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Commentary: Philadelphia lost a great writer, and a great guy, in Phil Jasner

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 12:38 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, the sports journalism world lost one of its best-ever beat writers, a guy who bled ink and did right for his readers.

Phil Jasner, a lifelong Philadelphian who started covering the 76ers for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1981, passed at the age of 68 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Early last month, as his days were winding down, Jasner e-mailed me with a request, asking if there was "any chance" I "could ask Mehmet Okur about what type of impact he thinks Allen Iverson might have on basketball in Turkey?"

Jazz public relations man Jonathan Rinehart passed along the same request, as he'd been contacted as well.

Jasner was dying, but he also was working on a good piece, and he didn't want to leave any stone unturned.

We later spoke by phone, and Jasner explained he was trying to track down anyone and everyone who could offer meaningful insight. A couple comments from the one of the NBA's few players who happens to actually hail from Turkey would help make the story complete, and the big Jazz center was happy to oblige.

"Iverson faces whole new ballgame playing in Turkey" was posted Nov. 9 on the Daily News' website.

Okur is quoted as saying Iverson's presence in his homeland is "good for Turkish basketball," and that he thinks the fans in his home country will respect the ex-Sixers star "on the floor, off the floor, and treat him like a superstar."

The Jazz's affable Turk also added some cultural perspective to Jasner's takeout, as a long story is known in newspaper circles.

"He (Iverson) is going to find whatever food he wants — we've got Wendy's, Friday's, McDonald's, Burger King, whatever he wants," Okur said. "I think he's going to feel like I felt when I first got (to the United States) — different cultures on the floor, off the floor.

"But he's going to adjust, I believe, because the people are going to respect him and help him out, so I think he's going to be good, fit in well."

On Friday, from Turkey, someone typed out a Twitter message. Rinehart forwarded it to me, just after the Jazz lost to the Dallas Mavericks.

"I am deeply saddened by news of the passing of Phil Jasner," Iverson wrote. "The world has truly lost a great man who will surely be missed."

Snagging a few quotes from Okur was one of the few favors I ever did for that "great man."

One other was providing a restaurant recommendation when Jasner requested one.

The 76ers were on a road trip that included an early January visit to Utah back in 2008, and it happened that he'd be in Salt Lake City for New Year's Eve. He wanted a really nice meal at a nice place, so I made a few suggestions. Not Wendy's, or Friday's, or McDonald's, or Burger King. But one was Market Street Grill in downtown Salt Lake, and Jasner wound up there.

He loved his dinner that night, and afterward — even being from Philly, a city full of awesome eateries — he thanked me time and again for the recommend.

Almost three years later, Jasner returned the favor. But it wasn't a restaurant suggestion.

Instead, he had learned how I'm being separated from the Jazz beat I've loved, and dedicated my life to, for the last decade-plus — terminated, effective Dec. 31, as part of mass Deseret News layoffs.

His e-mail arrived Nov. 9, the same day the Iverson-in-Turkey story ran.

"Hey man," Jasner wrote at the end of a note thanking me for the quotes, "use me as a reference."

Phil, I will. R.I.P.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company