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Remembering Phil Jasner, Renowned NBA Writer Who Covered 76ers for 30 Years

Dec 4, 2010 – 1:49 AM
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Chris Tomasson

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I believe it was at the 1986 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas. Anyhow, it was an event a quarter-century ago that had plenty of big-name guys on hand.

Fresh off the Northwestern campus, I was the media relations director for the Continental Basketball Association in 1985-86. I enjoyed meeting the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jack Ramsay, but who was I most thrilled to meet that night?

Phil Jasner.

Heck, I wanted to be an NBA beat writer. The CBA was based in the Philadelphia area, and Jasner covered the 76ers for the Philadelphia Daily News. So CBA commissioner Jim Drucker tracked down Jasner for an introduction, and it turned out we both lived in suburban Havertown.

Jasner had the unique ability to be loved and respected by so many he covered, yet he never wavered from being a hard-hitting reporter. I remember him being quite gracious. Years later, Jasner didn't remember our meeting but that was OK. I had become a regular NBA beat writer in the late 1990s, covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon Journal, and the fact that I could talk to and see Jasner regularly was good enough for me.

Jasner, who in 2005 won the Basketball Hall of Fame's prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award, was one of the greats in our business. He passed away from cancer Friday at the age of 68.

Jasner had the unique ability to be loved and respected by so many he covered, yet he never wavered from being a hard-hitting reporter. He dominated the 76ers beat for nearly 30 years, covering one team for more consecutive years than any other recent NBA writer.

It said it all Friday when Allen Iverson, who's hardly speaking to anybody in the media these days, sent from Turkey on Twitter his condolences. The legendary guard, who hadn't written anything on Twitter since a Nov. 16 message dealing with his arrival in Turkey, sent out two messages on Jasner.

In the first, Iverson wrote, "I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Phil Jasner. The world has truly lost a 'great man,' who will be surely missed.'' In the second, Iverson wrote, "My condolences go out tonight to his family.''

Jasner covered Iverson with the 76ers from 1996-2006. Then I covered Iverson for the Rocky Mountain News between 2006-08. I remember Iverson always had good things to say about Jasner, even though he often had gotten beat up by the Philadelphia media. I remember telling Iverson late in his NBA tenure that Jasner was having a health issue, and he was genuinely concerned.

Everybody who met Jasner remembers him as a great guy. I talked after Jasner's passing to Aaron Lopez, who used to work with me covering the Nuggets for the Rocky Mountain News and who now writes for the Nuggets' official web site.

"Phil was always great when I covered Nuggets games in Philly,'' Lopez said. "I never rented a car there because the train went straight downtown to the sports complex. After one game, Phil asked me how I was getting back to the hotel. When I told him I was taking the train, he insisted on giving me a ride. For all I know, he saved my life. That's just how he was, always looking out for people.''

If you want to read more about Jasner, there's a fine story in the Philadelphia Daily News by Rich Hofmann. The story quotes his son, Andy Jasner, talking about his father.

Andy Jasner is a fine sports writer in his own right, one who I got to know when we both were covering Charlotte Hornets games in the early 1990s for newspapers in the Carolinas.

Interestingly, what job did Andy Jasner eventually have after that?

Media relations director for the CBA. The job I had when I first met Jasner, a man so many of us will miss.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter@christomasson
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