Jasner: Reflecting on a human being, not a superstar athlete

Allen Iverson, Sixers, retirement
Allen Iverson, shown here with his college coach John Thompson, retired from the NBA.

 

Iverson’s maturity reaching new depths

 

My oldest daughter Jordana came home from school one day last week and had a huge smile on her face.

Nothing new for my 7-year-old, the oldest of my three beautiful daughters.

This time, she had something special to tell me. I could tell.

“Daddy,” she said, “I like being famous.”

“What do you mean?,” I asked her.

“One of my teachers said she loved the Sixers and watching Pop Pop on TV,” she responded. “I think it’s cool being famous.”

My father, Phil Jasner, covered the Sixers for more than 30 years, primarily for the Philadelphia Daily News. In the early days, Dad covered Julius Erving. It continued with Charles Barkley. Beginning in 1996, it was about chronicling Allen Iverson and the soon-to-be resurgent Sixers.

Fast forward to now. On Wednesday afternoon, Iverson formally announced his retirement from the NBA at the Wells Fargo Center, just hours before the Sixers were set to open the regular season against the Miami Heat.

Iverson talked about a variety of topics, including Dad.

“I wish Phil Jasner could be here today, especially on a day like this,” Iverson said. “He was very inspirational in my career and he meant a lot to me.”

In the early days, Iverson and Dad didn’t always get along. When you’re a beat writer covering a team every single day, there are bound to be disagreements. The biggest argument came on May 10, 2002, during Iverson’s famous practice rant.

Here’s an excerpt …

Iverson: “I don’t know Phil. I don’t know you as a basketball player. I know you as a columnist, but I have never heard of you as a player, though.

Dad: “Why is that an issue?”

Iverson: “Why is that an issue? Because we’re talking about basketball.”

Dad: “Let me ask my question.”

Iverson: “Go ahead, Phillip.”

Dad: “Supposed you shot 44 percent …”

Iverson: “I don’t know about that. That is in God’s hands. I do not know if that will help me or not. That’s God. God does that, It ain’t up to you to say if Allen Iverson does this then he’ll do that. That’s up to God. It ain’t up to anyone in here. That is up to God. He handles that.”

Dad took umbrage that Iverson challenged him about the line of questioning. As the years progressed, they continued to build a mutual relationship. They respected each other.

When Dad passed away on Dec. 3, 2010, Iverson was one of the first people to send a tweet out to the world. Iverson sent his condolences to myself and my entire family. It was a sign of a human being who had matured in so many ways.

Iverson wasn’t asked about Dad directly at Wednesday’s press conference. He chose to talk about Dad and how much he missed him. It was so touching. It was also very rare in today’s world.

Reporters and players don’t always get along. Sometimes they do. It’s rare when a player has this much love for a journalist.

Iverson has always been an emotional person. So was my dad. At times, they were just like family members — they battled with each other, bickered with each other. But each one respected the other’s profession.

Dad always said that Iverson was a whirling dervish and pound-for-pound, an incredible basketball player. LeBron James said the same thing the other day.

Iverson has talked about Dad being a giant in the world of sports journalism. He’s right.

As an only child, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to work in an insurance office.

For years, I was able to work side-by-side with my dad at numerous NBA All-Star Games and three NBA Finals. I was there with my wife, Taryn, in 2004, when Dad was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Back then, Iverson was in the prime of his career. My dad was still covering the Sixers. Not even a Hall-of-Fame induction would slow Dad down.

It’s surreal to think that nearly three years have gone by since Dad passed away. I think about him every time I walk into the arena. That will never go away.

To hear Iverson honor my dad at length made me first smile and then tear up. To have that kind of impact is amazing.

Thanks, Allen.

— Andy Jasner is a freelance reporter who covers the Sixers for Metro Philadelphia. Email him at: andy.jasner@yahoo.com



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