Blog Entry

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

Posted on: November 25, 2009 6:59 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2009 8:38 am
When Allen Iverson looked me right in the eye last season and vowed to retire if he ever had to come off the bench for another team, I believed him. I’d known him for almost a dozen years, so I had no reason not to. That seemed about right to me.

We were in the visiting locker room at the IZOD Center, another dinosaur that will be gone soon. There were a few reporters around A.I.’s locker that night, after a game between Iverson’s Pistons (talk about an oxymoron) and the Nets. I asked him to repeat it, just to make sure he was sure. And he was. “That’s a fact,” he said. “I won’t do this again in my career.” That’s who A.I. is. Or was. His loud, fascinating, bullet-train ride through the NBA is apparently over.

That news came Wednesday – first, from Iverson himself in a statement released on the personal web site of Stephen A. Smith , who covered Iverson in Philadelphia, and then from Iverson’s personal manager, Gary Moore, in a Twitter update from Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears. The statement attributed to Iverson said he was announcing his retirement, despite the fact that he still has “a tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.”

Note that the statement did not come from Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, whose task of finding Iverson one more NBA job just went from improbable to impossible with this news. Until Iverson actually files his retirement papers with the league, he can always go back and change his mind. But I think he’s made himself perfectly clear, as have the 29 teams that have decided his day in the NBA has come and gone.

He doesn’t have it in him to admit that his skills have declined or accept any role other than one at the center of attention. That’s his prerogative – a sad one, but his nonetheless.

“To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart,” Iverson said in the statement.

Call me crazy, but I’ll remember him fondly. For one thing, I didn’t have to coach him or play with him. For another, I enjoyed watching him play. I enjoyed the 50-point games, the telling-authority-to-shove-it mentality when the NBA invoked a dress code, in part, in response to his, um, urban attire.

I enjoyed watching a 160-pound man attack the basket without regard for what would happen to his body when it collided with the 7-foot oak trees that were waiting for him. I enjoyed watching him hit the floor and get up, every single time.

It’s interesting that this decision comes a day after I spent time on the phone with Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings, who grew up idolizing Iverson. Like me, Jennings liked the underdog – the little guy. He wasn’t as mystified by Michael Jordan as the rest of us were. He much preferred the young gun, the villain. Jennings told the story of the first time he saw Iverson play, the night he famously crossed-up Jordan at the foul line during his rookie season. I remember that, too. The fact that Jennings does is impressive; he was only 7 years old.

In his whirlwind ride through the first month of his NBA career, including a 55-point game against Golden State, Jennings has reminded some observers – including this one – of his idol. The only regret or emptiness he expressed when we spoke Tuesday was the fact that he hadn’t gotten a chance to play against him . The Bucks played Memphis last week, and Iverson was already in his self-imposed exile.

“I was looking forward to going up against him,” Jennings said. “Hopefully he does get another shot. That would be something I’d never forget, and I could one day tell my kids that I got to play against a guy that was my idol.”

That’s not going to happen. The torch that was handed to Iverson and Kobe Bryant 13 years ago – with much trepidation, I might add – has now been passed to the 7-year-old who became a fan of that killer crossover way back when.

Iverson’s game didn’t change much over the years. He was hard to play with, an impossible fit for teams with any semblance of structure or a pecking order that was longer than one star. But to say that he never evolved isn’t accurate. When we’ve spoken over the years, it was clear that he was proudest of the fan support he’d managed to acquire, despite his rough image and off-court transgressions.

One night, after a game at Madison Square Garden, I asked him if he ever thought the fans – a lot of them little kids – would embrace him like this considering where it all started. And he knew what I meant by that phrase, where it all started. Because it all started for Iverson at the rookie game at the ’97 All-Star weekend in Cleveland, when Iverson was booed mercilessly after being named MVP for the East rookies over his smoother, cleaner-cut classmate, Bryant.

“Not in other arenas,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s one of the surprising things in the league, for me to come to another arena and be cheered.”

He goes out on a bad note, a sad note, with no cheers. But it’s not like we couldn’t see this coming. He certainly did.

“Obviously I have a lot of fan support, and that’s something that I cherish,” he said last season. “And that’s something that I’ll take with me when this thing’s over.”

That time has come, as you knew it would when Iverson said the following after a game against Cleveland last season, when the Pistons were struggling mightily to adapt to A.I. -- and vice versa. I was in the locker room when he said it, and I saved the quote for a time like this.

"I would love to be a focal point on the offensive end," Iverson said. "That’s what I've been my whole career. And that’s why I play the game."

Sure is. Sure was.

You can remember the debacle in Detroit and the flameout in Memphis, if you want. I’ll remember the last night of the ’98-’99 regular season, when I watched Iverson clinch the first of his four scoring titles at a T.G.I. Friday’s on City Line Avenue in Philadelphia. True story. Iverson had played that night, and he was trying to hold off Shaquille O’Neal by a few numbers to the right of the decimal point. Shaq had a late game on the West Coast, so Iverson and his entourage when to his favorite post-game spot to see what would happen.

Shaq fell short, and Iverson had his scoring title. Now at the end of the ride, those are all he can bring with him. Those and the memories.

“The true, diehard Allen Iverson fans want to see me fill that big hole in my resume as far as winning a championship,” he said during another one of our interviews last season. “They feel it and they want it for me. You want it for yourself so bad, but the people that cheer you on, night in and night out, you want it for those people, too. You want them to share the moment with you.”

There always comes a time when there are no moments left, and only one Answer that makes sense.

Category: NBA

Since: Dec 13, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2009 8:39 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

I was never a big fan of A.I. He always seemed like many here describe him: me first, team second. But as a person who likes good basketball, Allen Iverson was one heck of a player. He WAS the man on all the teams he played on before he passed his prime. People like Jordan and Bryant are extremely selfish players who were forced to play within a team concept. But name one Pippin and/or Shaq that played next to Iverson. He was the only option at the end of the game when he was in Philly. I fault the organization (Philly) for not surrounding him with the talent he needed to have to win a ring. He went up against Shaq in his prime with nobody to help guard the big man. He did his best but came up short (no pun intended). Factor in Kobe and you have two of the greatest players against one. Same with Jordan and Pippin. A.I. took them on himself. As you look at the history of the NBA you will have great players like Gervin, Stockton/Malone, Barklay, Wilkins who came up against greater players. But these men are recognized as being some of the best to ever play the game. Allen Iverson will go down as one of the best to ever play. I do hope he can swallow his pride and play for a contender, and hopefully fit in without causing problems. But if he doesn't, thanks for the ride A.I. You were fearless. I only hope the little guys can watch your tapes and see how you played the game.

Since: Jan 5, 2009
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:59 pm

Iverson decides to retire

He was one of a kind, I will give him that.  And entertaining.  I loved his "practice" tirade, and understood his point of view.  I didn't agree with it, but understood it. Yes, he was talented, and he could score.  4 scoring titles yes, but zero Championships.  He was a "me first" player, always was.  When he wanted to score, he scored, but he could never accept his sport as a team sport. So yes, I never really liked him, but since he has retired, I have to give him credit for the tremendous talent he was.  Not sure I will miss him, but he certainly left his mark on the sport.

Since: Apr 29, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:58 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

Oh now you did it. See how many people rip you as a racist now that you labelled Iverson a gangsta, and for declaring that hip hop music takes no talent and Iverson is a gangsta. I agree with both of your points by the way.

Since: Apr 29, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:56 pm

So long most selfish player in pro sports!!!

What a class act. Would rather retire than try to win a championship coming off the bench. Enjoy your legacy as one of the most selfish players in pro-sports history.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:55 pm

Iverson decides to retire

Now that Iverson is no longer distracted by basketball he can no focus on becoming a full time gangsta! I suggest that he try his hand at hip hop music. You don't need much talent to be outstanding in that field. All that is needed is a mad rep and Iverson has it!

Since: Dec 28, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:27 pm

Iverson decides to retire

He decided to retire because no one wanted him on their team. He never was a good locker room guy. Over rated head case "we talking about practice man" sums it up.

Since: Aug 24, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:06 pm

Iverson decides to retire

It was to much about him!!  He is a cancer like TO!  Can't win titles with players like AI.  Sad but True!!

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