Well, that was then. These days, no more. Saying he’s lost his desire to play, Allen Iverson formally announced his retirement from basketball Wednesday.
“I gave everything I had to basketball,” Iverson said at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday. “The passion is still there but the desire to play is not. It was a great ride.”
At the announcement, Hall of Famer Julius Erving and John Thompson, Iverson’s college coach at Georgetown, were present 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.”
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.”