Sixers legend Iverson announces retirement

Posted: November 01, 2013

ALLEN IVERSON sat on the court where he made so many of his life memories and talked of his retirement from the NBA with the same emotion with which he played basketball. Holding back tears for most of the hourlong news conference, Iverson opened up about everything, from the fans to his off-court behavior to his undeniable loyalty to those who helped him along the way, in and out of basketball.

Dressed in a leather jacket with a huge gold cross and a hat turned backwards, Iverson was surrounded by his manager, Gary Moore, and three of his five children. His mom, Ann, was in the front row, complete with her son's jersey. He talked with a froggy voice, often pausing to collect himself. He thanked many who helped him along his journey to the NBA and through it. It was hard not to notice the genuine feelings that Iverson has for those he cares about. He also classily mentioned former Sixers beat writer for the Daily News, the late Phil Jasner, who covered Iverson in his Hall of Fame way for all of Iverson's first 10 1/2 seasons with the team.

"I thought that once this day came it would be a tragic day," Iverson said. "I never imagined this 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 and am in a great mindset making the decision.

"People ask me all the time what was my greatest moment being in the NBA. It was just being drafted, just getting the opportunity, being somebody who came from where I came from. I heard all the stories that nobody makes it from Newport News, Hampton, Virginia, to the NBA. They called me crazy, said I was out of my mind, but I always believed in myself.

"My mom told me I could be anything that I wanted to be and I actually believed it. I fought and went through a lot trying to get to this point right here. Coach Thompson [John, at Georgetown] gave me an opportunity when nobody else in the world would.''

He was referring to the fact that Thompson recruited him after Iverson had served a prison sentence stemming from a bowling-alley brawl in Virginia.

"He believed in me and basically saved my life and helped my dream come true,'' Iverson said. "I have to thank Michael Jordan, for just giving me a vision. Without that vision I don't think it would have been possible. He made me want to play basketball. He basically showed me the way. He gave me that path that I wanted to walk on."

For much of his career, Iverson walked that path to his own beat. Sometimes it was to the chagrin of many. But that's who he is, he said. And there is no denying that once he stepped on the court, he was one of the city's most exciting athletes ever.

"In this profession you have no idea how hard it is to try and live up to all the expectations, trying to be a perfect man when you know you're not," he said. "Being in a fishbowl and everybody looking at every move you make and talking about everything you do is a hard life to live. It's a great one, and I wouldn't trade it. I have no regrets on anything.

"People ask me all the time if I have any regrets and I don't have any. If I could go back and change everything then I'd be a perfect man, and I know there's no perfect man and there's no perfect basketball player. So I wouldn't change anything. My career was up and down at times, I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of things that I'm not proud of, but it's only for other people to learn.

"I took an ass-kicking, me being me in my career, looking the way I look, dressing the way I dress. My whole thing of it is being me. And now when you look around the guys in the NBA, all of them got tattoos. It used to be that the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see police officers with 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 look on the outside, it's who you are on the inside.

"If I could take back all of the mistakes that I made, I would have had a perfect career. I wouldn't have missed no shots, I would have made no turnovers, I would have gone right instead of left when I was supposed to. I would have got on 76 [Schuylkill Expressway] at 4 o'clock [for a game] instead of getting on 76 at 5. I can't take any of that back. I don't regret it because it was a blessing for Him to get me here, get me to the point where I could retire. I won scoring titles, MVPs, first-team All-NBA. I've done a lot in this league, 160 pounds soaking wet, coming from Newport News, Virginia. What more could you ask for? What do you mean, regrets? I have none."

His biggest struggles, obviously, were off the court during his time in Philadelphia. The guiding force for Iverson, and the man whose name he couldn't bring up without crying, was former teammate Aaron McKie.

"That was the highest compliment you could receive, man to man," McKie said. "It caught me off guard. Not that I have to justify our friendship, I know we have a tight friendship, but just to know you can have an impact on somebody with the stature of Allen Iverson and just try to be a guiding force for him and try to be positive with him when he was going through all his struggles, that means a lot."

Perhaps as much as Iverson meant to the city.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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