Allen Iverson and Ed Stefanski 12/04/2009 press conference transcript

Ed Stefanski:
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 Allen’s standpoint was, “I want to come back to Philadelphia. I love Philadelphia. It’s my home. I love the fans here.” 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 “X” 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.

Allen Iverson:
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 hadn’t 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 couldn’t 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 it’s evident. When I had the opportunity to come back here, it was something that I couldn’t turn down. I’m 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?
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 aren’t 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. I’m 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 Stefanski:

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 hasn’t 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. That’s 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 Iverson:

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 doesn’t end up like it is now. It would be hard for me to play basketball feeling how I feel right now, so hopefully I don’t 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, I’ve done a lot of things as far as bringing it on myself like the mistakes and the decisions that I’ve made throughout my career. That bad rap followed me and it ended up hurting me. For the first time in my life I didn’t want to play the game because of everything else besides basketball; everything that was said about me, the things that I heard. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t read the papers, but you still hear it. Just my everyday life, leaving out of my house and that’s the only thing people say to me. Either ‘Don’t retire’ or ‘Congratulations on a great career’. I was just tired of hearing that and it frustrated me. I woke up everyday frustrated instead of being happy. I’m around my wife and kids, soon as God opened my eyes, I’m waking up frustrated all the time because of not knowing and because of them not knowing. I think I’ve been in the situation a couple times so I know the process. Just my kids not knowing what’s 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 didn’t have to put up with it or hear it anymore. This situation right here was, like I said, I couldn’t 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. That’s what competition is all about. That’s the way I felt when I was young towards all the other guys that I played against. I welcome that. That’s what you play the game for. That’s all about competing and I love that. I love the fact that everyone is going to come at me, but I’m going to come right back.

On whether he reflected on why other NBA teams were not pursuing him after he left Memphis:
It’s just a bad rap. Once guys in that front office start calling about a player and you made the mistakes that I’ve 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 ‘Well, I have some issues’ and he laid them all out and [he said] ‘We need to discuss these things’. I said ‘That’s the biggest notebook you have as far as issues with me?’ 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 weren’t trying to have me. It had everything to do with baggage.

Ed Stefanski:
Leon Rose is [Allen’s] agent who everyone knows. Everyone says no one else I wouldn’t 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.

Allen Iverson

On what he was expecting on other teams that didn’t happen:
Everything you said is totally true. You never know how much something means to you until it’s 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 wasn’t 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 wouldn’t have gone and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think that it was going to work. That’s just the confidence that I have in myself. I think that it was something that God made happen. I don’t 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 didn’t know. I had no idea. It’s a tough issue for me. Like I was telling Ed [Stefanski], I don’t watch the Sixers play. I watch other NBA teams, but I can’t watch the Sixers. Ever since I left, I was never able to. Not because it was business or anything like that, it’s 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 didn’t.

On whether he is willing to come off the bench if that is his role:
The situation here is so great for me and it’s 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 we’ll win basketball games and I’ll 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 wasn’t accustomed to and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Obviously, I didn’t 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 couldn’t handle it.

Ed Stefanski:

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] Speight’s 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, I’ve been using the word ‘lightning rod’ with people. I don’t know Allen, but he is a lightning rod with a lot of people. I do know one thing, I’ve been watching Allen play. He leaves every ounce of sweat and guts and passion, warrior-type player on the court when he’s on that court. No one can question that at all, ever. If he can do that, and I’m 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, that’s huge. That’s 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 he’s out of the game I said I don’t 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 didn’t and when he’s coming out of the game, try to talk to him about that. That’s where he has to help us also.

Allen Iverson:
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 you’re playing, what player you’re playing against, on that given night, you approach it the same way regardless if it’s a household name or somebody you don’t 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 they’re 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 don’t want to get off the bench, at press conferences you’ve made mistakes and you’ve learned from these mistakes. And why do you feel it’s hard just to show up and play basketball and to go home and not have all of this other stuff?
It’s not hard for me. It’s not hard for me. That’s 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.

Ed Stefanski:

He’s 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?
I’m not that smart, and if I was that good, I’d be doing movies out in LA. I could never come up with that.

Allen Iverson:

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?
I’m 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 I’ve always had and to help win basketball games. It’s 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. I’m not saying I’ll come here and I won’t want to shoot the ball or want to score. It’s about winning basketball games. Some nights I won’t be the guy taking all the shots like I used to do. I won’t be the guy that’s scoring a lot of the points. But some nights, I will. And all it is winning basketball. I don’t have the ego where every day I walk out of the house and I’m like “hey everybody look at me, I’m the man.” That’s the thing that hurt me out of all the things that I’ve been hearing out of these situations is that I can’t be on a team if I’m not “the man”. I don’t have an ego like that and I don’t have to go through my resume and you followed my career, I guess you know the accomplishments that I’ve had in my career. So things like that, I’ve done it already. And I just want to be in a situation where I can play basketball and be happy, and that’s it.

Being back in Philadelphia, in essence I feel like you’ve never left because as you talk, it’s clear that it’s 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 you’ve 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. That’s why it was easy for me to give them everything that I got. And I don’t 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 that’s 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 you’re 34 years old and you’re going into a new situation, there’s not much time to have the team built around you. So you’re going to be becoming part of a team that’s 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, I’m thinking that when I get up from this table, I’m going to have to walk out of here with a cane. And I don’t want to prove anybody wrong in this situation. I’m 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. I’ve been gone from here for a while. And I’ve watched Andre get better and I’ve 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. That’s it. I don’t need a whole bunch of praise or anything like that. I don’t 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 that’s just it. I don’t want to keep doing this to my family. I’ll 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 didn’t have to go through the last couple years in my career, but I think it helped me with these situations.

Ed Stefanski:

With the game on Saturday, was there ever any thought. I know he hasn’t 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. It’s a process to get back out there, to get his legs under him and be the player he wants to be.