‘This is a moment I'll never forget': Iverson soaks in sculpture ceremony

‘This is a moment I'll never forget': Iverson soaks in sculpture ceremony  originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — Even before glimpsing his sculpture, the emotions hit Allen Iverson.

“This is such an honor, man,” Iverson said Friday at the Sixers’ training complex. “And it (doesn’t) even seem real. I don’t get nervous too much, but just seeing so many people in here that I love … I want to say all the right things and just let y’all know how much I appreciate y’all.

“I promised myself I wasn’t going to (cry), but thanks to everybody for coming out. Thanks to everybody for playing a part in this, for making this dream come true.”

A few minutes later, he stepped outside and saw the sculpture created by Chad Fisher. No. 3 is now the 10th Sixers great on the franchise’s Legends Walk.

Iverson enjoyed Fisher’s work.

“Loved it,” he said. “I loved it. It’s so crazy leading up to it. You’re just nervous because you’re hoping that it looks like you.

“Man, I was just telling him, ‘You did a great job, man.’ This is a moment I’ll never forget. I’ll cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”

Iverson had ample love and support around him. His mother, Ann Iverson, was by his side. One of the day’s many photos featured Iverson between former Sixers president Pat Croce and former Sixers coach Larry Brown. Old teammates like Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, Larry Hughes and Matt Geiger surrounded Iverson.

Allen Iverson sculpture ceremony
Allen Iverson sculpture ceremony

“Just a huge, genuine heart,” Snow told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He cares about his teammates, cares about the people around him, cares about the people that support. He’ll do anything for you. That’s the Allen Iverson I know.”

While acknowledging that their partnership had its high-profile ups and downs, Iverson highlighted his appreciation for Brown.

“Larry Brown meant so much to me and my development as a basketball player. … (We) didn’t see eye to eye on things, but he wanted the same thing that I wanted out of my career and our team goals,” Iverson said. “And once I bought into that, that’s what turned me into an NBA MVP basketball player. That’s what turned us into a team that were winners, that could fight and compete with the best teams.”

Iverson and Brown were cornerstones of the last Sixers squad to win the Eastern Conference title 23 years ago.

“Just like parenting, you’re going to have your days when you’ve got to do something that the kids don’t want you to do,” Snow said. But at the end of the day, we knew that (Brown) meant well and he showed us that he cared about us. We knew that was always the case, that he cared about us and our well being. And he was doing all he could to help us.”

Current Sixers head coach Nick Nurse was also on hand Friday.

He described Iverson’s relentless, fearless style of play as an enduring legacy.

“Just your heart, you saw it every night out there,” Nurse said. “I think that it’s left — and will leave forever — a foundation of what this city stands for and how guys need to play the game. You go out there to play, put that jersey on, s--- goes by fast. You’ve got to expect that, you’ve got to enjoy that, and you’ve got to give everything you've got because it’s all gone just like that when you’re a player.

“If anybody maxed out that thought playing this game, it was you. So thank you for that. And I tell you what, I’m going to fight my ass off to get this team back to where you took ‘em a long time ago.”

Iverson said he hopes anyone passing by the sculpture is reminded of “Just playing every game like it’s your last. That was always my motto.

“Regardless of the circumstances, if I’m hurt or whatever, if I’m on the court, there was no reason not for me to play like that game like it’s my last. It’s not fair to myself, it’s not fair to God for giving me the talent. And I always felt like, ‘I’m going to play harder than anybody out here.’ … I was going to play harder than anybody, night in and night out.”

The sculpture doesn't hurt at all, but Iverson had clearly reached iconic status long before Friday's unveiling.

“I’m a little older now, so I walk through airports or go to different places … and people look at me,” Brown said. “And they don’t know my name, but they know, ‘You coached Allen.’ And that really hits you.

“The impact he’s had on our sport and young kids, it’s just amazing.”