It may feel like he's done this a half-dozen teams already over the course of the last three years, since his final season in his second tour with the Sixers petered out unceremoniously, but today, he made it official: Allen Iverson is no longer a professional basketball player. AI announced his retirement today at the Wells Fargo Center, with his kids, mother, and various other Allen Iverson This Is Your Life figures by his side.
Iverson was his typical emotional self today at the ceremony, sounding on the verge of tears throughout and answering every question with a sincere thoughtfulness--you could actually see him thinking about his answers, rather than just spewing his pre-prepared cliches--which remains extremely rare of professional athletes. No huge revelations were had--no, Iverson hasn't accepted a role on Michael Jordan's assistant coaching staff in Charlotte, and no, he's not standing on call in case the Sixers need a backup point guard on a ten-day in March--but there were memorable A.I. moments:
- Giving credit to his Holy Trinity of Coaches, Mike Bailey (high school), John Thompson (college) and Larry Brown (pros, obv), repeatedly mentioning them in succession as the three men who shaped him as a basketball player and made him the player he eventually was.
- Expressing apathy towards his standing in the all-time ranks of sports columnists that have never played the game: "All I care about is what the guys that play think," sez Iverson
- Boasting about the greatest reward of his playing days: "I got the best NBA stories. I won't never run out. Never."
- Clarifying his emotional state during the infamous "Practice" speech: "If I coulda gone back, I would have never done the interview... [the media] had no idea that my best friend had just gotten killed. You never heard about how I thought I had been traded from the Sixers."
- Responding curtly to Howard Eskin's self-ID before asking his question: "I know your name."
- Responding to Howard Eskin's question about if he had any regrets: "Nope."
- Responding to another question about if he kept himself in shape in the off-season waiting for teams to give him a call: "No."
- Speaking on his perceived legacy in the realm of Philly sports: "There's Doc and there's A.I. And that's Philly basketball."
- Explaining his post-playing plans: "Yeah, there'll be a lot of fishing."
- Listing the teammates who meant the most to him in his career: "Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. He was my teammate...but it was on another level. It was more than just basketball with me and him. I made a million mistakes, but if it weren't for Aaron McKie, I'd have made two million of 'em."
The high point of the interview, apart from the genuinely touching McKie moment--which was the only time that Iverson actually broke into tears--was a comment from a fan in the audience. Iverson had just gotten through talking about his greatest moment as a Sixer, which he unsurprisingly deemed the feeling of being in the middle of the then-First Union Center after winning the East finals, feeling "like we had a chance to win the title." When he was through rhapsodizing, the audience member shouted out:
"Tyronn Lue, baby! Tyronn Lue!"
Thanks for the memories, AI. And RIP Tyronn Lue forever.
Here's A.I. on McKie: