Iverson Killed it in His Retirement Press Conference
I’m not even sure how to recap Allen Iverson’s retirement press conference, so I’m just going to do it as a stream of consciousness. That seems to work best for AI, and maybe it will serve me well, too.
I tweeted this earlier and I’ll say it again: Allen Iverson should have his own podcast. Consider this my official offer to host it. I’ll pay for all the professional studio equipment and we’ll do it right, me and Allen.
As the years have passed, you forget just how introspective AI is. There may not be a lesser educated smart man in the world. Not unlike Mike Tyson, who lacks the grammatical wherewithal needed to properly address the people to whom he speaks, AI, on the surface, doesn’t sound smart, but he’s obviously, quite clearly, highly intelligent, perceptive and aware of things in this world that most people wouldn’t even recognize. At times he displays an unhealthy level of narcissism, but it’s hard to blame a guy for that sort of thing when you’re watching his fake retirement press conference in an arena.
The whole thing was about an hour long. It kicked off with Joshua Harris, in his suit, standing behind a table which served as a de facto podium for Iverson, his kids and manager, Gary Moore. Harris looked as out of place as he usually looks at basketball events. The dais was straight-up street (and I don’t mean for that to be offensive— rather, a term to describe the realness of the honored guests), while Harris was every bit the man who had just parachuted down from atop Mt. Apollo (that’s almost not even hyperbole).
Harris, who probably wishes that his guest of honor would show up every night to fill seats and add to the spectacle that may be the worst team in the history of the NBA, talked about how he was always in awe watching AI play. I’m not certain of this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the first time was about four minutes prior to the event on an assistant’s iPad 2.
They really should’ve let Pat Croce play owner for the day just to be the ringleader of an event that sorely needed a ringleader that wasn’t the impossibly awkward and toolish billionaire who, earlier this year, installed a steel wall in front of his Hamptons beach mansion much to the chagrin of his neighbors.
Moore spoke next. He spent about five minutes introducing his client and saying all the things a good manager slash agent should and would say at such an event, even going as far as to say that Iverson could be a CEO one day. Sure. Why not?
The buildup was… kind of annoying. But eventually, Moore handed the one microphone on the table down to Iverson (if there’s one thing the Sixers are good at, it’s awkward press conference setups, and this was no different). He became emotional, though not teary, almost immediately, talking about how he always felt this would be a “tragic” day, him retiring from the NBA, but that the time is right and he is happy with his decision to finally hang it up… three and a half years since last playing in the the league.
Iverson thanked just about everyone he could— his coaches – Thompson, Brown, the high school one and all the ones he’s ever had – God, Michael Jordan, his mom, the streets, teammates (for setting screens, playing hard and allowing him to become a household name), the fans, the trainers, the doctors, and, most importantly, his kids.
Oh, and also the media.
And in giving that final thanks for bestowing him these feasts, AI showed why he is so beloved: “Speaking of media, I wish Phil Jasner could be here today, especially on a day like this. Rest in peace. I know he’s looking down on this whole event, thinking about the times we laughed with each other and thinking about the times that we fought with each other. But he was very inspirational in my career and he meant a lot to me.”
Only AI would go out of his way at his retirement press conference to thank a dead beloved beat writer, and not because it was something that made the fans feel good, but because it was something he meant. Allen Iverson truly wanted to thank Phil Jasner today. That’s awesome.
PR man Mike Preston then popped out to inform the crowd about the wireless microphones while arena staff looked on from across the, for some reason, fully lit court:
[By this point, we can only assume that Harris was already on Acela back to New York, because there are much more important matters to attend to.]
The first question came from John Clark. Iverson said he knows him. I know him too, Allen. Let’s be friends.
The next came from someone from RapStation.com, who asked Iverson about being the cornrows to Doc’s afro. I love the NBA.
Next there was an awkward exchange with Dei Lynam, from Comcast SportsNet. Iverson knows her, too: “I know your voice.”
Dei repeated herself: Dei Lynam, from Comcast SportsNet.
Thanks Dei, our viewing audience now knows you, too.
The press conference reached a point where Iverson wasn’t so much speaking as he was preaching. That’s about the only way you could describe it. It was his sermon, and we were honored to be there or be tuned-in online. Really. It was great. His views went well beyond himself and the court: “Don’t nobody want to talk about my work with the Boys & Girls Club. Don’t nobody want to talk about how many turkeys I give out at Thanksgiving. Don’t nobody want to talk about the things I do for homeless people and things like that. But a negative Allen Iverson story… you open up your newspaper and see what this is about. That’s how this world is. You don’t want to hear nothing about somebody saving some kid from a burning building, you just want to hear about what’s going on with bin Laden. That’s just how the world is. And I understand that, I realize it, and accept it for what it is. And I roll with it. You only live once, and life is short. I’m gonna be happy with mine.”
That’s, um, a brilliant quote. The last part of that belongs painted on walls, and I’m not joking.
There were lighter moments, too. Iverson was asked if he kept in shape these last three years in case he got a call from an NBA team: “No.”
He even talked about how cornrows weren’t the norm in his day, how they were a thug thing. But, to point out how they’re more accepted today: “Now you see the police officers with cornrows.”
He said he has no regrets. But if there’s one, he would’ve got on 76 at 4 p.m. instead of 5 for home games.
Finally, Iverson was asked about which player was his biggest influence in his career. Here’s where Iverson started to crack: “Aaron McKie.”
He repeated the words several times. The final time, he forced them through his quivering lips as CSN – quite outstandingly – cut to McKie watching on a monitor in the studio. Suddenly, the observer became the observed, and it was the best live moment I’ve seen on CSN since the 2011 Phillies season. Iverson was thanking his mentor, quite emotionally, while his mentor looked on, sort of stunned.
That moment was real. And it was awesome.
The press conference, too, was real. And it was also ridiculous. And it was also funny. And highly entertaining. And gripping. And whatever else you can say about a staged event in which the topics ranged from cornrows to life lessons to family to love and basketball.
It’s hard to explain. But it was fascinating to watch. I could listen to AI all day. He would make a great podcaster.