Allen Iverson was immortalized by the Philadelphia 76ers, who honored him by retiring his No. 3 jersey during a halftime ceremony Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
“You have to show me the fool that says dreams don’t come true,” an emotional Iverson told a sold-out crowd that chanted “M-V-P,” “because they do. I love you, Philadelphia. I love y’all for accepting me and letting me be me. Letting me make my mistakes, letting me be human, let me learn from them. Just embracing me and making this my home forever.”
The ceremony, which ended with a banner raised to the rafters and “Simply the Best” playing, had been a long time coming. Iverson had “officially” retired last October but had not played in the league since 2010. “The Answer,” who took the 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals, said last fall that he was at peace with the end of his playing career. “I gave everything I had to basketball and the passion is still there,” the man LeBron James called “pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player,” 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.”
No athlete goes away without mixed feelings, though, and Iverson, the eighth 76ers player to have his number retired, acknowledged that Saturday night. “It’s kind of like, it’s basically bittersweet,” Iverson, 38, told the crowd. “It feels good, you know, but some part of my heart hurts because I realize and understand that it’s over. … When I come into the arena, I’m stepping out onto the basketball court with street clothes on. And I know I’ll never be in a uniform again.”
That was a thought for Sunday and beyond, though. “Now,” Iverson said, “it’s time to party.”