A.I. Officially Retires, Loves Aaron McKie, Regrets Nothing

A.I. Officially Retires, Loves Aaron McKie, Regrets Nothing

It may feel like he's done this a half-dozen teams already over the course of the last three years, since his final season in his second tour with the Sixers petered out unceremoniously, but today, he made it official: Allen Iverson is no longer a professional basketball player. AI announced his retirement today at the Wells Fargo Center, with his kids, mother, and various other Allen Iverson This Is Your Life figures by his side.

Iverson was his typical emotional self today at the ceremony, sounding on the verge of tears throughout and answering every question with a sincere thoughtfulness--you could actually see him thinking about his answers, rather than just spewing his pre-prepared cliches--which remains extremely rare of professional athletes. No huge revelations were had--no, Iverson hasn't accepted a role on Michael Jordan's assistant coaching staff in Charlotte, and no, he's not standing on call in case the Sixers need a backup point guard on a ten-day in March--but there were memorable A.I. moments:

  • Giving credit to his Holy Trinity of Coaches, Mike Bailey (high school), John Thompson (college) and Larry Brown (pros, obv), repeatedly mentioning them in succession as the three men who shaped him as a basketball player and made him the player he eventually was.
  • Expressing apathy towards his standing in the all-time ranks of sports columnists that have never played the game: "All I care about is what the guys that play think," sez Iverson
  • Boasting about the greatest reward of his playing days: "I got the best NBA stories. I won't never run out. Never."
  • Clarifying his emotional state during the infamous "Practice" speech: "If I coulda gone back, I would have never done the interview... [the media] had no idea that my best friend had just gotten killed. You never heard about how I thought I had been traded from the Sixers."
  • Responding curtly to Howard Eskin's self-ID before asking his question: "I know your name."
  • Responding to Howard Eskin's question about if he had any regrets: "Nope."
  • Responding to another question about if he kept himself in shape in the off-season waiting for teams to give him a call: "No."
  • Speaking on his perceived legacy in the realm of Philly sports: "There's Doc and there's A.I. And that's Philly basketball."
  • Explaining his post-playing plans: "Yeah, there'll be a lot of fishing."
  • Listing the teammates who meant the most to him in his career: "Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. He was my teammate...but it was on another level. It was more than just basketball with me and him. I made a million mistakes, but if it weren't for Aaron McKie, I'd have made two million of 'em."

The high point of the interview, apart from the genuinely touching McKie moment--which was the only time that Iverson actually broke into tears--was a comment from a fan in the audience. Iverson had just gotten through talking about his greatest moment as a Sixer, which he unsurprisingly deemed the feeling of being in the middle of the then-First Union Center after winning the East finals, feeling "like we had a chance to win the title." When he was through rhapsodizing, the audience member shouted out:

"Tyronn Lue, baby! Tyronn Lue!"

Thanks for the memories, AI. And RIP Tyronn Lue forever.

Here's A.I. on McKie:

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

A look at some of the reaction around the sports world as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday:

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Twitter
"Today is the first day on the road to Making America Great Again #Inauguration2017"

Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green on Twitter
"Hope these 4 years fly by ? #TimeToPray"

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street on Twitter
"Today we start a new chapter, let's work together, and remember only saying negative without an idea is creating divide, it does not help US"

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee on Twitter
"Inauguration Day.. Some folks happier than they've ever been.. some folks madder than they've ever been.. what a time to be alive"

Former USWNT soccer player Lauren Holiday , to her infant daughter, on Instagram
"I may not be the president, baby but I'll promise to be your Mom. I'll teach you that your brown skin is beautiful. I'll show you that being a girl and a woman is a privilege. How being incredibly powerful means serving those around you and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. I will tell you about Jesus and how he taught us to love unconditionally. We will have many talks about equality and I will always encourage generosity. One day if you ask me what you can be, I will smile and say absolutely anything. I'll tell you whatever it is you choose, be kind. I'll fight for you, I'll cheer for you and I'll love you along the way. But most of all, I'll make sure you're hopeful. So today, baby, I'll choose hope."

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on Twitter
"Appreciate you Mr. 44"

Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha on Twitter
"The only President my 2 daughters have known. Feels strange going from them to the new guy. Thanks for the class act Barack and Michelle !"

Former Texas and NFL receiver Jordan Shipley on Twitter
"Heard God's word in the inauguration speech. I care about our country being under God a lot more than I care about politics or parties."

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul on Twitter
"Thank You!!! #44"

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady when asked on Friday if he called Trump to congratulate him.
"Let's talk about football."

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games last season, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

Astutely, he did.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, he can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdomen, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.