A tearful Allen Iverson is happy to be back with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Iverson is returning to the franchise where he was an MVP, calling it an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. The 10-time All-Star guard signed a non-guaranteed deal with the 76ers on Wednesday, and said at the Wachovia Center that he’s ready to prove he can still play.
The 34-year-old Iverson was teary almost from the start of his news conference. He said he retired after his ill-fated stint with the Memphis Grizzlies because he felt like “the basketball part of my life was over.”
Iverson will play his first game for the 76ers against Denver on Monday.
“Coming back home, all I could think about was the people who made me who I am,” said Iverson, the NBA MVP in 2001, when he led the Sixers to the finals.
Philadelphia hasn’t won a playoff series since 2003.
In 10 seasons with the Sixers, Iverson posted the highest scoring average in team history (28.1), was second on the points list (19,583) and holds the record for 3-pointers (877). He was a seven-time All-Star, won four scoring titles and two All-Star game MVPs.
He had a bitter parting with the 76ers in December 2006 and was traded to Denver. He’s also played with Detroit and three games this season with the Grizzlies.
“I always thought it was strange having another uniform,” Iverson said. “I couldn’t feel comfortable with another uniform.”
Flanked by team president Ed Stefanski, Iverson said he dreamed of returning to the 76ers.
“I watch other NBA teams. I can’t watch the Sixers,” he said. “Ever since I left, I wasn’t able to. Not because there was any bitterness, it was just a feeling I get. I gave everything I had here for 10 years. It was just always tough for me to watch them, so I didn’t.”
Iverson was apologetic for his past behavior and said he acted a lot on anger.
“I don’t want to prove anyone wrong in this situation. I’m not in it for that,” he said. “If I can help my team win basketball games the way Coach wants me to help, then I’ll be satisfied.”
Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft, but his 10 turbulent seasons in Philadelphia were marred by rants about practice, run-ins with former coach Larry Brown, arrests and a failed rap career.
In one infamous blowup at the end of the 2002 season, he repeated the word “practice” nearly 20 times during a rambling monologue.