Allen Iverson's Retirement Is Right Move to Preserve Legendary Legacy

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2013

May 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA;  Philadelphia 76ers former guard Allen Iverson before the start of game six against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Allen Iverson enjoyed 14 fantastic NBA seasons, and there is little doubt that he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Aside from winning a championship, there is nothing else left for "The Answer" to accomplish. With that in mind, deciding to hang up his sneakers now is the best thing for his career.

According to SLAM Magazine, Iverson has decided to officially retire from the sport of basketball.

While Iverson hasn't played in the NBA since splitting 28 games between the Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies in 2009-10, he never announced his retirement. Despite that, most basketball fans figured that his days were numbered in terms of playing in the NBA.

AI did play for Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League in 2010-11, and while he managed more than 14 points per game in seven contests, NBA teams simply didn't come calling. Rather than carrying on with the charade, Iverson should be applauded for stepping away from the game.

Iverson may have been a shell of his former self during his most recent NBA stint, but he was once considered to be the most explosive offensive player in the league. Iverson has the accolades to prove it as well, as evidenced by his 2001 Most Valuable Player Award, 11 All-Star appearances and four NBA single-season scoring titles.

From his rookie season in 1996-97 through the 2007-08 campaign, which was his first full season with the Denver Nuggets, Iverson never averaged less than 22 points per game over the course of a year. While Iverson will always be known most for his scoring prowess, he became a high-level facilitator as his career progressed, averaging 6.8 or more assists per season from 2003-04 through 2007-08.

Throughout most of his tenure with the Sixers, though, Iverson was essentially a one-man team. AI almost single-handedly led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2000-01, and while they were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1, Iverson averaged nearly 33 points per game during that playoff run and established himself as a big-game player.

NBA fans should remember that version of Iverson, not the one who desperately tried to hang on at the end of his career. Iverson was still productive offensively to a certain extent during his final two NBA seasons. He averaged more than 17 points per game for the Detroit Pistons in 2008-09 and put up nearly 14 points per game with the Sixers and Grizzlies in 2009-10. Yet teams were tired of dealing with his antics.

Iverson was never viewed as a great teammate from the outside, and although he very well may have been good in the locker room, AI didn't do himself any favors based on the way he acted. The most famous instance of that came when he went on a long tirade against the idea of practice.

He also became a distraction more than an advantage for the Pistons, 76ers and Grizzlies late in his career as it always seemed as though some type of drama surfaced. With that said, nobody ever questioned Iverson's desire to succeed on the court and win games, so it didn't come as a big surprise that he tried to keep his NBA dream alive despite burning some bridges.

Had Iverson been willing to take a back seat and embrace a leadership role late in his career, the 38-year-old could very well be a contributing bench player for a good team. That was never Iverson's style, though, as he was always the center of attention. It proved difficult for him to break old habits, and that ultimately led to him being unable to catch on elsewhere.

Iverson could have continued his search for an NBA team in vain, but all it would have done is detracted from his incredible career. Iverson may not have won an NBA title, but there are plenty of great players who can say the same. Had AI been able to form a super team like LeBron James' Miami Heat during his heyday, he would have ended up with multiple championships in all likelihood as well.

That didn't happen, but it doesn't make Iverson any less of a player. His best days are clearly behind him, and he is smart enough to come to that realization. Aside from a ring, the only thing Iverson's career was missing was closure, and now he has it.


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