Allen Iverson's number raised to rafters in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA -- Four years since he last played in the NBA, Allen Iverson still keeps players who come into his building on edge. This time it was the Wizards, who had a game at Wells Fargo Center but gladly took a back seat to watch him one final time.
Even Trevor Ariza, who certainly didn't look the part as he put up a career-high 40 points, making his first eight three-point shots. Iverson, who was a first-round draft pick in 1996, played most of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, who fell hard 122-103 to the Wizards on Saturday.
"I was a little bit nervous. I don't know why. It's not like I was getting honored or anything … It was a lot of greatness in here with all their old players. I saw GP (Gary Payton) over there. The retirement of his jersey, that's real dope. That's dope to see in person. I never seen anything like that before so that's probably one of the best moments of my career.
"What was I in '96? Like 11? Growing up I watched him. I idolized him. I was always taller. I couldn't really do the things that he did on the court.
"We definitely went out there (to watch the ceremony). I felt like that was bigger than what we had because of what he's done for all of us and our journeys to the NBA. I feel like we have to pay our respect."
Noted for his baggy clothes, braided hair and slight frame of 6-0 and about 160 pounds, Iverson was a fierce competitor. John Wall could relate in so many ways because he wasn't always a 6-4 point guard.
"I used to have hair like a little girl. I always wanted to wear braids like Iverson. The only thing I didn't have was a tattoo. I wore his shoes. The sleeves. That was the person I looked up to being a small guard. I was only about 5-6, 5-7 in ninth and 10th grade."
Wall's backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, lived a similar Iverson experience.
"For me to be able to witness it and see it, it means a lot for me too. When I grew up, first it was football, I wore No. 3. Allen Iverson was my favorite player. He definitely played a role in what I wear. I had the braids, the headband, the wrist band that said The Answer. I had all that, the Reeboks on.
"It kind of felt like a playoff atmosphere just in terms of the amount of fans and the sellout they had and the intensity there was from the tip. The feeling you got as you walked in the gym, you knew it was a special night.
"A few of us went out, watched a little bit (of the ceremony) and showed our respect to him for everything he has done and brought to this league. It's definitely one to remember."
Even Marcin Gortat, who grew up in Poland, recognized the significance though he wasn't pleased with the longer wait during halftime.
"I was pissed," said Gortat, who was eager to play again after three first-half fouls. "It actually went really fast. It was a special occasion. I was happy I was here to see that moment when Iverson was honored. It was huge. I'm glad we (played) that game."