BOSTON -- With Allen Iverson declaring his intention to retire on the eve of Thanksgiving, Celtics forward Paul Pierce found something else to be thankful for this holiday: The opportunity to share the court with The Answer.
"I'm happy to have had the chance to play against one of the top 50 players to ever play the game," Pierce said Wednesday night after leading the Celtics past the 76ers franchise that Iverson played the majority of his career with. "If he does retire, we had some great battles against him in the Atlantic Division."
Pierce then relayed a story of how he hasn't often ventured out to watch opposing NBA teams very often, but did take in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals when the Lakers tangled with Iverson and the 76ers.
"He was one of my favorite players to watch when I wasn't playing," said Pierce. "If he does retire, there were a lot of great battles. I'll remember the series we played [against the 76ers in the opening round of the 2002 playoffs]. I guess if he retired, we're saying goodbye to a very special player."
But does Pierce truly believes this is it for Iverson?
"I think he still has the heart, man," said Pierce. "I think he has so much left in the tank, it's hard to believe."
Inside the Celtics' locker room, the news sent Ray Allen on a trip down memory lane. Iverson and Allen's careers have long been intertwined (Google their names and you'll find a popular YouTube video of a battle between the two during a Connecticut vs. Georgetown game in the Big East).
The duo came into the league together in an absolutely loaded 1996 draft class (Iverson the top pick; Allen the fifth). While reflecting on memorable battles, like the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, where the 76ers topped Allen's Bucks in seven games, Allen couldn't help but consider his own NBA mortality.
“It’s somewhat sad," said Allen. "He’s someone who’s been good for a long time in this league. He’s someone I competed with for a majority of my career. Not only do I think about him, but I think about my whole class and all the guys that I started with and fell off. Before you know it, suddenly it’s a generation past. It's like everybody's taking off and heading to greener pastures. And then they're looking back at me still standing here."
Of the top 10 players in that 2006 draft, only Allen, Marcus Camby (2nd), Lorenzen Wright (7th), and Erick Dampier (10th) remain active in the NBA this season. Of course, some of the top picks that year didn't come until the middle of the first round in Kobe Bryant (13), Peja Stojakovic (14th), and Steve Nash (15).
The Celtics took Antoine Walker sixth in that draft, one spot after Allen.
Asked if he thought Iverson had played his last basketball, Allen suggested The Answer might find those greener pastures overseas.
"It's hard because he had issues in Memphis," said Allen. "What are other teams thinking? It's hard to say. But overseas looks very attractive. If he still thinks he has basketball left in him, I'm sure he can make a good sum of money to go over and play basketball."