Although he hasn't played in a game in close to four years, Allen Iverson officially announced his retirement at a press conference in Philadelphia. “It was a blessing,” he said. “It was a blessing to even get here to a point where I could retire. To play one game in the NBA — to play two. I’ve won scoring titles, MVPs, been First-Team All NBA. I’ve done a lot. I’m 160 pounds soaking wet from Newport News, Virginia. What more can I ask for?”
Forbes:"The city he played in, Philadelphia, loved him for his passion. His teams won. He brought home scoring titles, led his team to six playoff series victories and dragged a motley crew of role players to the NBA Finals. And, for better or worse, he brought his people with him. No matter how silly it was to support dozens of people, or how selfishly Iverson handled his role in a team sport, he'd reached places that once seemed impossible for him."
Allen Iverson – who has earned over $154 million in salary alone over his stellar NBA career — is reportedly broke. That number excludes millions more in non-salary income, including a $50 million lifetime endorsement contract from Reebok. And the player best known as “the Answer” has no easy answer for the bills, including around $859,000 he currently owes to a Georgia jewelry store (too bad he didn’t have Newt’s credit line at Tiffany’s). Whether Iverson can’t or won’t pay Aydin and Company Jewelers is unclear. Moreover, there is no evidence that Iverson has officially declared bankruptcy. But Iverson’s seemingly desperate attempts at a comeback suggest that he’s in deep financial trouble.
For instance, he made the Iverson equivalent of pilaf to play in Turkey and was offered plantains to play in Puerto Rico. Now comes an insulting offer to play indoor soccer for the Rochester Lancers. It’s a sad and shameful denouement for a man who, pound-for-pound on his six foot, 165-pound frame, is the most gifted and fearless guard to ever play pro basketball.
Most sports fans saw this day coming. Some will point to Iverson’s role in a controversial bowling alley brawl in Hampton, Virginia back when Iverson was in high school. Though Iverson ended up serving four months in prison for the crime, Georgetown coach John Thompson — in his defining Lawrence Phillips moment — overlooked the incident in recruiting Iverson, and Virginia governor Doug Wilder eventually granted Iverson clemency.
Fairly or unfairly, the affair tainted Iverson’s reputation and telegraphed his later troubles, which reportedly included missed practices, refusal to train, and frequent disputes with coaches. And that’s just basketball-related behavior. Iverson’s troubles also included a 1997 arrest for carrying a concealed weapon (for which he pleaded No Contest and was sentenced to community service) and a later 2002 arrest (though never convicted) for trespassing, criminal conspiracy, false imprisonment, and making terroristic threats. There were at least two cases of assault by Iverson bodyguards, including a vicious one in 2006 by Jason Kane (as Iverson idly watched), for which Iverson had to pay victim Marlin Godfrey $260,000 in damages for injuries he suffered, including a torn rotator cuff, a concussion, a ruptured eardrum, and a burst blood vessel in his eye. The judgment was upheld on appeal in 2009. Finally, there was Iverson’s banishment from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City.
In the public’s mind, rightly or wrongly, these incidents built an image of Iverson as reckless and ungovernable on and off the court. So, it comes as no surprise to many that he was reckless and ungovernable in his finances. “He redefined high maintenance,” said Pat Croce, Philadelphia 76ers team president and part-owner during the Iverson era.
Iverson attended Bethel High School and was a dual-sport athlete; he earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both football and basketball, and won the Division AAA Virginia state championship in both sports. After high school, Iverson attended Georgetown University for two years, where he set the school record for career scoring average (22.9 points per game) and won Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards both years.
Following two successful years at Georgetown, Iverson declared eligibility for the 1996 NBA Draft, and was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number one pick. He was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in the 1996–97 season. Iverson is an eleven-time NBA All-Star which includes winning the All-Star MVP award in 2001 and 2005.
Winning the NBA scoring title during the 1998–99, 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2004–05 seasons, Iverson was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, despite his small stature (listed at 6 feet, 0 inches). His regular season career scoring average of 26.7 points per game ranks sixth all-time, and his playoff career scoring average of 29.7 points per game is second only to Michael Jordan. Iverson was also the NBA Most Valuable Player of the 2000–01 season and led his team to the 2001 NBA Finals the same season. Iverson represented the United States at the 2004 Summer Olympics, winning the bronze medal. He also played for the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and the Memphis Grizzlies, before returning to the 76ers for part of the 2009–10 season.
During Iverson’s prime, teammates accepted Iverson’s unique style, be it hangovers during some practices or his trademark single-arm sleeve. His response to a question in 2002 about missing workouts became iconic: “We’re talking about practice.”
Basketball was Iverson’s sanctuary, and he signed huge contracts: a six-year deal in 1999 worth $70.9 million and, four years later, a new agreement worth $76.7 million. Reebok signed him to a huge endorsement deal, including a deferred trust worth more than $30 million, a lump sum he can’t touch until he turns 55.
Iverson feuded in 2006 with the Sixers, who removed his likeness from the Wells Fargo Center before trading him to the Denver Nuggets, who later traded him to Detroit. When he became a free agent in ‘09, teams were reluctant to sign him.
In November 2009, Iverson played in three games with the Memphis Grizzles before being released, and the Sixers brought him back for 25 games. In his final NBA appearance, Feb. 20, 2010, he scored 13 points in a 32-point loss to the Chicago Bulls. His career ended abruptly, without closure.
"Iverson was the star the league got without asking for it. While nearly every player with a little star power and lots of polish was anointed "the next Michael Jordan," Iverson became MJ's successor at the NBA's forefront without his sophistication but dripping with the same edgy charisma that made Jordan so magnetic."
» 2002: Iverson Faces Felony Charges
» 2012: Iverson's Wages Garnished to Pay Jewelry Bill
» Sports Illustrated: "How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke"
» Philly News: "Iverson in Istanbul"