For over a decade, Allen Iverson, through all of his trials and tribulations, endeared himself to the Philadelphia fan base with his hard work and blue collar mentality. Whether it was “practice” or an NBA finals game, A.I. always left it all on the court. On Saturday night, the Philadelphia 76ers retired A.I.’s jersey and lifted the #3 to the rafters in the Wells Fargo Center, where it rightfully belongs. Iverson is second in franchise history in points with 19,931, tied for first with the great Wilt Chamberlain with 27.6 points per game in a Philly uniform, first in 3-point field goals with 885 makes, number two in steals with 1,644 and third in assists with 4,385.
Iverson truly embodied the grit and intensity that Philadelphia sports fans worship. After Air Jordans, A. I.’s shoe collection set the tone for youth aspiring to be out-footed like basketball superstars. Personally, I owned three pairs. His skill and ability allowed him to expand the culture of basketball. He made hip-hop acceptable to the basketball viewer and showed that his own artistic expression, with his tattoos, could surpass the prejudice within the sport and with it fans. Many of the NBA’s current stars, including LeBron James, who called Iverson “the best ever NBA player pound for pound,” admire the Sixer legend.
Watching Iverson’s jersey being retired brought tears to this young writer’s eyes. Whether it was hitting an important shot over Tyronn Lue on his way to 48 points against the Lakers in game one of the finals, or going off for one of his 74 40-point games, A.I. inspired us all. Thank you, Allen, for all the great memories.