Allen Iverson and Ed Stefanski 12/04/2009 press conference transcript
Welcome everyone. Thank you for coming out. Obviously, I do not have to introduce this young man next to me, but I wanted to go over a few things that I had stated. Then, we will have Allen say a few words and open up to questions. When Lou Williams got hurt, and he was going to be out for a substantial amount of time, we looked at free agents on the board. We looked at free agents to consider. It was by far an easy decision to take who the best basketball player was on that board. Obviously, it was Allen. But, Allen Iverson is not the normal free agent which I totally understand. We met in Dallas. Allen, his group, Tony Dileo, Aaron McKie, Coach Jordan, and I had an excellent two hour meeting. Allen, the organization, and I came to an understanding of what we expect out of him and what his commitment will be to the team. The one thing I will say over and over is the theme from Allenís standpoint was, ďI want to come back to Philadelphia. I love Philadelphia. Itís my home. I love the fans here.Ē He made that very, very clear to me. A few other things that we got out quickly, Coach Jordan, nor I, nor did anyone else guarantee that Allen would start here. We did not guarantee him ďXĒ number of minutes. I am not bringing Allen back here as a player to add depth to our team. I am bringing Allen Iverson back here to help us on the court to win basketball games. Let me have Allen say a few words.
First of all, I think that it is a blessing that I am back here. I think that it is only right. Once I announced my retirement, I felt like the basketball part of my life was over. I always thought that once that day came that I would be sad, but once I did I was happy. I felt like I could give my wife and kids something that I hadnít been able to give them because of the NBA lifestyle. I was done. I got the call from my agent that said that I might be able to come back home. This was an opportunity that I couldnít turn down. My wife was all for it, and my kids were as well. Like I said, it was a great day for me because I have fans all over the world, and I appreciate my fans in Denver, Memphis, and Detroit. But, the relationship I have with these Philadelphia fans is like no other, I think, in sports. I have a love for them, and they love me and itís evident. When I had the opportunity to come back here, it was something that I couldnít turn down. Iím just happy.
Where do you think the emotions come from in you? Has it been just a lot that has gone on in the past year?
Iíd be lying if I said it didnít bother me because from the mistakes I made in my life, I created a picture of me that is not me. I did a lot of things when I was young that I am not proud of, but I think that it has helped me become the man that I am now. The last couple years have been hell because all I want to do is play basketball and help the guys that I play with.
Do you want to be a different player today given where your age is?
I was born to be a basketball player, and the only thing that I can do and that I am better at being is a father and a husband. Other than that, that is what I do. If I couldnít play basketball at the level that I am accustomed to, I would not have made this decision. I did not want to come back and embarrass myself. I know I can play, and I am going to prove it.
Allen, things did not end here how you and the Sixers would have wanted. How much different of a person are you now then you were three years ago when you left?
That was three years ago. I am still human. A lot of times people look at us like we arenít human. But, I am human. I guarantee you that the time I am here, regardless of how long, that I will make a mistake again. I will make a mistake like everyone else in this room. It is going to happen. Iím not saying that I am some new found angel or something, or that I am not human. I am older, and I want something better for my life.
Ed, Allen obviously feels pretty strongly about the fans here. This team has had a hard time connecting with the fans, how much is this change about giving the fans something to be excited about?
Well, to me this is a basketball decision. Allen obviously feels he has something left. We have no doubt that he has something left, and we did our homework and talked to people. We watched. Allen can still play the game of basketball. One thing I want to say to the fans is that Allen hasnít played for close to a month, and some may worry that he would get heavy and fat like someone else, but he has been working out for the last day or so. We talked two days, and we are going to get a few workouts in him, and we will get a practice in for him on Sunday. And, hopefully he puts in an appearance on Monday night when we play Charlotte here. But, it is going to progress and take him time, and I want everyone to know that. Number two, we were looking at it as a basketball decision, but the by product is that we get more attendance. This guy brings more excitement to the building. Thatís great, but to consistently have that going forward, you have to win basketball games, and we are not under any other illusion in that.
Allen, when you think about Monday night in light of you relationship with the fans, how much you love them and how much they love you, what do you envision for Monday night when you step onto that court and the ovation erupts to an unbelievable level?
I just hope it doesnít end up like it is now. It would be hard for me to play basketball feeling how I feel right now, so hopefully I donít get too emotional.
On whether this is a humbling experience because there was not much interest when he became a free agent:
It absolutely was. Like I said, Iíve done a lot of things as far as bringing it on myself like the mistakes and the decisions that Iíve made throughout my career. That bad rap followed me and it ended up hurting me. For the first time in my life I didnít want to play the game because of everything else besides basketball; everything that was said about me, the things that I heard. I didnít watch TV, I didnít read the papers, but you still hear it. Just my everyday life, leaving out of my house and thatís the only thing people say to me. Either ĎDonít retireí or ĎCongratulations on a great careerí. I was just tired of hearing that and it frustrated me. I woke up everyday frustrated instead of being happy. Iím around my wife and kids, soon as God opened my eyes, Iím waking up frustrated all the time because of not knowing and because of them not knowing. I think Iíve been in the situation a couple times so I know the process. Just my kids not knowing whatís going on with me and my wife not knowing where our life was headed. It was a frustrating time so rather than go through that everyday and do that to myself and my family, I chose to leave the game alone. Like I said, I was actually happy that I didnít have to put up with it or hear it anymore. This situation right here was, like I said, I couldnít turn it down. I know how tough it is with you guys. I know how hard it is as far as media and Philadelphia, but coming back home - all I could think about was the people that made me who I am. These people in Philadelphia made me a household name. I just grew a relationship with the fans here like no other player and fan base. It was a no-brainer.
On what he says to the younger players in the NBA who think they can compete with him on the court:
I love that part of it. Thatís what competition is all about. Thatís the way I felt when I was young towards all the other guys that I played against. I welcome that. Thatís what you play the game for. Thatís all about competing and I love that. I love the fact that everyone is going to come at me, but Iím going to come right back.
On whether he reflected on why other NBA teams were not pursuing him after he left Memphis:
Itís just a bad rap. Once guys in that front office start calling about a player and you made the mistakes that Iíve made, you can see why guys were laying off of me. I never thought it had anything to do with basketball issues, it was always stuff off the court. Just like how Ed [Stefanski] pulled out a notepad and he said ĎWell, I have some issuesí and he laid them all out and [he said] ĎWe need to discuss these thingsí. I said ĎThatís the biggest notebook you have as far as issues with me?í You need something the size of a phonebook or something with all the issues and all the things that people say about me. I understood why teams werenít trying to have me. It had everything to do with baggage.
Leon Rose is [Allenís] agent who everyone knows. Everyone says no one else I wouldnít use no one else, I think you should ask Leon Rose more of that kind of thing. Also as we know, as the season progresses with possible injuries like we just had and people getting closer at the end of the season for a playoff run, things change.
On what he was expecting on other teams that didnít happen:
Everything you said is totally true. You never know how much something means to you until itís gone. That was my situation in high school when I left my high school coach, it was just like that in college when I left coach [Thompson] and it was just like that when Larry Brown wasnít my coach anymore. Me being as confident as I am in my basketball ability, yeah I thought all of those situations were going to work. I wouldnít have gone and I wouldnít have done it if I didnít think that it was going to work. Thatís just the confidence that I have in myself. I think that it was something that God made happen. I donít take all the bad from the stops that I made. I think in those spots I got better as a person and there are some positive things. I think I got better as a player. I had the confidence in myself that things would work out and I ran into some bad situations.
On whether he thought that somewhere down the road he would end up back here:
I always dreamed about it. I dreamed about it plenty of times, but I didnít know. I had no idea. Itís a tough issue for me. Like I was telling Ed [Stefanski], I donít watch the Sixers play. I watch other NBA teams, but I canít watch the Sixers. Ever since I left, I was never able to. Not because it was business or anything like that, itís just a feeling that I get. I gave everything that I had here for ten years. It was always tough to watch them, so I didnít.
On whether he is willing to come off the bench if that is his role:
The situation here is so great for me and itís such a blessing. When we had that meeting and when I left that meeting, I felt good about the meeting that we had and everything coach [Jordan] said. All I told them was just give me an assignment. Give me an assignment and weíll win basketball games and Iíll help you win basketball games. That situation is so frustrating to me because I never had to do it my whole life. I never had to do it, even from grade school when I first started playing. It was tough on me. It was something that I wasnít accustomed to and I didnít know how to deal with it. Obviously, I didnít deal with it the right way, but it was just, honestly, shocking to me. It was just something that I had to deal with just like that and I just couldnít handle it.
On whether this move will help the team build more of an identity:
Lou [Williams] was playing excellent basketball before he got hurt there. With [Marreese] Speightís going down and Lou going down, we lost a lot of fire power and we lost two of our top players. Speights is only in his second year, but he was basically having a career year early in his campaign. Allen will come in and definitely help us but I also think about Allen and he can talk about this is who he is, to me, Iíve been using the word Ďlightning rodí with people. I donít know Allen, but he is a lightning rod with a lot of people. I do know one thing, Iíve been watching Allen play. He leaves every ounce of sweat and guts and passion, warrior-type player on the court when heís on that court. No one can question that at all, ever. If he can do that, and Iím not saying at the level of where he was when he was here the first time, but if he can play that same way for our young kids to see it, thatís huge. Thatís gigantic for our young kids to see what you have to do on the court. I also talked to him about if he would help me and help the organization talk to these guys about the game. Even when heís out of the game I said I donít want to see the towel on top of your head not talking to anybody. I want you to put your arm around Jrue Holiday and tell him what he did or what he didnít and when heís coming out of the game, try to talk to him about that. Thatís where he has to help us also.
I think that a lot of my experiences and just from conversation with those guys, especially young guys, would help a lot. And as far as just preparing them in a way that they can be successful in the league. For one example, just regardless of what team youíre playing, what player youíre playing against, on that given night, you approach it the same way regardless if itís a household name or somebody you donít know who they are. Just putting that in their head to where they compete the same way every night regardless of lile I said, what team or what player theyíre playing against and that way I think that it will help them be consistent in their career. And just like Aaron McKie and Eric Snow did for me, just be that big brother type of player on the court and in the locker room. I think when it comes to that, I have a lot to offer them.
You said before you would go in with whatever it takes to win but then we get complaints you donít want to get off the bench, at press conferences youíve made mistakes and youíve learned from these mistakes. And why do you feel itís hard just to show up and play basketball and to go home and not have all of this other stuff?
Itís not hard for me. Itís not hard for me. Thatís what I did. I always gave everything that I have on the basketball court. And like I said, I made mistakes in my life - just like you and me.
Heís talking about the irony of the truth in Denver coming up on the schedule. Did you set this up for the fan base of Philadelphia?
Iím not that smart, and if I was that good, Iíd be doing movies out in LA. I could never come up with that.
Allen, coming back to a team that is totally different from when you left, how do you see yourself fitting in the new Philadelphia 76ers outfit?
Iím a basketball player. Like I said, I have my assignment from my coach and from what he told me, he wants me to be aggressive, have that confidence that Iíve always had and to help win basketball games. Itís totally different in this situation because you look at my career here, I was always called on to score every night. There are guys on this team that can get in done on given nights. Iím not saying Iíll come here and I wonít want to shoot the ball or want to score. Itís about winning basketball games. Some nights I wonít be the guy taking all the shots like I used to do. I wonít be the guy thatís scoring a lot of the points. But some nights, I will. And all it is winning basketball. I donít have the ego where every day I walk out of the house and Iím like ďhey everybody look at me, Iím the man.Ē Thatís the thing that hurt me out of all the things that Iíve been hearing out of these situations is that I canít be on a team if Iím not ďthe manĒ. I donít have an ego like that and I donít have to go through my resume and you followed my career, I guess you know the accomplishments that Iíve had in my career. So things like that, Iíve done it already. And I just want to be in a situation where I can play basketball and be happy, and thatís it.
Being back in Philadelphia, in essence I feel like youíve never left because as you talk, itís clear that itís been in your heart, the fans never let you go, talk about your influence on this city and being away and coming back now that youíve returned. Just your feelings and your influence here with the fans and the city of Philadelphia.
People here watched me grow as a basketball player. They came in and cheered for me night in and night out. They gave me everything they had. Thatís why it was easy for me to give them everything that I got. And I donít know how the relationship, or how they reacted the way they did, or how they felt about me the way they did or they do. I think all that was a blessing. The fans here, they watched me be me. And like I said, they let me grow as a person. They watched me go through my ups and downs and I think this is one of the realest places in the world. The passion about their sports and I gave them everything that I had and I guess thatís why they responded to me the way they did.
One of the things that Larry Brown was able to do in helping you be on a successful team was build the team around you. When youíre 34 years old and youíre going into a new situation, thereís not much time to have the team built around you. So youíre going to be becoming part of a team thatís already in existence. How much are the different scenarios set for you and how much is that part of the adjustment?
34, is that old? When I hear that, Iím thinking that when I get up from this table, Iím going to have to walk out of here with a cane. And I donít want to prove anybody wrong in this situation. Iím not in it for that. But if I can help my team win basketball games the way that coach wants me to help, then I will be satisfied. Iíve been gone from here for a while. And Iíve watched Andre get better and Iíve seen things that Thaddeus does on the court. Elton Brand was always a great basketball player. I had a part in helping Sam develop into a good basketball player. I want to get in and fit in. I want to fit in and be a part of any success that we have. I just want to be one of the guys. Thatís it. I donít need a whole bunch of praise or anything like that. I donít need to have a lot of accolades or anything like that; I just want to play basketball. I just love to play basketball.
At this point in the season, about 5 months ago, as you enter into this, are you viewing about five months in Philadelphia or is it your hope or perhaps your expectations that its 5 months plus one, two, five years?
I want to be here and not really so much for everything being just me. I want this situation to work for my wife and kids. I cannot keep moving my family all over the world. It's extremely hard on my two older kids just having to go from school to school. And this is where my love is at and I want to be here. I always felt that it was strange having another uniform on. I never felt comfortable with another uniform on. And thatís just it. I donít want to keep doing this to my family. Iíll do everything in my power for us. What I have to do and what they want from me for our team to be successful, for them to even have a chance to even think about extending me. So I think that all that will be handled by me doing my part and doing what I have to do. And I know that I can get it done.
The way you ended, obviously, you wanted to end a few years ago or in the spring time. You people get a second chance to rewrite amendments. You said you dreamt about coming back so tell me how you would see this when it ends, what would be perfect for you?
Like I said, it was a blessing. It was really a blessing. I only can see some positives in this situation. I want to retire here. I wanted it that way when I was young when all that stuff was going on before I left. I think I made the right decisions. I think I acted a lot on anger. I wish that I didnít have to go through the last couple years in my career, but I think it helped me with these situations.
With the game on Saturday, was there ever any thought. I know he hasnít played in a while?
There was really no discussion to get him ready, to get some workouts in him, and especially to get a practice in Sunday and as I said earlier, Monday night, hopefully he feels good, he goes and plays, but again, it takes NBA minutes, NBA games. Itís a process to get back out there, to get his legs under him and be the player he wants to be.