- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
MIAMI -- Just days after Miami Heat forward LeBron James listed Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan as his childhood idols, the NBA's reigning MVP continued to heap praise on the former Philadelphia 76ers star.
"Pound-for-pound, probably the greatest player who ever played," James said of Iverson, who will retire in a Sixers pregame ceremony ahead of Wednesday's home opener against the defending champion Heat.
James had told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that he continues to watch film of Jordan and Iverson.
"I watch Jordan more than anybody for sure," James said in ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview Issue. "But I'll watch tapes of A.I., too. I don't take anything from A.I.. Well, I do -- his will. They say he was 6 feet, but A.I. was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we've ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after MJ."
James was asked Monday for his thoughts on Iverson ahead of Wednesday's ceremony.
"[Iverson] reminds me of Floyd Mayweather," James said, comparing Iverson to the undefeated boxer who has 18 titles to his name and stands just 5-foot-8. "You could never question [Iverson's] heart, his will to want to win. A true warrior."
Although Iverson was one of the top scorers of his era, his career was cut short at age 34 when injuries had taken a toll on his effectiveness. Iverson's playing career ended unceremoniously in 2010 after a 25-game stint with the 76ers, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1996.
Iverson hasn't found work in the NBA since.
"I hate the fact that his career ended the way it did," James said Monday. "But he had an unbelievable career."
Iverson, who was officially listed at 6 feet, 165 pounds, scored 24,368 points during his career. That's 6,419 more than Calvin Murphy (17,949 points), who was the next-highest scorer at that height or smaller.
Miami's Dwyane Wade also considers it a privilege that he'll be at Iverson's retirement ceremony on Wednesday.
"One of my favorite players obviously of all time. Michael Jordan, Kobe [Bryant], T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] and A.I.," Wade said. "Those were the ones that I looked up to coming up. I take pride in wearing No. 3 because A.I. wore No. 3."
As it turns out, Wade's first preseason game and regular-season game as an NBA player came against Iverson. What did he remember about those games?
"I was scared as God knows what," Wade said. "He's just a great competitor. He's one of the best to do it."
"It's going to be a great moment, I'm sure, for everyone that was a fan of Iverson and the way he changed the game -- all the little boys in their driveway doing the A.I. crossover," Wade said.
James and Wade will face the 76ers on Wednesday after opening up their season Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls.
"Philly is his home and should always be his home," James said of Iverson. "I'm happy for him. He was great for the league."