Sixers retire Allen Iverson's No. 3

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PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson cupped his hand to his left ear and asked to hear his favorite tune one more time.

With that command, 20,000 roaring Philadelphia 76ers fans gave AI the standing ovation he earned by stamping himself as one of the franchise's all-time greats.

Iverson, emotional as he thanked former teammates and friends, had his No. 3 retired at halftime of Saturday's game against Washington.

High above the Wells Fargo Center court, Iverson's banner slipped between Maurice Cheeks' No. 10 and Charles Barkley's No. 34.

"They all wanted me to talk about how much y'all loved me," Iverson said, "but trust me, the feeling was mutual."

Iverson officially retired in October after last playing in 2010. He won four scoring titles for the Sixers and was the 2001 MVP when he led them to the NBA Finals. He never won a championship, the lone omission in a career that is destined for the Hall of Fame.

The Sixers may as well have turned the arena into an AI museum. Four banners greeted fans at the main concourse entrance, and photos of him were plastered all around the arena. The merchandise stands sold Iverson jerseys for $130, and lower level tickets were going for as much for $1,280 on StubHub about an hour before the 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

It was StubHub's highest-priced 76ers home game this season, with the median ticket going for $109.

The fans loved him, and he blew them kisses after the No. 3 was raised to show how much he loved them back.

"I am Philly," Iverson said. "It's always going to be that way."

Those in Philly weren't the only ones who loved Iverson, Miami Heat star LeBron James was one of many NBA players past and present who tweeted their support.

Iverson contemporary Kobe Bryant also took to Twitter to share his thoughts.

John Wall, who had 17 points and 16 assists for the visiting Wizards, came out of the team's locker room to record the halftime celebration of one of his idols.

"He was my role model and I looked up to him," he said. "Being a small guard, that's where I took a lot of my game from. This city embraced him and let him be who he was as a person. He always gave his best effort.

"I always wanted to grow braids like Iverson. The only thing I didn't have was the tattoos."

Iverson's return to Philadelphia on Saturday injected a rare dose of excitement into a franchise playing some of the worst basketball in the league. The Sixers, in full-blown rebuilding mode, had lost 12 straight entering Saturday's game.

The losing didn't matter much Saturday, just the memories.

The Sixers wore special "Iverson Forever" patches on their jerseys and Iverson's 3 on their pregame warmup shirts.

"It's a great example of how this city responds to somebody that they clearly think the world of and brought such exciting times to the city of Philadelphia," Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

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