Dec 042010
 
Phil Jasner

Phil Jasner

December 4 Philadelphia Daily News:

PHILADELPHIA basketball is less a sport than it is a community: past and present, college and pro, the people and their stories woven together. Phil Jasner, the premier chronicler of that community, as well as one of its most cherished members, died last night at age 68.

A Daily News staff reporter since 1972 and the paper’s 76ers beat writer since 1981, Jasner distinguished himself by his generosity and his even-handedness and his persistence most of all. He was an old-fashioned reporter who grew to be the most important basketball voice in a basketball city, known for both his fairness and his decency.

“I could tell at the age of 5,” said his son, Andy. “He took me to a game with him and people started coming up to him to talk – security guards, everyone. It would go on for years like that, at the old Spectrum, whether it was an usher or Joe Fan in the third row. He was approachable that way. People liked him, and he treated everyone the same. He had time for everybody.”

The 12th man on the bench got the same attention to detail and the same courtesy from Phil as the star of the team. It is one of the lessons Andy, also a sports writer, learned from his father. The two of them covered an NBA All-Star Game together for the first time in 1992 in Orlando.

“He was like a kid in a candy store that weekend,” Andy said. “He never lost his enthusiasm for the work. I’m convinced he would have done it forever. He loved it.

“So many people in the business are so cynical. ‘Sports writer’ and ‘cynical’ go hand-in-hand sometimes, but he never was. In fact, he hated that. It made him crazy when people were like that.”

His personal life was both painful and joyous. He supported his wife Susie, who died in 2006, through a decades-long battle with lupus. But late in his life, before his cancer diagnosis, he met Marcia Levinson, whom he grew to love and described as his life partner. Throughout, though, there was Andy and later, Andy’s family: wife Taryn and granddaughters Jordana and Shira.

“He loved his girls,” Andy said. “He adored them. It was who he was. Those two phone calls I was able to make to him, when they were born, were the happiest days of his life.

“His life was hard in many ways. My mom went through hell. But he felt like that was going to be one side of his life, and he was going to take care of it, and then there would be the work side of his life. He really had a tough personal life for many years, but the work became a release for him.”

Among those paying tribute was Sixers coach Doug Collins, whose team was in Atlanta to play the Hawks.

“Needless to say, it’s a very sad night,” Collins said. “Phil Jasner was the ultimate professional. Just the ultimate respect that was shown to this man the last days of his life. Writers from New York stopped to see him, people from all across the country have called him, reached out to him.

“Phil was all about the truth.

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