Allen Iverson may have never won a championship during his NBA career, but he did win the hearts of thousands of NBA fans. The 11-time All-Star guard will go down in history as one of the most beloved members of the Philadelphia 76ers of all time, and on Saturday March 1, 2014, the team showed him how much they appreciate him by retiring his No. 3 jersey in a memorable halftime ceremony.
AI earned a standing ovation, stepped up to the podium and gave the fans exactly what they wanted – a heartfelt and emotional speech.
“You have to show me the fool that says dreams don’t come true,” Iverson said. “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.”
A Time for Celebration
Iverson has had a hard time coping with life outside of the NBA. He has had several legal and financial problems, but to his credit he has seemed to mature in recent years.
There was a time in his life where AI would become depressed when the thought of his basketball career being over crossed his mind. Thankfully Iverson no longer has that mentality. He has accepted that his professional basketball days are behind him.
“You know, I thought once this day came it would be basically a tragic day,” Iverson said at his retirement press conference. “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. … 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.”
Kind Words from Silver
Iverson may have had issues with authority figures during his NBA playing days, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a mutual respect. NBA commissioner Adam Silver attended AI’s jersey retirement ceremony and had nothing but great things to say about the Sixers legend.
”Allen was a special player,” Silver said, according to the Associated Press. ”The great things he did for the league far outweigh the occasional headache. I always thought even at the time of Allen Iverson’s prominence in the league, he was representative of his generation.”
Respect from Peers
There are many young athletes currently in the NBA who grew up idolizing Iverson. Washington Wizards point guard John Wall is one of them.
"He was my role model and I looked up to him," Wall said. "Being a small guard, that's where I took a lot of my game from. This city embraced him and let him be who he was as a person. He always gave his best effort.
"I always wanted to grow braids like Iverson. The only thing I didn't have was the tattoos."
Iverson’s former teammate Thaddeus Young also had kind words to say about AI.
"Who could not be an Allen Iverson fan?" Young said. "It got no bigger than him in Philadelphia."
Philly Loves AI
When it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the first players people will think of is Allen Iverson. If anyone doubted how much the city loved him before the jersey retirement ceremony, they were proven 100 percent wrong on March 1, 2014.
"It's a great example of how this city responds to somebody that they clearly think the world of and brought such exciting times to the city of Philadelphia," Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
And it’s safe to say Allen Iverson loves Philadelphia just as much as Philadelphia loves him.
“I’m going to always be a Sixer until I die,” Iverson told reporters.
Iverson became only the eighth player in Philadelphia 76ers history to have his number retired. He joined several legends including Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, David Zinkoff, Billy Cunningham and Hal Greer.
Erving attended the jersey retirement ceremony to personally welcome AI to the club.