An 11-time All-Star and MVP of the 2000-01 season, Iverson spent most of his 14 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. A living legend in every sense of the words, Iverson formally announced his retirement in a press conference Wednesday.
He described his bond with the City of Brotherly Love:
Iverson: "I'm gonna always be a Sixers til I die. I'm gonna always be a Hoya til I die."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) October 30, 2013
#Sixers Iverson: 'I am Philadelphia. Philadelphia is me.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) October 30, 2013
Iverson's imprint on the sport can be felt from all angles of the basketball world. Four-time MVP LeBron James told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh that Iverson was "pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player who ever played."
Standing just 6'0" and tipping the scales at 165 pounds soaking wet, Iverson dazzled with both his yo-yo handles and insatiable competitive edge. In a league littered with towering trees, the diminutive guard inspired by giving the game everything he had:
Allen Iverson: "I gave everything I had to basketball. The passion is still there but the desire to play is not. It was a great ride."— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) October 30, 2013
That great ride sent him down some drastically different times. Hoops heads watched amazed as he perched his Sixers squarely on his shoulders and guided them all the way to the 2001 NBA Finals.
Yet, he was a polarizing figure. The most prominent face of the NBA's hip-hop culture, Iverson drew cross looks for his baggy attire, flashy jewelry and trademark cornrows, all of which seemed to warp outsiders' view of who he really was:
Allen Iverson at retirement announcement: "I took an asskicking for me being me in my career, for looking the way I look."— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) October 30, 2013
#Sixers Iverson: 'It used to be the suspect was the one in corn rows. Now police officers wear corn rows.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) October 30, 2013
Young fans gravitated toward him, and suddenly he found himself at the center of a culture clash. He gave a voice, and the hope for success, to his generation.
But older crowds seemed threatened by his look. The NBA instituted a mandatory dress code in 2005, requiring all players to wear "business casual" at all team or league functions, via ESPN.com's Darren Rovell.
Iverson then found himself trapped under the microscope as his critics waited for the slightest stumble:
Iverson: I have no regrets. Said it's hard living a fish bowl life where everyone watches every move you make— Bob Cooney (@BobCooney76) October 30, 2013
His rant on practice became one of the most infamous sound bites in sports history. His image took a hit, although Wednesday he said that his words were taken way out of context:
Iverson says media didn't understand that "practice" presser came after his best friend died, & he thought presser was about something else.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) October 30, 2013
After spending 10 full seasons in Philly to start his career, Iverson became something of an NBA nomad over his final seasons. Following a near two-year stay with the Denver Nuggets from 2006-08, he bounced from the Detroit Pistons to the Memphis Grizzlies and finally ended his NBA career with a 25-game run back in Philly.
Out of NBA options, he continued his playing career in Turkey in 2010. After returning to the states, Iverson respectfully declined an invitation to join the Dallas Mavericks' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.
He might have reasons to be bitter, but don't expect him to use any of them:
Iverson: "Life is short. I'm gonna be happy with mine."— chris palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) October 30, 2013
As a hoops fan, it's hard to see him go. But we can all take some solace in the fact that the man that the NBA never seemed to get has gotten it himself.
Fans in Philly will get one last chance to send AI off when the Sixers hold a retirement ceremony this spring.
He seems at peace with this decision, which should help the rest of us find peace with it as well.