Thursday, December 3, 2009
Updated: December 4, 2:08 PM ET
Iverson ready to prove himself in Philly
PHILADELPHIA -- 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.
"I want to retire here," Iverson said Thursday.
The 34-year-old Iverson was teary almost from the start of his return news conference. He said he retired after his ill-fated stint with the Memphis Grizzlies because he felt as if "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 with the team, 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."
Stefanski said he didn't promise Iverson would start, but added he didn't bring him back to Philadelphia to serve as a role player.
"I am bringing him back here to help us going forward to win basketball games," he said.
The Sixers need all the help they can get to avoid falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sixers (5-14) have lost eight straight entering Saturday's game at Charlotte.
"I want to fit in. I want to be a part of any success we have," Iverson said. "I just want to be one of the guys. I don't need a whole bunch of praise. I don't need a whole lot of accolades. I just want to play basketball."
Iverson will not travel to Charlotte. He will practice Sunday and on Monday pull on his 76ers jersey for the first time since Dec. 6, 2006, in Chicago -- when he refused to play in the fourth quarter of what became his final game with the team.
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.
His return generated the kind of buzz the Sixers haven't felt in Philly since he left in 2006. The Sixers said they had 327,657 page views on their Web site Wednesday once his signing was announced -- up from 36,000 the previous Wednesday.
The Sixers have not yet sold out Monday's game. His official No. 3 jerseys are expected to be on sale at the team's merchandise store Monday.