The long, illustrious, controversial career of Allen Iverson appears finally to be coming to an end. The 11-time All-Star is expected to finally and formally announce his retirement in Philadelphia at the end of the month, according to league sources.
Rumors that Iverson was ready to retire were rampant in September, but the 38-year-old guard never made a formal announcement. But sources say that the official announcement is scheduled for Oct. 30, the day after the NBA’s regular season begins, when the 76ers play their home opener against Miami.
In addition, sources indicate that the organization may be discussing some kind of post-playing position for Iverson. Though he wouldn’t be expected to have input with the current coaching staff, Iverson could travel with the team on occasional road trips.
If Iverson is indeed through playing — he had brief dalliances with teams in Turkey and China the last couple of years while trying to get back into the NBA — it will end one of the greatest careers in league history, one in which Iverson’s image and lifestyle made as many headlines as his on-court play.
In 14 NBA seasons, Iverson scored 24,368 points, averaging 26.7 points a game. His point total is 24th on the all-time scoring list.
The first overall pick of the celebrated 1996 Draft, Iverson was an electric performer who sold tickets and jerseys, and was must-see TV for years while carrying the league into the post-Michael Jordan era. Iverson was one of the most dynamic “small men” in league history, standing roughly 5-foot-10, and maybe 170 pounds. But he played with the heart of someone much bigger, repeatedly driving into the paint to challenge anyone who got in his path. His ballhandling skills (some would say occasionally aided by a palm or two) and amazing speed made him almost impossible to guard with one player.
He was not a great 3-point shooter (31.3 percent for his career), and shot a lot more than his teammates. But his drive, will and passion (he always referred to “playing every game as if it’s my last”) always gave his teams a chance.
Demonstrative, often profane, but searingly honest about many of his faults, Iverson lived his life in the public eye, often clashing with the league’s ideals about demeanor and dress. He often wore do-rags over his head, wore his hair in braids and had tattoos all over his body, single-handedly changing the styles of NBA players almost overnight.
The dress code instituted by Commissioner David Stern in 2005, in which players were told to wear “business casual” attire when conducting league business and sport coats and dress shoes while not playing but on the team’s bench, was informally known as the “Iverson Rule.”
Iverson led the 76ers to the 2001 Finals, the same year he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. His love-hate relationship with then-coach Larry Brown was the source of endless media scrutiny and attention, with each insisting the other was the cause of the problems. In the end, though, both came to have great affection and respect for how they influenced each other.
Iverson outlasted Brown, who departed for the Pistons in 2003. Philadelphia finally dealt Iverson to Denver in 2006, after then-owner Ed Snider granted Iverson’s request to be traded. In a little more than a season and a half for the Nuggets, Iverson had occasional moments of the old brilliance, but Denver lost in the first round of the playoffs in both seasons. Three games into the 2008-09 season, Denver sent Iverson to Detroit.
Iverson was second on the team in scoring in Detroit, but he clashed with first-year coach Michael Curry. The Pistons lost in the first round of the playoffs and didn’t re-sign Iverson in the summer. He signed with Memphis in the offseason, but his time there was a disaster; then-coach Lionel Hollins confronted him during the preseason and demanded he be more team-oriented. After three games, Iverson left the Grizzlies on a personal leave of absence. He played his final 25 NBA games for his old team, the 76ers, in an act of seeming closure both for him and the franchise.
His legacy as one of the league’s all-time greatest players is assured. Almost any young point guard playing today says he emulated Iverson growing up. Just days ago, LeBron James told ESPN the Magazine that Iverson and Jordan were his two favorite players as a kid.