Iverson statue unveiled at Sixers' practice facility


CAMDEN, N.J. — Yes, there is something quite wry about the fact Allen Iverson was immortalized in his crossover pose at — of all sites — the Philadelphia 76ers’ practice facility.

Practice. Not where the Sixers play their games. Practice.

Almost 22 years after AI ranted about “practice” 22 times in an often-spoofed news conference — see, Ted Lasso — even Iverson got a kick out of the location of the sculpture unveiled Friday on the team’s Legends Walk, joining the likes of Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks. The Hall of Famer who made “talking about practice” a permanent part of the pop culture lexicon is now a permanent part of the Sixers’ home.

“I could sit out a practice,” Iverson said after the ceremony. “Play me in the games.”

Few played better in the games for the Sixers than Iverson, who won four scoring titles, an NBA MVP award and led the franchise to its last trip to the NBA Finals in 2001.

His numbers stamped him as one of the NBA’s greats.

His legacy stretched beyond the court, the undersized guard with the supersized heart making the hip-hop element cool in the NBA with his braids, his tattoos, his throwback jerseys — heck, the NBA even instituted a dress code in large part to wipe out Iverson’s influence. His dogged style of play has been emulated to this day by everyone from Russell Westbrook to Ja Morant to even Philly’s own All-Star, Tyrese Maxey.

Never, ever, though, duplicated.

Iverson was feted with a ceremony that nearly rivaled his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction. Former Sixers teammates and executives Pat Croce, Billy King, Rasheed Wallace, Eric Snow and Aaron McKie posed with and praised AI. Even retired NFL receiver Terrell Owens shot video of the tribute and snapped photos of the statue. Former coach Larry Brown — who famously clashed through the years with Iverson — was in the house.

“Me and Coach didn’t see eye to eye on things,” Iverson said. “But he wanted the same thing that I wanted out of my career and our team goals. Once I bought into that, that’s what turned me into an MVP basketball player. That turned us to a team that were winners, that could go to the Finals and compete with the best teams.”

The 165-pound guard averaged 31.1 points in 2001, was the MVP of the All-Star Game and propped an entire franchise on his 6-foot frame all the way to the Finals.

Guided by Brown, the Sixers needed Game 7 wins in consecutive playoff series for the right to play the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers swept their way through the postseason before Game 1 in Los Angeles.

Iverson had 48 points in 52 minutes of an overtime victory. The Sixers didn’t have enough to go the distance and the Lakers won the next four games.

Iverson is still connected with the franchise as a team ambassador and occasionally pops up at a courtside seat and receives a roaring standing ovation each time he is announced to the crowd. Iverson complained last year that his role with the Sixers was “nowhere near what I think it’s supposed to be” but any unhappiness appeared to be smoothed over. Sixers coach Nick Nurse has invited Iverson to spend more time around the team to offer his voice in a mentorship role.

“They came up to me and said that they would love to talk to me about different things on the basketball court and I just love and respect that they respect me because they know I’ve been through what they’re going through at a high level,” Iverson said. “So I’m trying to have my voice be heard as much as possible. I’m doing a lot of things with the organization and I just think that I’m blessed to have that opportunity, to have that relationship with the organization after I retired.”

So, about that statue. Much like Iverson, the tiny depiction took a beating on social media for not being properly lifelike for a statue. But it wasn’t built for sizes normally found outside sports stadiums, but rather is part of a row of similarly sized ones that line a private walkway that only players, employees and executives (and the media) can access at the practice facility.

“How do you think I got that good? I had to practice,” Iverson said. “I just thought it was a bad rap on me. One day I’m walking in the streets and people come up to me and say ‘Practice? We’re talking about practice?’ and I be like, ‘Man, out of all the things I accomplished in my career, that’s the only thing you can come up with?’ Crazy.”

Iverson wore a Roman numeral III chain (in honor of his retired No. 3 uniform number ) and other Sixers gear including a hat that read “LEG3ND” as he yanked off the cover of the statue. Iverson’s statue shows him wearing a headband and about to launch the crossover — a seminal move in his career that once bewildered Michael Jordan — with a basketball affixed to his outstretched left hand. Part of the inscription said Iverson’s “toughness made him unstoppable.”

As Iverson surveyed the friends, former teammates and family that included his mother that flocked to New Jersey, he could only choke back tears as he expressed his thanks.

“When you think about the statue,” Iverson said, “that’s a representation to y’all people that helped me. To everyone that played a part in my development and in my life. When y’all see that statue, y’all could feel good about the part that y’all did in helping me with my life. This is such an honor, man. It don’t even seem real.”



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