Utah Jazz fans are used to having to champion their lesser known stars. When Gordon Hayward was having an All-Star year, Jazz fans would interject Hayward into any conversation much like that overeager friend who’s really into bitcoin. Yes, we know bitcoin is awesome, but we’re talking “A Quiet Place”. Wait your turn. The same was said about John Stockton and Karl Malone. Nothing says underwhelming superstar like John Stockton being able to travel anywhere in the United States without being recognized. Karl Malone,who even won two MVP trophies, was overshadowed by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. So what does a team and a fanbase do when the popular kids suddenly start asking you to sit at their table because of Donovan Mitchell?
This is uncharted waters as a Jazz fan. Seeing the national media gush over Donovan Mitchell is an out of body experience. As Jazz fans, we were taught to despise everything that Donovan Mitchell is, starting with Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan caused every Jazz fan pain and terrible suffering. Do you get to have the worst moment of your fandom replayed year after year as part of a marketing campaign of one of the world’s top brands? Every year, without fail, there’s a Jordan hitting the shot over Bryon Russell—HE PUSHED OFF DAMMIT. For most fanbases that highlight gets locked in a vault. For Jazz fans, it’s used to sell gatorade and Air Jordans.
Jazz fans are taught not to trust athletic shooting guards with exceptional dunking ability and supreme marketability. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Vince Carter, and T-Mac are the enemy. Why? Because they’re athletic, have shoe deals, and get star calls. Real basketball players play inside the system, abhor hero ball, and always—and without exception—play beneath the rim. Eye catching layups? That’s for showboats. Dunks? Those are for Karl Malone’s early years before the Jazz saw national television. Alley-oops? ARE YOU CRAZY? SOMEONE COULD GET HURT. Real basketball players pass the ball, make the right play, and make the jumper off the curl after burning 20 seconds of shot clock using the Princeton Flex.
Donovan Mitchell sometimes has bad shooting nights in which he still scores 25 which Jazz fans love to cheer for now, but Jazz fans would CRUCIFY Kobe for them. Donovan Mitchell going hero ball in the last few minutes is something we’d knock Michael Jordan down a peg because he was breaking the offense. Those highlight plays of Donovan’s? How does anybody get that type of athleticism without making a deal with the devil? Mephistopheles made MJ. Don’t @ us.
We were taught as Jazz fans to despise bandwagons. Why? Because the Jazz never had a bandwagon. The Utah Jazz were—and still are—the butt of every white guys can’t jump joke despite the fact that Utah being full of white guys hasn’t been true since it’s expansion days in New Orleans. The Utah Jazz are the opposite of a bandwagon, they’re usually the street sweepers at the end of the parade picking up horse ****. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a job and we should be thankful. Some cities lose their franchises. The Millers put theirs in a trust because they love us. All hail Larry Miller, full of truth and grace. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. *lights candle in front of memorial 1996-1997 Utah Jazz team*
Yet here we are with Donovan Mitchell, making complete hypocrites of our past Jazz selves and ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT. Who knew that 25 points on 8 of 25 shooting could be so special? Who knew that a superstar going hero ball in the last 8 minutes of a game is so liberating? Who knew that highlight real dunks were so—okay, maybe we always wanted those, but every thing else? We were taught to mistrust it. The entire Utah Jazz fanbase is going through a rumspringa, and there’s no way they’re returning back to the old way of life.
The Utah Jazz are gaining a bandwagon. Louisville fans are falling in love with this Utah Jazz team while using Donovan Mitchell as a gateway drug. Timberwolves fans who were disenchanted by Thibs are trickling over. Aussies are coming for Joe Ingles and—who are we kidding—they stay for Joe Ingles because he’s amazing. Casual fans know Donovan Mitchell’s name. Two years ago, it was difficult to get people to say Gordon Hayward’s name right—it’s Hayward, not Haywood. Now Mitchell is a household name with a Dunk Contest Trophy. The Utah Jazz get name dropped on a nationally televised game that doesn’t feature the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz have a Coach of the Year candidate, a Rookie of the Year candidate, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and an Executive of the Year candidate. That doesn’t happen. Just ask Jerry Sloan who NEVER won a coach of the year award. This doesn’t happen to us. We don’t get asked to prom. We don’t get the big break. We’re the footnote on someone else’s title run, hall of fame career, or record setting night, not the feature.
So what do Utah Jazz fans do when they’re invited to the cool kids table?
They ****ing love it.