In a touching and emotional press conference this afternoon, Allen Iverson announced the news that everyone was expecting today: he officially is finished as an NBA player.
Over roughly a dozen minutes, The Answer paid tribute to former players and coaches, thanking his family and reflecting on his cultural and athletic influence. Tonight, at the Philadelphia 76ers-Miami Heat game in Philadelphia, the man LeBron James called “pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player” will be honored. But first, there were a few things he had to say.
Iverson hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010 and his retirement has long been a foregone conclusion. “I gave everything I had to basketball and the passion is still there,” he said, “the desire to play is just not. I just feel good that I’m happy with the decision I’m making. It was a great ride.”
Iverson, joined on the podium by his children and manager, spoke at length, his voice cracking at times. Here’s the full text; the complete video is here and well worth watching.
“Obviously, everybody knows why we’re here. I’m formally announcing my retirement from basketball. You know, I thought that once this day came, it would be basically a tragic day. I never imagined the 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. I’m at a great mindset making the decision. I have to thank God for just giving me the opportunity, to not really accomplish all the things that I accomplished in the NBA, but just giving me the opportunity to be drafted.
“People all the time ask me what was my greatest moment, you know being in the NBA. It was just being drafted, just getting the opportunity. Somebody coming from where I came from — I heard all the stories: Nobody makes it from Newport News-Hampton [Va.] to the NBA, call me crazy, thought I was out of my mind.
“I always believed in myself. My mom always told me I could be anything that I wanted to be and I truly, actually believed it. I fought. I went through a whole lot trying to get to this point right here. [Georgetown] Coach John Thompson gave me an opportunity when nobody in the world would and believed in me and basically saved my life and helped my dream come true.
“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. And he basically showed the way and gave me that path that I wanted to walk on.
“I’ve got to thank [Bethel High] coach [Mike] Bailey, my high school basketball coach. He taught me the high school game. I have to thank coach Thompson for teaching me the college game and helping me perfect the college game. Well, I really didn’t have a choice, it was going to be his way or the highway, anyway. [Laughter] And [former 76ers] coach [Larry] Brown for helping me mature into an NBA basketball player.
“I always had the physical talent, I always had the physical ability, I could run with the best of them, I could jump with the best of them, but I just didn’t know the game. Earlier in my career, I didn’t take criticism the right way. But it was always constructive criticism coming from coach Brown, it was always love that he had for me and I had to mature and understand that he was there, trying to become the player I ultimately ended up being. Once I took hold to everything he had to share with me, as far as the mental aspect of the game, that’s when it took me from here to here [raises hand] and took me to MVP status.
“I have so many people to thank and I hope I don’t leave anybody out and if I do, I didn’t do it maliciously. I’ve got to thank my family for being there for me, my friends, especially my Day One friends. All the coaches I’ve ever had, teammates. Without my teammates none of this, the accomplishments I’ve had in my career, they would never have happened without those guys. Those guys set screens for me, they played hard for me and rooted me on the whole way and allowed me to become a household name. The coaches that put me in position to succeed and gave me the opportunity to go out there and help our teams win. Philadelphia fans for supporting me the way they did throughout my career, the ups and downs. I’m going to always be a Sixer until I die, I’m going to always be a Hoya until I die, I’m always going to be a Bruin until I die.
“I just want to thank the trainers, the doctors for helping me through. Without those guys, I don’t know if I would have been able to make it, being that I broke every bone in my body and I had every injury that you can have. But most importantly I want to thank my kids. In this profession you have no idea how hard it is to live up to all the expectations, try to be a perfect man when you know you’re not. Being in a fishbowl, everybody looking at every move you make, talking about everything you do.
“It’s just a hard life to live. It’s a great one, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing. I have no regrets on anything. People ask me all the time, ‘Do I have any regrets?’ I don’t have any. If I could back and do it all over, would I change anything? No. Obviously if I could go back and change anything I would be a perfect man. And I know there’s no perfect man and there’s no perfect basketball player. So no, I wouldn’t change anything. My career was up and down at times. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of things I’m not proud of. But it’s only from other people to learn from.
“I took an asskicking [laughter] for me being me in my career, for me looking the way I looked and dressing the way I dressed. My whole thing was just being me. Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the corn rows. You know what I’m saying? [More laughter.] I took a beating for those types of things.
“I’m proud to be able to say that I’m able to say I changed a lot in this culture and in this game. It’s not about how you look on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside. Like I said, my family and my kids and Tawanna Iverson, they took a lot of pressure off me. I used my kids and her throughout my career as a crutch. When things were going bad at work I could come home and see their faces and forget all about it. I love them for that. They helped me through just by loving me the way they love me. Helping me get through a lot of tough times in my career.
“I promise you it is a happy day for me. I really thought this day would be a tough day for me, but it’s a happy day. As far as coach Bailey and coach Thompson and coach Brown, I feel like all I wanted them to be is be proud of the basketball player they created. And my teammates helping me accomplish the things that I’ve been able to accomplish.
“Basketball has been great to me. It allowed me to be able to take care of my family for the rest of their lives. It made me a household name. It showed me a lot in life, it taught me a lot in life. Relationships with teammates, you know, the competitiveness of everything. It’s real life. It’s just a game, it’s real life, but it’s a game that teaches you a lot about life and sacrifice and what you have to do to win in basketball and in life.
“I just thank everybody for coming out. Obviously, if you’re here, it means something to you, unless you’re the media. [Laughter.] Nah, I’m just playing. I’m just everybody that came out and everybody that supported me throughout my career, my ups and my downs, and my trials and tribulations.
“Speaking of media, I wish [Philadelphia Daily News writer] Phil Jasner could be here today. Especially on a day like this. Rest in peace, I know he’s looking down on this whole event. Think about the times that we laughed with each other and thinking about the times we fought with each other. But he was very inspirational in my career and he meant a lot to me.
“That’s pretty much it. I gave everything I had to basketball and the passion is still there, the desire to play is just not. I just feel good that I’m happy with the decision I’m making. It was a great ride.”