Allen Iverson speaking to 17,000 of his closest friends.
Allen Iverson’s iconic No. 3 now hangs among other Philadelphia 76ers immortals. The love affair between Iverson and Philadelphia has been just that. One filled with laughter, tears and plenty of growing in between.
Even in retirement, Allen Ezail Iverson continues to leave us reeling like a crossover casualty.
Iverson’s jersey retirement ceremony didn’t pack the emotional punch of his retirement announcement months earlier. This resembled one huge party for the man who we know loves to entertain. Former 76ers greats Julius Erving and Moses Malone were in attendance (Malone has yet to have his number retired by the team).
The sold out Wells Fargo Center crowd roared like never before as Iverson made his way to center court. Dressed in his own casual blend, The Answer donned all black, from the Ray Bans to his felt fedora topped off with his signature gold chains.
The unconditional love between Allen Iverson and Philadelphia has never been questioned.
Addressing the crowd from his heart, Iverson thanked any and everyone who came to mind, from sports reporter Howard Eskin — who finally put away his well-grinded axe — to late, great 76ers beat writer Phil Jasner — who Iverson sparred with in the famous “Practice” press conference. He thanked his ex-wife Tawanna for taking care of his battered body and growing with him under such crazy circumstances.
Current SMU head coach and former 76ers coach Larry Brown spoke in a recorded message, telling Iverson he’s the reason he continues to coach.
Finally, he thanked the fans and the city for loving him in spite of the bumps and bruises, the late nights out, the outbursts, missed practices — all mistakes of a young man feeling his way through the NBA landscape and life itself. He rewarded us with a magical career, one we could place ourselves in and not feel like a dreamer. I didn’t feel the need to be seven feet tall like Wilt Chamberlain or able to leap into the atmosphere like Michael Jordan. Watching a man I nearly stood eye to eye with brought my sometimes far-fetched vision for success into clearer focus.
Brown referred to Iverson respectfully as “The Kid” during their time in Philadelphia. No matter what was happening in his world off the court — when he was in his sanctuary — “The Kid” spilled his guts in front of us for 48 minutes.
The 1983 76ers season was a blur, I was a twelve-year old who did things twelve-year olds do. Watching the 76ers at length in the regular season wasn’t at the top of my list, but I remember what mattered.
Forever the People’s Champion.
Through the crossover, the coming of age, the MVP season, the seven game hell against the Milwaukee Bucks, the disappointing loss to the Lakers, the spats with Larry Brown, the gun incident involving his wife which seemed to divide the city in two, the heartbreaking mugshot, I’ve ingested it all at times with force, so it wouldn’t taste so bad. Other times it went down smooth. Even after the trade, I knew he was coming back. His trail of tears ended in Philly, the night he kissed the logo, the misreported tales of his financial woes, his retirement and now this. I’ve taken in everything Allen Iverson for nearly two decades and for some reason I still can’t pull myself from the table.
“The Kid” Larry Brown spoke of has grown up before our very eyes. Last night was living proof and I couldn’t be more proud.
Right back at ya’ my man!