A note on the occasion of Allen Iverson’s impending retirement

As reported yesterday afternoon by SLAM Magazine, Allen Iverson is planning to announce his retirement from the NBA “in the coming days.” Iverson, who played for Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit, and Memphis, has not played in the NBA since 2010, and he has not played anywhere professionally since 2011, when he was playing in Turkey.

Chronicling Iverson’s on-court greatness is best left to the many others who are far more qualified to do that. Instead, I’ll recall the most memorable off-court moment from The Answer’s career: his May 7, 2002 press conference. If you’re not tracking, direct your attention to this video. (Here’s the full transcript for the textually inclined.)

In a post-Chuck-Sheen-meltdown world in which web memes are very much a valuable currency, it’s easy to underestimate how severely that segment would break the internet today. In a society that is, by orders of magnitude, more plugged in today than it was in 2002, it’s difficult to appreciate the viralty of that moment. You basically had to have played in the NBA and been tasked with guarding Iverson to be the sort of person who, when asked in 2013, “when I say ‘Allen Iverson,’ what do you think of?”, would not blurt out, “practice!” By being that person, Gary Payton nevertheless revealed more about the origins of Iverson’s press conference moment than heretofore was known:

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