A sold-out crowd stood when Allen Iverson took the court at halftime of the Sixers-Wizards game Saturday night. The ovation was deafening on more than one occasion. And when master of ceremonies, Marc Zumoff, turned the microphone over to Iverson, No. 3 had the crowd’s undivided attention.
Iverson started to speak but then he stepped away from the podium.
“I feel like I am dreaming,” he said. “Let me see if I am dreaming?”
He proceeded by striking his signature pose, putting his hand to his ear.
The crowd went wild.
Iverson returned to the podium and delivered a thoughtful and composed speech on the night the Sixers retired his No. 3 and raised it to the rafters. He later said he was grateful he kept it together emotionally.
“My greatest moment as far as my career was just getting drafted but then you have a day like this,” Iverson said. “It is a blessing from God that I got my jersey raised and I am proud I didn’t lose it the way I felt like I was. It was a great day and I will remember it for the rest of my life.”
Iverson said the night was so much more than he thought it would be.
“I didn’t expect it to be this nice,” Iverson said of the ceremony. “These people rolled out the red carpet for me. If anybody is a basketball player and they saw what happened here tonight, they should get their butt to a gym and work on their game because the way these people did it for me — they did it all.
“They showed me how much they respect what I did for this city and this franchise.”
In addition to a banner being raised to the rafters, the Sixers gave Iverson a motorboat. Fishing is one of Iverson’s hobbies now that he has nothing but time on his hands.
“When you are here with a franchise for that long, you are a certain kind of player [and] you become a household name,” Iverson said. “That is what I was in Philadelphia. I will always be in a fishbowl until I am dead. I realize that. I accept it and I signed up for it.
“I wouldn’t change anything for anything in the world.”
It wasn’t a surprise when Iverson’s final acknowledgement was for the fans in Philadelphia being the best in the world.
He thanked Michael Jordan for inspiring him to play basketball, saying, “I was one of those kids who wanted to be like Mike.”
Near the end of his speech, Iverson spoke with wonderment when he said, “Dr. J, Moses Malone, Mo Cheeks, Charles Barkley, Bobby Jones — are you serious? My name can now be mentioned with those names. Show me the fool who says dreams don’t come true because they do.”
Iverson was eloquent and he spoke from his heart.
A night that had been looked toward with great anticipation lived up to the billing and then some.