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AI’s Retirement Taught Me The Truth I Already Knew About Coaching. The Answer. Forever. March 2, 2014

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I wasn’t always an AI fan. I had to be convinced that his tough, seemingly selfish style of play was actually making his team better. Tougher. Worthy of being contended with. Captivating. And while I was a rookie in the research & development department of a big company, it was a 50-something, white PHD who made the argument for AI. For real. When I’m focused as an NBA fan, I watch the game away from the ball – and I enjoy that part of the game more, sometimes more than the on-the-ball stuff. After beefing with the PHD at the water cooler over why the Sixers weren’t more competitive, the PHD told me to watch the other players when AI was doing his thing. He said…

“Watch them. Watch how they react to what he’s doing. Watch how they move with confidence around the ball. It’s syncopated. Isn’t it? Tilt your head, and watch it again. George Lynch was a beast in the Carolinas. McKie was a monster at Temple. E Snow ran the show in Seattle. How are they all on the same page and those repeated acts of syncopation not be calculated? Right? Believe me now?  Of course you do. Now if it’s syncopated, then it’s extremely likely – that someone is orchestrating that.”

“Oh”, says the rookie.  🙂

I’m paraphrasing, of course. PHD’s don’t talk like that. But you get the point:  teamwork, talent, coaching. It’s planning & execution. Brilliant. Beautiful. You got me, doc.  So I started watching the Sixers differently. On a new tilt. And I learned how to love how they danced. The whole squad. It was a dance. I saw it. I wasn’t alone. There were others.

I didn’t always enjoy the Sixers’ game, but I always rooted for the Sixers. Never not. Since Doc. Please. Nothing to talk about. But after taking that advice, I came to have a bigger respect for and became a bigger fan of AI after accepting his style and role on the team.  I became a fan of AI because of the adversity that seemed to seek him. I didn’t wear cornrows(rocked n a baldie). I have no tattoos(luv a tattoo story though). I don’t have a phat gold chain(me & my wallet are too subdued for that). I didn’t have that style that was sooooo prevalent for the times. But it wasn’t me. And I was cool with that and aware of my own personality. I was just as cool with AI doing his AI thing. I’m doing me. You do you. We have an understanding. But it seemed others didn’t. I didn’t want to understand that, but I did. So I became a fan of his. He was one carrying the NBA. I love the NBA. He was going through it. I became a fan of his. It was just that simple.

And I am sooooo glad that I did. Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PebOKdmOCM&feature=youtu.be&t=3m25s. Now recall how much adversity it seemed AI was going through at those time; then listen to his own words reflecting over those same moments:  “constructive criticism”. What the… What kind of banana in the tail pipe is this?! Amazing. It was his words that inspired me to post. He talks about those moments where fans of his (as I had become) would have gone against those going against him – as constructive times. Impossible. Real. AI. At times he seemed the embodiment of anti-establishment, a rebel. He was really just an exceptionally talented young dude learning the ropes in his own way from a seasoned, savvy veteran coach. He wasn’t going through it alone. They were going through it together. Teamwork. Dang. Sounds familiar.

Thank you, Sixers. Thank you, AI. Thank you for being a man. The man. Right in front of our faces. The right way.

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