Aaron McKie still enjoys a good pickup game. He finds time one October morning between a team practice and his afternoon meetings to head to the basketball courts at Temple University’s McGonigle Hall, where he finds a familiar group of undergraduates hooping. He tries to make time to play at least once a week, but it’s getting harder these days. Temple’s season begins in less than two weeks, and McKie is preparing for his first season as the Owls’ head men’s basketball coach.
Standing near the sideline, McKie calls his own number and steps on to the court. Gone is the Caesar cut of his youth, replaced by a depilated dome and a grizzled goatee. The 47-year-old is more than two decades removed from his playing days at Temple under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, and he retired from the NBA in 2007, but his game has aged well, and he’s not about to take it easy on his opponents.
McKie calls an isolation play and nets a midrange jumper, sticking his tongue out at the hapless undergraduate guarding him. At 6-foot-5, he’s a towering presence on the court, and while his movement has grown robotic, his instincts remain. He doesn’t miss a single jumper in an hour. He yells at his teammates for missing defensive assignments and protests when he doesn’t get to run the point. He shouts “HELL NAWLLL” when his opponents miss a shot. At one point, McKie steals a pass, crosses his defender over with a left-handed, behind-the-back dribble, drops another with an inside-out dribble, pushes the ball the length of the court, and draws in three defenders at the rim before finding a teammate open for a corner 3. He smiles, slaps his right hip, and gallops back down the court as if riding a bronco. “I still got it!” he says as he walks off the court. “Those good kids, man. That’s my crew, and I play with them all the time. But I be talking shit to them. Those motherfuckers ain’t beat me in a month!” he says with a laugh.