During Allen Iverson‘s retirement press conference yesterday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, these were the two words that brought Allen to the inevitable tears. Not when he spoke on his family or friends or John Thompson. “Aaron McKie.” And all along his illustrious career, the media tried to tell me Allen Iverson didn’t care about his teammates. If you believe everything you’ve heard the media attempt to make Iverson out to be, then I’m here to sell you a golf ball that doesn’t slice.
The greatest thing about Allen’s hour long presser was just how candid he was throughout. He held nothing back, answered every question and addressed every topic with brutal honesty. He reminded us all the same thing he taught myself as a youngin growing up in the Philadelphia area: That it’s okay to be who YOU are.
He spoke on having no regrets, to many people’s surprise. Not to mine.
Allen Iverson knows he never has been and never will be a perfect person. And he reminded us that neither are we.
He is the exact same person I watched on a daily basis for his entire career, with just a touch more of wisdom in exchange for his explosive first step, a trade off that Allen himself surely embraces because it’s who he is now. In a society filled with people who are afraid to be the exact same person around any audience, Iverson certainly is not. He dresses the same, he speaks the same, he acts the same, he cries the same. And you know what, it’s ok.
He touched on everything yesterday afternoon, and gave us fans one more classic Allen Iverson press conference, and in doing so, brought most of Philadelphia to tears even before he began to shed them.
From the first person he thanked, Michael Jordan, to the final person he thanked, Pat Croce, and everyone in between, Allen gave us perhaps the most important hour of his life. Of course this hour isn’t possible without the hours and hours of great basketball he provided us over his award-filled career, yet somehow yesterday, he brought us all that feeling one more time, and perhaps in one way or another, helped lead an undermanned Sixers team to an improbable victory last night, one more time.
As any basketball fan will tell you, there’s something about attending NBA games that differs itself from any other professional sport. From the motivational speech from Hoosiers playing loud on the Jumbotron to vintage team highlights with an intense drum beat behind it to the songs that get us hype, like “Lose Yourself” or “In The Air Tonight” or however your favorite team does it, leading up to one of the most electrifying ways to get you jazzed up, if your PA announcer does it correctly, the starting five introductions and everything in-between, the NBA does a better job than any other professional sport at engaging its fans. Every arena does their own version of this, and most do it spectacularly.
Call me a homer, but no one is better at the pregame ritual than 76ers PA announcer Matt Cord.
Every game one attended during Allen Iverson’s tenure in The City of Brotherly Love was as loud from the start as it is in that video, and usually even louder by game’s end. Allen electrified the crowd in a way no player ever has before him, and probably ever will again.
He made every Sixers game a spectacle, whether it was a Tuesday night in the middle of February versus the Wizards or a May playoff Game 7 versus the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks. It could be the first game of the year, or the last, and you can bet the seat you sat in he did exactly what he’s stated over half a million times: that he played that game like it was his last. As a fan, you got your money’s worth. EVERY SINGLE TIME.