HELMETS OFF

Jazz Fans Enjoyed Every Second Of Booing Gordon Hayward

Nov 13, 2018, 1:41 PM | Updated: 2:04 pm
A Utah Jazz fan wears a defaced Gordon Hayward jersey during the game against the Boston Celtics at...
A Utah Jazz fan wears a defaced Gordon Hayward jersey during the game against the Boston Celtics at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Spencer Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spencer Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Boston came to town. Gordon Hayward finally made his return to Salt Lake City, 493 days after announcing he was leaving the state that loved him, for a coach he loved more. Like a jilted ex, Jazz fans let him Hayward know their feelings.

Let me preface this by saying I am a Utah Jazz fan, and it felt amazing when they beat the Boston Celtics 123-115 Friday night. It wasn’t just because of Utah’s slow start to the season.

It wasn’t just because of Joe Ingles career-high 27 points.

It wasn’t just seeing Jae Crowder put up 20 points and seal the win against the former team he helped take to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, just to be traded away – although that was fun.

It wasn’t even just seeing the Jazz put sophomore phenom Donovan Mitchell on Hayward play after play, and watching Spida beat Hayward to the rim.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) goes to the hoop against Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Spencer Heaps, Deseret News)

What felt even better was hearing the boos ring out at Vivint Smart Home Arena every time former Jazzman Gordon Hayward touched the ball, beginning with team warmups long before the game even got underway.

Hayward announced he was leaving the Utah Jazz to play for the Boston Celtics on July 4, 2017. He had spent seven years with the Jazz after Utah used the ninth pick of the 2010 NBA draft on the small forward out of Butler.

During his time in Salt Lake, fans developed a connection to him and a belief that he may lead them to an NBA Finals appearance.

As I watched the game Friday night, I observed that it seemed even some of the Utah Jazz players took Hayward’s dramatic exit from Utah to heart and they were out to show him up. This was personal.

It was personal for the fans. It was personal for the players. It was personal for the people in the state of Utah.

The way he left, it felt like Hayward just didn’t care about Utah, their fans or his teammates. He didn’t believe in them.

Part of a community’s identity comes from their sports teams, so when someone burns your identity it hurts.

The people of Utah are hard-working, industrious and most of all loyal, and the Utah Jazz have done such a good job of playing into that. Jazz players are very involved in community. Take second-year player Donovan Mitchell, who is often seen out in the community interacting with fans.

In his farewell letter to Jazz fans, which for many was far too composed for someone who allegedly had given Utah a realistic shot of signing the 2017 All-Star, Hayward walked through his decision to leave for Boston.

“Should I stay another year (in Utah), and give it another go, and try to finish what we’d started – try to win a Championship?”

He looked to his former college coach, Brad Stevens, for advice. Stevens was then the head coach for the Boston Celtics, and in need of a player with Hayward’s skill set. Unsurprisingly, the coach suggested he leave the Beehive State, and give Titletown a try.

Excerpt from Gordon Hayward’s letter to Utah Jazz fans, giving his reasons for leaving. (The Players’ Tribute)

In his letter, he pointed to the “winning culture of Boston, as a city… as a franchise,” and Coach Stevens.

Despite referencing a winning culture in Salt Lake, Hayward decided the Jazz couldn’t help him with his ultimate goal, and the reason for leaving.

“And that’s to win a championship,” he said.

In other words, he didn’t believe that could, or would, happen in Utah.

Jazz fans were so upset with Hayward, because when he left, he essentially told fans and his team that they are losers. He didn’t believe in their ability to bring a championship to Utah. He was not willing to ride it out in a city that loved him and a team that believed in him.

So to every Utah Jazz fan. You keep booing him – during warmups, during the game – every time he touches the ball. Every. Time.

Hear more about my take on the Hayward return in my Helmets Off podcast.

Excerpt from Gordon Hayward’s letter to Utah Jazz fans, giving his reasons for leaving. (The Players’ Tribute)

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Jazz Fans Enjoyed Every Second Of Booing Gordon Hayward