From a young age, every Jazz fan realizes something is different about rooting for the Utah Jazz than for fans of every other team. Growing up, I always wondered why, in a game where Karl Malone would decimate everyone in his path, the highlights would focus on the other team, even if the Jazz had beaten them. On SportsCenter a young Kobe Bryant would get all the screen time during the ESPN highlight of a midseason Jazz/Lakers game with the final score showing a Jazz 10-point victory. Young Jazz fans would switch off the cable TV, watch in disbelief as the round screen faded to black and mutter in the most Utah-way possible, “What the heck!?” then go to bed.
Jazz fans watched things like Dick Bavetta take an obvious 3-pointer away from Howard Eisley in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. (the video below is timestamped. Careful, if you’re a young Jazz fan and haven’t seen these they cause pain.)
Only then to gift Ron Harper 2 points after he obviously did not make the shot in time. (again, timestamped)
These were Utah’s best shots at a title. They came so close only to see it ripped away. And while literally everyone outside of the state of Utah was putting Jordan’s iconic “Last Shot” poster up in their bedrooms, Jazz fans would go to be gritting their teeth about the pushoff.
But you know what? This has the makings of a pretty great origin story for the most important part of any story, the villain.
Now some 20-25 years later things haven’t changed the slightest bit. The slander is just more pronounced and on more mediums. Instead of being ignored by SportsCenter, Jazz fans get to see articles written with titles like “Lebron James gets another triple double for the Los Angeles Lakers in a loss to the Utah Jazz.” Every major twitter feed is posting every clip of someone dunking on Rudy Gobert. Do they post the blocks? No, those don’t ever seem to make it for reasons Jazz fans know all too well.
Again, what the heck?!
But the last two days have seen the culmination of all of this. The NBA, and it’s anointed stars, have confirmed what Jazz fans have known for a long time. Utah is the most hated team in the NBA. Whether it’s the league office, the officials, or opposing players, they all hate the Utah Jazz.
Last night the Utah Jazz saw NBA officials gift a game to the Philadelphia 76ers with horrific officiating. Any unbiased watcher came to the same conclusion, Utah got screwed. The amount of missed calls, non calls, and outright negligence by NBA officials was unreal.
The next day we see the L2M report released by the NBA officials and what was the message? “Not only did we do a GREAT JOB, but you should be thanking us that we didn’t call you for even more fouls. Be grateful, Jazz fans!!”
On top of that, they gave some absolutely ridiculous explanations for the blatantly missed calls. They’re honestly baiting Jazz fans at this point.
Then, to top it all off, this happens during the NBA All-Star draft.
Everyone’s laughing. Except Jazz fans. Like always.
Well, this is actually a gift, Jazz fans. This is a blessing in disguise because this is Utah’s inciting incident. This is the moment that could truly set the Jazz onto their rightful spot as the NBA’s true villain.
And believe me, it’s the best outcome possible for Utah.
Let me explain.
Think about your favorite movie, or story. Whatever comes to mind, I’m guessing it has a great villain, probably an iconic one. Why? because a story is only as great as its villain.
What is Star Wars without Darth Vader? What is Harry Potter without Voldemort? What are the X-Men without Magneto?
And you know what happens with great villains, they almost inevitably become beloved by those who look back on them. Think about the villains of NBA history. The most notable being the Bad Boy Pistons. Those teams get talked about more than they ever would had they been a clean-cut, by-the-book team. That era of basketball is considered the toughest because of that team and there’s a respect for them that every old NBA fan carries.
In Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s recent comments they talked about how nice they’ve been, how they don’t overly complain to officials. They mentioned Mike Conley’s lack of technicals and how that hasn’t helped. In reality, they’ve pointed out the issue, it’s time to stop being the nice guy, don that black cape and embrace the villainy.
And you know what? The NBA would love it!
We know the NBA has anointed Lebron James as its protagonist in his incessant, bizarre quest to try and outdo Michael Jordan in every aspect of his career. They’ve embraced his never-ending self congratulation at every single statistical milestone. They’ve looked the other way every time he looked for greener pastures at the first sign of turmoil with whichever team he’s on, his passive aggressive social media comments used to get players traded, changing his mind from his letter to Cleveland, and worst of all his use of the word “Wowsers.” They’ll likely not say much if Spacejam 2 sucks.
And so the NBA has its protagonist, but is missing that villain to take him on.
In steps the #1 team in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. It makes too much sense. The Villain is always the one on top of the league punishing their opponents, making them look foolish like the Jazz have with their incredible net rating.
And you know what is even better? The villain always ends up getting fans. Probably the biggest consensus from Star Wars fans is one thing, the best Star Wars film is probably Empire Strikes Back. And who comes out on top in that film? You all know.
For anyone reticent to join the dark side of the force, I can’t help but remember one of my favorite lines from the best character from Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister when he said, “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” We’ve already been anointed, Jazz fans, it’s just a matter of embracing it.
And this doesn’t just go for Jazz fans, it’s time for the Jazz players to not be so nice any more. It’s time for Rudy Gobert to stand his ground in the paint and never back down. If the incompetent NBA officials are going to call him for ridiculous fouls then make them count here and there like Karl Malone once did. No more flopping.
And for Donovan Mitchell a smile is good but a sneer is greater. Mitchell needs to attack that rim like he did the other night on Joel Embiid and mock him, laugh at his pathetic block attempt. Then say something about it after the game, rub it in. Never forget that Shawn Kemp is one of the most incredible in game dunkers the league has ever seen. But the only dunk that ever gets replayed is this one. Not because of the dunk, but because of the celebration afterwards.
This is the rightful place for the Jazz and it’s a place all Jazz fans are ready for. We were born for this, Jazz fans, it is our destiny. And no matter how it ends, it will make for a great ending to what has been a very good story for the Jazz so far.