Jazz Have Leaned On Team Through Adversity On And Off The Floor

May 29, 2021, 6:57 PM
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz have had a uniquely difficult last year and a half as a basketball team.

Like the rest of the NBA community, the Jazz players mourned the passing of Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his daughter Gigi and seven other passengers.

The team then became the face of the COVID-19 pandemic in March when center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell because the first major athletes in the United States to test positive for the virus.

Hall of Fame Jazz coach Jerry Sloan died from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia during the league’s hiatus.

On the floor, the team has dealt with major injuries to key pieces, a disappointing playoff exit after building a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets, all while publicly rebuilding the relationship between their two star players within a closed campus at the Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The latest tragedy to hit the team was the untimely loss of Mark Eaton, one of the best players in franchise history, who passed away Friday after suffering an accident on his bike.

It’s would be a tumultuous stretch of life for any person, much less a group of twenty-somethings who are tasked with trying to win basketball games at the highest level.

It’s the group aspect of the team that Jazz coach Quin Snyder has said has allowed the team to persevere on and off the floor.

“When you’re a part of the group that’s able to absorb things together and communicate and share, and support one another, you mourn together as well,” Snyder said. “That process can bring you closer together.”

Eaton had been a close ally of center Rudy Gobert, both members of the rare seven-footer club, and both known for their stifling defense.

“To my great mentor and friend @markeaton7ft4 , one of kind and an amazing human being,” Gobert tweeted after learning of Eaton’s passing. “I’m grateful for your presence in my life over the years. Gonna miss our conversations. But i know you’ll be watching.”

Eaton was a natural speaker and leader, not just for Gobert, but as an author and mentor. With 11 years worth of experience in the NBA, Eaton offered a unique perspective on life and basketball.

“You almost had to encourage him to come in [to the locker room] because every time he did he touched players and he touched coaches,” Snyder said. “He had a way about him that would want you to open up.”

Depite the adversity the team has faced, they’ve always seemed to rebound to become a stronger unit.

Following their off the court conflict, Gobert and Mitchell signed long term extensions with the team. Mike Conley earned his first trip to the All-Star game after a dissapointing debut season last year.

And, after blowing a 3-1 lead in the opening round, the Jazz bounced back to earn the top record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history.

“There have been a lot of things that have happened, that have impacted everybody in different ways,” Snyder said of his team. “But consistent with that is it’s developed a level of compassion within our team for one another.”

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Jazz Have Leaned On Team Through Adversity On And Off The Floor