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:

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

ap-jose-fernandez-phillies.jpg
The Associated Press

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of clich√© to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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Phillies suffer worse shutout loss in modern era to Mets

Phillies suffer worse shutout loss in modern era to Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Jake Thompson faced the issues that a 22-year old starter in his 10th career appearance usually does Sunday against the Mets.
 
Thompson struggled with his command at times, walking the bases loaded in the fourth inning before escaping his self-induced jam with a flyout. He hit a batter and surrendered a home run to Curtis Granderson on a pitch that caught too much of the plate.
 
The righty departed after four innings in what manager Pete Mackanin declared postgame to be Thompson’s last start of the season.
 
But perhaps neither he nor the rest of the Phillies expected the extent to which his struggles would ripple through the bullpen. The Phillies’ relievers surrendered 14 runs, hit three batters and gave up a grand slam in a 17-0 loss, the franchise's worst shutout defeat in the modern era (see Instant Replay).
 
“Obviously the bullpen has scuffled for a while now,” Mackanin said. “That shows you how much the game is about pitching. It keeps you in games, gives you an opportunity to win like it did the first couple of months of the season for us. Now, the last month, it’s not keeping us in games or it’s losing games.”
 
The Phillies’ relievers were charged with 28 runs over the course of their four-game swing in New York. Their collective 4.69 ERA is the fourth-worst in the National League.
 
Sunday, Phil Klein — who hadn’t pitched since he was recalled from Lehigh Valley on Sept. 10 — and little-used Colton Murray and Patrick Schuster — who had combined for three appearances in the past two weeks — took the brunt of the damage.
 
Klein walked two batters, surrendered two singles and hit Mets catcher Rene Rivera in the left hand to force in a run. He left the bases loaded for Murray, who allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. Murray was pulled in the seventh having gotten into a bases-loaded jam of his own. His replacement, Frank Herrmann, allowed all three runs to score on a walk and a grand slam by Asdrubal Cabrera.
 
Schuster was assigned five runs in the eighth after he was tagged for three hits, walked a batter and hit Gavin Cecchini.
 
Which pitchers — if any — out of the Phillies’ cadre of middle relivers will return next year is an open question and Mackanin made it clear that he will use the remaining six games in the season to evaluate his team’s arms.
 
“It’s another audition.” Mackanin said. “We want to see who might fit in.”
 
Thompson can clearly stake a claim to his role in the Phillies’ rebuilding effort. Despite the hiccup in his final outing, he has come a long way in just two months from being the pitcher that surrendered six runs to the light-hitting Padres in his Aug. 6 debut.

His changeup — a pitch that hitters had connected on for six home runs this year, according to data from Fangraphs — was particularly lively Sunday. Cabrera chased it out of the zone in the first inning for Thompson’s only strikeout.
 
“I think the changeup’s probably been my best pitch up here,” Thompson said. “I’ve given up a lot of homers on it, too. That just shows whenever you don’t execute it, it’s a tough pitch to throw in the zone. As far as the swing-and-misses that I was getting with it, it’s kind of night and day.
 
“At this point last year I pretty much had no changeup, so that’s a big thing for me.”
 
Only 23 on Opening Day next year, Thompson has plenty of room to improve.
 
The Phillies’ bullpen does, too.

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