The Philadelphia 76ers retired Allen Iverson‘s No. 3 jersey at halftime on Saturday night with the Wizards in town. A bespectacled AI wearing a bucket hat told the assembled 20,000 throng of ardent AI onlookers, “They all wanted me to talk about how much y’all loved me, but trust me, the feeling was mutual.”
The four-time scoring champion and 2001 MVP who led a rag-tag Sixers team to an opening Finals victory over the Lakers in 2001, officially retired in October, but he last played in 2010.
An emotional Iverson told the fans on Saturday, “I am Philly. It’s always going to be that way.”
The city pulled out all the stops in their zest to commemorate their favorite son. Tickets in the lower bowl at Walls Fargo Center were going for over $1200 on StubHub.com before the 7:30 p.m. tip-off and the players wore special “Iverson Forever” patches on their jerseys and Iverson’s No. 3 on their pregame warmups. Four AI welcome banners greeted visitors to the arena, and photographs of the 11-time All-Star were hanging everywhere. For $130 you could get your own AI jersey. As a retirement gift, the Sixers gave him a boat named, appropriately enough, “The Answer.”
The Allen Iverson boat pic.twitter.com/f1Fr6UfJdN
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) March 2, 2014
Iverson’s No. 3 was raised between Maurice Cheeks‘ No. 10 and Charles Barkley‘s No. 34. AI also joined Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving among those hanging from the rafters as former Sixers greats. Dr. J, Moses Malone, Dikembe Mutombo, Theo Ratliff, and Gary Payton were among those on hand to watch Iverson’s jersey ascend on Saturday.
Iverson’s most prominent coach, the one who led him to the 2001 Finals, Larry Brown, taped a video message for his big day. The two often feuded, but have remained close despite their often tumultuous time together in Philadelphia.
“I just want to tell you, and I say this fondly: God put me there to coach you,” Brown said.
“I always had raw talent,” Iverson said. “I needed Larry Brown to polish it up.”
“It feels good,” Iverson continued after the ceremony concluded, “but some part of my heart hurts because I know it’s over.”
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was at the game for Iverson’s big night:
“Allen was a special player. The great things he did for the league far outweigh the occasional headache. I always thought even at the time of Allen Iverson’s prominence in the league, he was representative of his generation.”