Philadelphia 76ers Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil. “Allen left everything out on the court and no one could ever question his heart – he was relentless, fearless and pound-for-pound, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.”
The release goes on to detail the various accomplishments of Iverson's career, including his 11 All-Star appearances, four scoring titles, and 2001 MVP award. Yet anyone who watched Iverson during his prime knows that he was much more than a collection of stats and accolades. As an incredibly tough, stubborn, competitive, flashy, and not always tasteful star, The Answer gave fans a full-on experience every time he took the floor or opened his mouth. He also took on broader significance as one of the first big-name athletes to embrace and communicate hip-hop culture with no reservations, occasionally rubbing people the wrong way but ultimately serving a major role in American life. While there are various legitimate reasons to dislike Iverson, it's hard to imagine the NBA without his influence.
This honor is frankly something of a formality, because it seemed like an obvious move as soon as Iverson announced that his basketball career was over. He meant so much to the Sixers in the '90s and '00s that it was only a question of when this event would happen, not if it would. He deserves it, and I'm sure we'll all spend some time reflecting on his career on March 1.
One thing we can assume, of course, is that Iverson will not wear a suit to the ceremony. If he eschews the streetwear and throws on a jacket and tie, this could be the biggest moment of the NBA season.
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