Iverson always proclaimed his love of Philly, the fans and the Sixers and swore he wanted to end his career with the franchise that made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft.
He fearlessly crashed the lane against players nearly a foot taller than him, played through countless injuries and added the pizzaz that was missing in what was a staid franchise. He transformed the 76ers from lottery losers to contenders, though he couldn’t bring home an NBA title to this championship-starved city. He came close in 2001, when the 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.
Iverson was arguably one of the four greatest Sixers, compiling a sparkling resume that put him in the mix with Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, and Charles Barkley. His No. 3 jersey was a best seller around the globe, the headband wrapped snugly around his cornrows, and the tattoos were as much a part of his image as the way he ricochets around the court. Play every game like it was his last was more than a catchphrase, it was a lifestyle.
“My whole thing was, just being me,” Iverson said. “Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows. You know what I’m saying? I took a beating for those types of things.”
From the throwback jerseys to the bling in his ears, Iverson shaped a generation of kids that star in today’s NBA.
“He made it cool to be a hip kid,” Heat guard Dwayne Wade said.
Iverson’s years in Philadelphia were marred by arrests in 1997 for carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of marijuana and in 2002 over a domestic dispute with his wife. He was sentenced to community service in 1997 and all charges were dropped against him five years later.
Then there was the never-released rap album, which drew criticism from civil rights groups and got Iverson a reprimand from NBA commissioner David Stern because of its offensive lyrics.
“I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of things I’m not proud of,” he said. “But it’s only for other people to learn from.”
Iverson often arrived late for practice or missed them entirely. In one infamous blowup at the end of the 2002 season he repeated the word “practice” nearly 20 times during a rambling monologue. Iverson said he had no regrets about what he said, or any part of his career, including his beefs with Brown.
“I’m sick that he’s going to retire. I don’t think he’s ready,” Brown said. “I think he still could play. He came to speak to our team, and it was phenomenal. And he didn’t sound like a guy to me that was ready to retire, and I didn’t feel like he should.
“He had an unbelievable career. I don’t think any little player in the history of our game impacted the game like him, like he did. I don’t know if many players impacted the game like he did. I can’t go anywhere where people don’t stop me and ask me about Allen.”