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: Nov 18, 2009
Posted on: November 27, 2009 1:48 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

the only thing I can say about Iverson was he played his butt off when he was on the court.  I'm just tired of hearing people make comments on how he is basically being forced out of the game and how teams won't step up and sign this MVP All Star player...but what HE needs to do is look himself in the mirror and realize that he's not the same player he was back in his MVP All Star days...and when he can do that and accept a back up role...teams would LOVE to have a player who still has something in the tank, which he does, coming off of their bench.  Every player on the team has a role in need talented players coming off the bench to get anywhere in this league.  Suck it up, AI, and maybe cut the ego down a size or three...then you could not only play...but probably coming off the bench for a team that wins the ring!!!

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: November 27, 2009 12:01 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

Do you want to get a different perspective? Go into the hood and do some substitute teaching. I did and I know it would take an extraordinary effort from an extraordinary person to escape that environment.
I am assuming that you are white.  I would like to know how you came to this conclusion just by substitute teaching?  I do disagree with one part of your statement.  I dont believe the person has to be extraordinary only the effort.  You get that effort when you are shown a legitimate way out.  I know you may mean well but basically you are saying that someone has to be different or special to escape that environment.  I, along with others did it and there is nothing extraordinary about me.  Your awareness on this subject is fine but people in those types of environments dont need the pity.

Since: Oct 31, 2009
Posted on: November 27, 2009 1:28 am

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

I use to hate this guy and it wasn't because of race. Some would say "Gangsta" and Iverson are synonymous, and I would have been included in that group. "Would have" but no longer, in part because He changed, but I, too changed. I had an epiphany a few years ago; a life altering awareness not to judge too quickly. "They" say a leopard doesn't change his spots. "They" can't see past the plank in their eye - can't see the glass is half full. What I have seen over the years is an Alpha male who made great strides in being a better role model. Did his attitude toward the game change? No! He still knows he is one of the best guards in the league, but at his age there is no fit for him.

Do you want to get a different perspective? Go into the hood and do some substitute teaching. I did and I know it would take an extraordinary effort from an extraordinary person to escape that environment. Seventy percent of African-American kids are born out of wedlock. So many of these kids don't have a male father figure to teach them right from wrong. I don't know what the answer is for this problem. I wish I did. These aren't bad kids. Earn their trust and they will let you see into their world.

The windows are the eyes to the heart, and you only have to compare AI's now with those of ten years ago for verification that he has changed into a better, more sincere individual. My guess is that he won't be like so many of the Jordan's of the world who quit and come back and quit and come back. My guess is that AI will let his yes be yes and his no be no! I will miss watching him. He truly (was) a tremendous player.

Since: Aug 21, 2008
Posted on: November 26, 2009 11:03 pm

what was Iverson

He was a great small man in a big mans game. Many resented him for his game and his actions and words off the court. One of the best athletes ever to play the game really. If he was a little bigger and not so selfish he would have been a top ten player of all time. He had a shoot first, ball hog mentality that worked against him. But I ll take Isiah Thomas over him any day.

Since: Aug 1, 2008
Posted on: November 26, 2009 2:25 pm


How terrible is the NBA? I can't even watch 5 minutes of a game, the players simply don't care anymore. It's all about the player and his contract. My son went to the Sixers last home game and there couldn't have been more that 5000 people there. Its just a completely different game then what I saw in the 80's and 90's...

Since: Jul 16, 2008
Posted on: November 26, 2009 10:06 am

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

Who even says "gangsta" anymore?  Hannity and Colmes?  Welcome to the 21st century . . .

Since: Mar 31, 2008
Posted on: November 26, 2009 2:50 am

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.

It's not a racist comment it's an idiotic comment.. There is a difference..

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 10:53 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

Amaing talent with the heart of a warrior. If more NBA players had half the heart he did I would not miss a game.  Too bad he could never figure out that he needed to give his teammates an opportunity to grow in order to win a championship.  I was amazed when he single handedly brought them to the finals against the Lakers that year.  That was a testiment to his skills.  Them losing was a testiment to his concept of teamwork.

Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: November 25, 2009 10:33 pm

Question Answered: Iverson decides to retire

I'm a long time 76ers fan and an AI fan at one time.  He always seemed to be in trouble or giving the press some material to print.  He is a very skilled athlete but his leadership is far from what is required with the money he demands.  He has never quite figured out that there is no I in TEAM.  And when the chance came up for him to make a clutch free throw or basket, he usually failed.

I'm also sure he wanted the championship more than his fans but the fact is that he would never get it.  He can't play on a team with other superstars and he must be the center of attention.  Philadelphia was smart to trade him when he was worth something.  Add in his fragile body and his time is done.  While MJ and Kobe had their off court problems they were/are known to make that clutch shot most of the time.

Mister Blond
Since: Oct 24, 2009
Posted on: November 25, 2009 8:55 pm
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