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Saying he’s lost his desire to play, Allen Iversonformally announced his retirement from basketball Wednesday.
Iverson last played in the NBA in the 2009-10 season, when he played three games with the Memphis Grizzlies and 25 with the Philadelphia 76ers – he spent the first 10 years of his 14-year career with the Sixers — before leaving both teams. He last played professionally in Turkey during the 2010-11 season but left halfway through the first season of a two-year contract. Iverson was offered a contract to play in the NBA Development League with the Texas Legends last year but ultimately declined it.
“I gave everything I had to basketball,” Iverson said at the Wells Fargo Center. “The passion is still there but the desire to play is not. It was a great ride.”
Hall of Famer Julius Erving and John Thompson, Iverson’s college coach at Georgetown, attended the news conference along with his mother, Ann, and three of his five children. 76ers owner Josh Harris spoke at the ceremony but Iverson was not formally recognized by the team. That is expected to happen later this season and include a retirement of his No. 3 jersey. He played parts of 12 seasons in Philadelphia after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft.
Iverson said he’ll be a Sixer “until the day I die.”
Iverson, 38, declined to directly address a number of issues that have been raised in the years since he last played in the NBA. There have been media reports describing his problems with alcohol and gambling as well as financial issues despite earning more than $200 million in salary and endorsements. Iverson and wife Tawanna divorced earlier this year.
“It does bother me, I have a heart just like everybody else,” Iverson said of the recent stories. “People have encouraged me to [publically] address those issues. But if I know and my family knows and people that are close to me know, why do I have to explain myself? It’s hard having rhino skin sometimes. … A negative story about Allen Iverson is going to sell regardless. Nobody wants to talk about what I do for [charities]. That’s how this world is.”
Several times Iverson said he had no regrets about anything in his playing career. It was a decorated career that included 11 All-Star Games, four scoring titles and the 2001 Most Valuable Player Award. He was one of the biggest draws in the NBA during that time and his popularity with young kids led Reebok to sign him to a lifetime contract.
His career also included moments where he quarreled with coaches and management and had off-court issues with the law. One of his most memorable moments was a rant during the 2002 playoffs about his habits in practice.
Iverson said Wednesday he didn’t regret that, either.
“It wasn’t just about that I didn’t like practice or care about practice or anything like that,” Iverson said. “If I could go back and do it all over again, I would never have done the interview. As far as how I expressed practice, practice, practice over and over again, I wouldn’t take that back. That sound bite — because it’s great for the media and great for the fans, they love it — but they had no idea my best friend just got killed. They had no idea that press conference wasn’t about practice, it was about me not being traded from Philadelphia. That’s what I thought I was at that podium to talk about.”
Earlier this week, LeBron James said Iverson was the best “pound-for-pound” player in league history because of his abilities and toughness despite being 6-foot and just 160 pounds. As he reflected on his career, Iverson said influencing players like James and the league’s culture is one of his legacies.
“I took an ass kicking for me being me in my career,” Iverson said. “For me looking the way I look and me dressing the way I dress. It was just being me. Now, look around, now all of the guys in the NBA have tattoos. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows. Now you see the police officers with the cornrows. I took a beating for those type of things and I’m proud to say I changed a lot with this culture and this game.”
Iverson said he’s not sure what his future holds. He is working on a documentary about his life and has been doing speaking engagements, recently speaking to players at SMU, where former 76ers coach Larry Brown now works.
Although he delayed his retirement announcement to exhaust all his professional basketball opportunities and believes he could still be effective in the NBA today, he said he arrived at the decision on his own terms.
“I promise you it is a happy day for me,” he said. “I thought this day would be a tough day but it’s a happy day.”
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