There’s been only one real stain on Allen Iverson’s glorious tenure in Philadelphia. One big, miserable blight that started and ended with one simple word: practice.
Erase that stain from your stream of consciousness. Another former NBA great, Gary Payton, admitted that he was responsible for putting the notion of skipping practice in Iverson’s head. Granted, he didn’t mean for Iverson to be so blatant about it — like going on a ridiculous rant about it in front of reporters — but let’s all let bygones be bygones, and let pink Red Sox hats be pink Red Sox hats.
Iverson is set to retire very soon, if a Slam Magazine report is indeed true. This isn’t a shock since Iverson hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2010.
If this is the end of the line for Iverson, it’s time to rev up the tributes. No player has embodied the spirit and blue-collar attitude of Philadelphia better than No. 3.
If you can look past the off-the-field baggage — and there might not be a plane big enough to hold that overstuffed Samsonite case — you have to appreciate the passion and the intensity and the pride (are the Sixers still using that marketing slogan?) that Iverson wore on his protective arm sleeve every night.
Iverson won’t go down as the greatest Sixer of all-time. Not even close. However, The Answer will end up as the most beloved, one of the few outsiders that was able to penetrate that thick South Philly skin.
The question is, will he be immortalized?
The Sixers have come under fire a lot recently, from the way their new GM hides from the media to that bizarre PR campaign to find a new mascot. The new ownership group seems to lack any kind of connection with its fan base.
Of course, the one thing the Sixers’ organization has always seemed to understand was its roots. Honoring past greats has long been something the team has put an emphasis on, even bigger than the starry logo on center court.
The team has yet to announce any plans for a final send-off. They can’t really say much until Iverson makes his retirement official. It’s all speculation until he calls a press conference. When and if he does — and please don’t wear the pink hat, Allen — all will be forgiven.
When I asked a Sixers spokesman about Iverson’s impending retirement, he noted that there was no statement to make at this time. Everyone knows it’s a mere formality. There is no question in anyone’s mind that Iverson will get another party in his adopted city.
There will be confetti. There will be montages on the video boards. There will be that trademark hand-to-ear gesture. There will be gift certificates to TGI Friday’s. OK, maybe not the last part … but it will be a party worthy of a champion. Which is ironic since Iverson never was a champion.
But that’s not the point. That’s a different debate. What I really wanted to find out was if there would be a bronze statue erected outside the Wells Fargo Center in his likeness.
It’s a crazy thought, I know. This isn’t Los Angeles where heroes are enshrined and worshipped. There are only four statues around the complex: Gary Dornhoefer, Kate Smith, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain. That’s it. Not even the immortal Bernie Parent was invited.
The Phillies didn’t have immediate plans to honor Harry Kalas with a statue, but an independent sculptor embarked upon the project and, thanks to a fan-funded campaign, made it a reality.
Unfortunately, that man, Lawrence Nowlan past away in July. I e-mailed a local sculpting association and they told me getting something done, on that grand of a stage, is no easy task. The person would have to be well-connected and have very deep pockets.
But who fits that bill? Who has enough power and influence and money to get the conversation started? Who thinks he has a clue about Philly sports and has a boatload of free time? Who could stop the “wussification” of our beloved Sixers?
Wait a minute. Maybe if Ed Rendell could tear himself away from that tired Daily News column he pens every week and put his money where his mouth is … maybe, just maybe, Iverson could receive the send-off he deserves.
Could it happen? Yes. Is it a long shot? You bet. Then again, so was that skinny, 6-foot guard from Georgetown.