The day before he would be enshrined with nine others in the Class of 2016, Iverson as if nothing had changed at 41 years old and 6 ½ years removed from his last NBA game, just as unvarnished as his personality and play as flammable 76ers scoring guard that put him on the path to induction. It was like an A.I. refresher course. He missed an informal ceremony with other inductees or family members because of what Hall officials said was a travel problem, showed up for the end of the media session, was asked right away about the absence, cited a family issue, and then…. “That’s the first thing you want to know about things? God, man. Why can’t it just be great, man? Why can’t it be a monumental moment?”
It was only a light-hearted, stress-free event for everyone else, including fellow NBA headliners Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming. Not so for Iverson. A guest — not a reporter — asked him about the importance of teammates in his career, and it was over. A 15-second pause. The answer strangled in his throat. The words, when they did emerge, coming out wobbly and halting as he tried to keep his composure. “That’s the only thing that got me here,” Iverson said. “That’s the only thing that got me here is my teammates. My teammates and my coaches.
Iverson was everywhere, late to the event but, really, as if he had never left the NBA. He was pure A.I. “I can’t tell you how many, because I don’t know,” Iverson said when asked about what emotions he expects Friday night when he officially becomes historical. “But how many nights I cried from criticism and people critiquing everything about me and my life and the choices that I made and the mistakes that I made. To be able to say after all of that, still to be recognized as one of the best ever to play the game was, and it still is, just a great moment for me, my family, my friends, my teammates, my coaches. I just think it’s the best. And especially my fans. You know me. The real true ones. The ones that never gave up and never felt that I wasn’t who in my heart I know I am.”