Allen Iverson hasn’t played a professional basketball game in about two years. He just retired officially before the Philadelphia 76ers’ season opener Oct. 30.
But when a camera points in his direction, when people see him in person, the reaction is usually the same. Love him or hate him, Iverson is who he is. He’s a ballplayer and a lifelong 76er, regardless of which teams (Denver, Detroit, Memphis, and Besiktas in Turkey) he’s played for.
Iverson is sitting in a skybox at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at the Nets home opener against the Miami Heat. He’s wearing an oversize 76ers jacket with baggy sweatpants and 76ers cap, twisted to the side—a diehard fan of the team in which he’s arguably the greatest player ever. A picture of a tattooless AI hangs from the wall, showing Iverson, the 1997 Rookie of the Year, armed with nothing but a nasty crossover. Not much has changed about him, except an aged appearance to his face. But the way he speaks is the same—completely honest. He looks you in the eyes when he speaks. He thinks about questions before he answers, even if he knows most people won’t like the answer. It’s a talent that made him one of the most quotable athletes in sports.
Iverson was at the Barclays Center to promote the release of the Reebok Q96, the upgraded version his first iconic shoe, the Question. The four-time NBA scoring champion and 2001 MVP barely saw the game but sat on a couch and patiently answered an endless string of questions, about his new sneakers, the NBA’s best players, and one of the most memorable moments of any NBA Finals, when he drilled a fadeaway jumper over the Lakers’ Tyronn Lue, then deliberately stepped over Lue, who had fallen at his feet.
“I don’t,” Iverson said when asked if he ever reminds Lue of that moment now that their careers are over. “We don’t talk about that when I do see him. But I love him. I never thought that somebody I would be in verbal wars with, physical wars with, in a game and had a certain dislike for during competition, that I could feel like I feel about him. But I love him. Like, he’s my man. Me and him are cool as hell with each other.”
Iverson said he respected the fact that Lue had looked up to him growing up but never backed down once they met on the court.
Here are a few highlights from Iverson’s interview session:
About the release of the Q96 model after the Question: “What do I think about it? It makes me feel old. God damn it, I’m 38 years old with a retro. It makes me feel old. That’s it. That’s the only thing I think about it.”
About whether Reebok took his suggestions to make more women-friendly colors: “They don’t listen to me. Women all the time say, ‘AI, why don’t they have these in pink?’ I don’t know.”
On Philadelphia fans: “You’ve got to understand them. You’ve got to know them to understand them, and I feel like they get that [bad] rap because they might show [passion] the wrong way at times. But just the passion they have for the game, they love it so much. They love their team so much. They love blue-collar guys. They love guys who go out there and give it everything they’ve got night in and night out. And one thing about Philly fans is they can detect it when you’re not doing it.