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Allen Iverson ready to retire? Looking back on his 76ers career.

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Rumors have circulated that Allen Iverson is going to retire and has left his new team, the Memphis Grizzlies for ‘personal reasons.’ According to several sources, Iverson may not return again.  This is quite ironic to some being that Iverson signed a 1-year contract with the Grizzlies on September 10th, and stated in the press that, “God chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career.”   

IversonWhen people think of Allen Iverson, there will be a couple of different versions.  One will be the guy with the incredible cross-over dribble who was a leader of the Allen IversonPhiladelphia 76ers for 10 years.  The other will be the thug who used to harass undrafted rookie free agents and push them while they were practicing their foul shots in a desperate attempt to make an NBA team.  Yes, Allen Iverson was a winner and yes, Allen Iverson was a thug.   

The story of Allen Iverson has all of the makings of a made for T.V. movie that will be applauded and criticized.  A.I., as he was affectionately known, was born in Hampton, Virginia.  A star athlete since he walked onto a basketball court or football field, Iverson was a quarterback and a point guard on winning teams.  A.I. even led his high school football team to a state championship and football was not even his best sport.  Iverson’s athletic prowess in both sports reminds some people of LeBron James but unlike LeBron, the Iverson story was marred with self-destruction. 

On Valentines Day in 1993, Iverson and some friends were involved in an altercation at a bowling alley and A.I. allegedly struck a woman in the head with a chair and while only 17 at the time, he was convicted as an adult of the felony charge of maiming by mob which was an out-of-date statute used in Virginia and people felt Iverson was a victim of his image. While things looked bleak, in walked John Thompson.

Thompson was the historic coach of Georgetown University and a leader in the black community.  Thompson worked to help Iverson and A.I. would be allowed to play basketball for Thompson at Georgetown and he would prove to be a star in the making during his time in the Big East.  After two glorious seasons at Georgetown, Iverson was selected with the number 1 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by our 76ers. 

Initially, pundits thought the combination of Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse in the Philadelphia backcourt would prove to be a historic tandem but the two did not work well together and Stackhouse was traded and Iverson was given control of the team. For years, A.I. put up incredible statistics but the Sixers were marred in less than mediocrity.  This all changed in 2001. 

During the 2001 NBA season, A.I. led the Sixers to the NBA Finals and won MVP of the league.  Iverson and the Sixers lost in 5 games to the Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles Lakers, but that season will be a pleasant memory for the fans of Philadelphia for generations to come. 

After that season, the Sixers would never be the same team.  When the going got tough their head coach Larry Brown, like he has his entire career, left the team and won a championship with the Detroit Pistons. A team that Rick Carlisle had on the brink of success for several years.  Iverson and Brown often butted heads, and in the historic “Practice Clip,” Iverson made mention of how he didn’t need to practice. And while the troubled star seemed under control for years, A.I. fell back into his old ways. 

Whether you love Iverson or hate him, you have to give the man his due.  Despite all of the off the court problems, at 180 pounds there was not a more courageous player in the history of the NBA.  Iverson threw his small body into the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and showed no fear driving to the hole.  In his stints with other teams since being traded from the Sixers in 2006, Iverson has proved to be a very capable player who can still be explosive but time has taken its toll and he has lost a step.  With the rumor of his retirement looming, Iverson should be a first ballot Hall of Famer but sadly and maybe appropriately, only time will tell if A.I. will be remembered as the gutsy performer who almost took the Sixers to the Promise Land or the tumultuous star who could never shake the image of being a thug with talent.