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PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson always thought this would be a tragic day.
Instead, he said, he is happy and at peace.
"The Answer" formally announced his retirement from the NBA on Wednesday during an occasionally emotional hour-long news conference on the Wells Fargo Center court, hours before the Philadelphia 76ers played their season opener against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Iverson last appeared in an NBA game on Feb. 20, 2010. The Sixers will retire his number 3 on March 1 against Washington.
"My mom always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be," Iverson said. "And I truly, actually believed it. And I fought. I went through a whole lot trying to get to this point right here."
LEGACY: How we should look upon Iverson
"ASS-KICKING": Iverson's memorable quote
Iverson, 38, earned 11 consecutive All-Star selections and the 2001 NBA MVP award during his 14-year NBA career, which peaked when he led Philadelphia to the 2001 NBA Finals, where it lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a seven-time All-NBA selection, a four-time NBA scoring champion, a three-time steals leader, a two-time All-Star Game MVP and the 1997 Rookie of the Year. He is also notorious for his fiery demeanor and various off-the court troubles, including with his family, his finances and a famed rant questioning the importance of practice.
"I don't regret anything," Iverson said. "If I could take back all the mistakes that I made throughout my career, I would have had a perfect career. I would have missed no shots. I would have made no turnovers. I would have went right instead of going left when I was supposed to, every game. I would have got on (I-76) at 4 o'clock instead of getting on 76 at 5. I can't take it back. I can't take anything back. So I don't regret it.
"It was a blessing for (God) to even get me here, get me to this point so I can retire," he said. "It was a blessing just to play one NBA basketball game. ... But I've won scoring titles, MVPs, I've done a lot in this league. Being 160 pounds soaking wet, coming from Newport News, Va. I mean, what more can you ask for? And my family is taken care of for the rest of their life. Regrets? I don't have none."
LARRY BROWN: NBA should honor Iverson for contributions
"PRACTICE": Iverson speech came on Hall of Famer's advice
Philadelphia selected Iverson out of Georgetown with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1996 and the diminutive guard played parts of 12 seasons in a Sixers jersey, finishing second on the franchise's all-time scoring list behind Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer.
Iverson also played for the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies before continuing his career in Turkey and China. He ranks 19th on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 24,368 points.
"This is his house," Sixers owner Josh Harris said, "and he's welcome here forever and ever."
Iverson is adored across the Delaware Valley for his unbridled passion and routinely playing while hurt. He relied on blazing speed, acrobatic moves and sheer volume to average 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game for his career.
He led the NBA in field goal attempts four times, finished second twice and ranked among the top five in the category for 10 seasons. He also led the NBA in minutes played for seven seasons and averaged a whopping 41.1 minutes a game for his career, the fourth-highest total in history.
Iverson said he was not physically preparing to return to the NBA these last few years, despite holding out hope that an opportunity might arise. And he's unsure what he'll do in the future, other than spending time with his five children, three of whom sat by his side Wednesday afternoon.
"I cheated my kids out of a lot as far as being a father," Iverson said. "(Now) I can be there for my kids."
Iverson gave credit to former Bethel (Va.) High School coach Mike Bailey, former Georgetown coach John Thompson and former Sixers coach Larry Brown for shaping him as a basketball player and a man.
Other topics Iverson addressed:
His famous practice rant: "It wasn't just about that I didn't like practice or didn't care about practice or anything like that. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have never did the interview. But as far as how I expressed practice, practice, practice over and over again, I wouldn't take that back, because obviously that sound bite is great for the media, it's great for the fans, they love it, but they had no idea that my best friend had just got killed. They had no idea that the press conference wasn't about practice. The press conference was about me not being traded from Philadelphia. That's what I thought I was sitting down at the podium to talk about. ... You never heard anything about the reason that I was upset."
His most beloved teammate: "Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. � Aaron McKie. He was my teammate � but it was on another level. It was more than just basketball with me and him. I made a million mistakes, but if it weren't for Aaron McKie, I'd have made two million of them."
His personal issues in the news: "It's hard having rhino skin sometimes."
His greatest moment on the court: "Just being drafted" and "jumping up and down when we were heading to the Finals."
On being himself, and the impact he's had on American culture: "I took an ass-kicking for me being me in my career. � You used to think that the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see police officers with cornrows."
On where he ranks among the greatest players ever: "All I care about is what the guys who played think."
On his advice for youngsters: "Anybody who wants to be like me, I would tell them not to be me. Be better than me."
On Philadelphia: "It's home. I've been a part of this community for so many years. These fans are me. I am Philadelphia. When you think of Philadelphia basketball, you think of Allen Iverson. ... I'm going to always be a Sixer till I die."