PHILADELPHIA - Calling it a "happy day" and the end of a "great ride," former Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson formally announced his retirement during a news conference Wednesday afternoon in the Sixers' home arena, over three years after he played his final NBA game.
The 38-year-old Iverson, an 11-time All-Star, four-time NBA scoring champion and three-time All-NBA first-teamer, spent parts of 12 seasons with the Sixers, and played 14 years in all. He was the league MVP in 2001, leading Philadelphia to its most recent appearance in the Finals.
Iverson, who also spent time with Detroit, Denver and Memphis, scored 24,368 points in his career, 19th-most all-time, and averaged 26.7 points a game. Listed at 6 feet tall, he is widely considered to be one of the greatest little men to ever play the game, along with Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Nate "Tiny" Archibald.
Iverson played his last game on Feb. 20, 2010, for the Sixers against the Chicago Bulls. He had returned to the team as a free agent earlier that season, after he was cut by the Grizzlies. He briefly played professionally in Turkey since ending his NBA career, but has otherwise been idle.
"I gave everything I had to basketball," he said. "The passion is still there, and the desire to play is just not. ... I'm happy with the decision I made. It was a great ride."
The first overall pick in the 1996 draft, Iverson said he is proud to be mentioned in the same breath as former Sixers great Julius Erving, who was present at the news conference.
"That's one of the biggest compliments that someone can give you," he said. "These fans are me. I am Philadelphia. When you think of Philadelphia basketball, you think of Allen Iverson."
Known for his daring all-out style on the court, he has also become something of a cultural icon because of his tattoos, the cornrows in his hair, jewelry and baggy clothing.
"My whole thing was just being me," he said. "You look around and see all the guys in the NBA now, all of them have tattoos, and all of them are wearing cornrows. You think the suspect (in a crime) is the guy with the cornrows. Now you see the police officer with the cornrows. I took a beating for those type of things, and I'm proud to be able to say I changed a lot in this culture and this game. It's not about how you are on the outside. It's how you are on the inside."
He also had his share of off-court trouble, but said Wednesday he had no regrets.
"I made a lot of mistakes, (did) a lot of things I'm not proud of," he said. "But it's only for other people to learn from."
As a player, he said his greatest moment was "just being drafted, just getting the opportunity." But he also relished "jumping up and down" on the court after the Sixers beat Milwaukee to advance to the '01 Finals.
He and his business manager, Gary Moore, were vague about his future plans.
"There will be a lot of fishing," Iverson said. "Whatever I decide to do or get involved with, I want to be able to give everything I've got, to whatever project that is. I want to give all that I have, the same way I gave on the basketball court, to try to be successful, whatever it may be."
Sixers co-owner Josh Harris said Iverson "epitomizes what Philadelphia sports is all about: He brought it every day, he left it out there on the court and drove the organization to win. ... This is his house, and he's always welcome here, forever and ever."
The team's other co-owner, David Blitzer, echoed something said recently by Miami Heat star LeBron James.
"Pound for pound," Blitzer said, "this was the best basketball player that ever played."