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Saying goodbye: Allen Iverson retires from NBA

Thursday - 10/31/2013, 12:42am  ET

Former Philadelphia 76ers basketball player Allen Iverson speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Philadelphia. Iverson officially retired from the NBA, ending a 15-year career during which he won the 2001 MVP award and four scoring titles. Iverson retired in Philadelphia where he had his greatest successes and led the franchise to the 2001 NBA finals. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson's highlights played one more time on the big screen, diehard Philadelphia 76ers fans and Julius Erving all part of the crowd catching one more glimpse of No. 3 in his prime.

His killer crossover in his rookie season that dusted Michael Jordan.

The jumper he buried over Tyronn Lue, then the highstep over the fallen Lakers defender in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.

All there. All as much part of Iverson's DNA as the rants about practice, the cornrows, the controversy.

All in the past.

This was time for A.I to say goodbye.

Iverson officially called it quits -- though, in truth, it was the NBA that gave up on him -- nearly four years after he played his final game.

He did it in typical A.I. flair, eschewing a suit fit for an elder statesman for a black, leather hoodie, askew black cap and a gold chain around his neck.

"I always felt like it was cool being me," Iverson said.

Iverson retired Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center, the site of so many of the moments he crafted into a Hall of Fame worthy career. Iverson led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA finals, won four scoring titles, clashed with former coach Larry Brown, and was an All-Star game fixture. Winning a championship is the lone void in a bio sheet that forever stamps him among the league's greats.

The undersized guard with the supersized heart was a perfect match in a city that prizes authenticity and hustle as much as production.

"I'm going to always be a Sixer til I die," he said.

And his number will always hang in the rafters. Iverson's No. 3 will be retired on March 1 against Washington.

The 38-year-old Iverson had not played an NBA game since Feb. 20, 2010, in his second, short-lived stint with the Sixers. The 6-foot, 165-pound guard also played for Denver, Detroit and Memphis over a 14-year career that has him 19th on the career scoring list with 24,368 points.

He also played in Turkey before realizing the NBA doors would not open for him again.

"I thought that once this day came, it would be basically a tragic day," Iverson said. "I never imagined the day coming, but I knew it would come. I feel proud and happy to say that I'm happy with my decision and I feel great."

Iverson always proclaimed his love of Philly, the fans and the Sixers and swore he wanted to end his career with the franchise that made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft.

He fearlessly crashed the lane against players nearly a foot taller than him, played through countless injuries and added the pizzaz that was missing in what was a staid franchise. He transformed the 76ers from lottery losers to contenders, though he couldn't bring home an NBA title to this championship-starved city. He came close in 2001, when the 76ers lost to the Lakers.

Iverson was arguably one of the four greatest Sixers, compiling a sparkling resume that put him in the mix with Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, and Charles Barkley. His No. 3 jersey was a best seller around the globe, the headband wrapped snugly around his cornrows, and the tattoos were as much a part of his image as the way he ricochets around the court. Play every game like it was his last was more than a catchphrase, it was a lifestyle.

"My whole thing was, just being me," Iverson said. "Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows. You know what I'm saying? I took a beating for those types of things."

From the throwback jerseys to the bling in his ears, Iverson shaped a generation of kids that star in today's NBA.

"He made it cool to be a hip kid," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.

Iverson's years in Philadelphia were marred by arrests in 1997 for carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of marijuana and in 2002 over a domestic dispute with his wife. He was sentenced to community service in 1997 and all charges were dropped against him five years later.

Then there was the never-released rap album, which drew criticism from civil rights groups and got Iverson a reprimand from NBA commissioner David Stern because of its offensive lyrics.

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