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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 greats.

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

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

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Iverson 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 destined for the Hall of Fame.

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 tipoff.

Iverson’s return 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, have lost 13 straight after Washington won122-103 behind the 40 points of Trevor Ariza, who was 7 for 7 from three-point range during his 29-point first half.

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

“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.


• Dallas owner Mark Cuban thinks the next Kevin Durant would be better off in the NBA Development League rather than one season at the college of his choice. Cuban said there’s no reason for a player to attend college as a freshman “because he’s not going to class, he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball.”

• Oklahoma City signed veteran forward Caron Butler, who agreed to a contract buyout with the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

• Miami’s LeBron James dispensed with his menacing black mask at the NBA’s request and switched to a clear protective cover in the Heat’s 112-98 win over Orlando in which James scored 20.

Danny Granger was all set to make his debut with the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night before coach Doc Rivers accidentally left his new acquisition’s name off his list of active players.

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