Utah Jazz History – Thoughts Before the Opener
As I look forward to tonight’s season opener, I’ve spent all week thinking of Jazz of seasons past. The years of Jazz fandom have come as a blessing and a curse. I have fond memories of watching and going to games with friends and family, but I also have had my heart broken a few times as well (Jordan pushed off on Russell).
Utah Jazz History From my Childhood
My dad has been a season ticket holder longer than I’ve been alive. That’s right, back to the Salt Palace days. I specifically remember him paying for a subscription to Homecourt Magazine, and I worshiped those magazines. I wanted to know every single thing about each player. I’d rip the centerfold posters of the players out of the magazine and hang them all around my bedroom. My dad would also bring home the Gametime program from each game, which at the time seemed like a magazine but now I realize they are just the programs. I would spend evenings in the backyard shooting hoops with my Gametime magazine, acting out how I felt the game should have gone.
History Repeats Itself
As a nineties Jazz fan, I never realized how good I had it. I didn’t understand that part of having two once in a lifetime Jazz players on the team at one time meant that I may never see players like that play for the Jazz for the rest of my life. As a high school social studies teacher, I often say to my class the “history repeats itself”, and that’s what I was looking for with the Jazz. After John and Karl retired, I found myself searching, like many Jazz fans, for who would take their place.
The years immediately following John and Karl’s retirement, Jazz fans watched Kirilenko’s freak athleticism and could be mildly entertained. However, the real sting of the loss of those two hadn’t quite sunk in. In 2005, when the Jazz drafted Deron Williams, I remember thinking to myself “this guy is going to be the next John Stockton”. He wasn’t. When the Jazz added Boozer in 2004, they had their Malone replacement. He wasn’t. Thus began my quest to have history repeat itself in the Jazz organization. I didn’t understand how the Jazz could win without those guys. I repeated this maddening optimism with Mo Williams, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, Trey Burke, and Derrick Favors. I’ll even admit that last year when the Jazz traded for Ricky Rubio I was finally content that the Jazz had found their pass-first point guard that they had needed. I was desperate to relive the glory days of John and Karl.
Utah Jazz History – A “New Era”
This last season, I finally came to my senses. Watching the Jazz stand pat in the offseason made me realize that the front office and coaching staff are excited about the current roster. How was that possible with no Stockton and Malone to run the patented pick-n-roll? The Jazz may not have replicated their 1997 NBA Finals roster, but they did manage to assemble a roster that could get back there. A new generation of Jazz stars are arising, and with them, a new Jazz philosophy: “Team is Everything”.
Let’s face it, the West is stacked. Even so, analysts from around the country are giving the Jazz a shot at being right up there with the best. If Donovan can grow this year at the same rate he did last year, if Rudy can continue to have a presence like the Defensive Player of the Year that he is, if Jinglin’ Joe can keep stroking it, I don’t see why the Jazz can’t beat any team on any given night. This team had a strong showing last year, and the exciting part is that there is still room for improvement. Donovan made this clear a few weeks ago in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune’s Gordon Monson when he said, “… We can’t live on what we should’ve, what we could’ve done. No, let’s just go out and do it. Everybody has that same hunger and passion. We’ve all been underrated our entire careers.” This passion combined with humility is what Jazz fans love. It is the reason Stockton became a household name. But those days are over, in the past, the history has been written. Tonight, the “new era” Jazz continue to write their own legacy.
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