Rudy Gobert has become the face of the Utah Jazz franchise and rather than let him know how much he means to the team once his free agency decision is on the doorstep, I wanted to let him know now.
When a key player is considering leaving a team, or perhaps after the disheartening deed has already been done, it seems like that’s the very moment that some fans take to their keyboards and anxiously look to jot down their thoughts, their pleas and their feelings about the player’s impending decision, usually hoping to express gratitude or give them all the reasons why they should stay.
And too often, it seems that those letters come much too late. Too often, even the most heartfelt displays of appreciation fail to have their desired effect. Too often, the player’s mind is already made up.
So instead of waiting until the eleventh hour to pen a desperate plea for Rudy Gobert to stay with the Utah Jazz – the team that traded for him on draft day back in 2013 and has since put so much faith and trust in him since – I’ve decided to write it now. Right now with four years still remaining on his contract. Right now as the Jazz are facing so many questions about their future. And especially, right now in the wake of how Gordon Hayward essentially tore out the collective hearts of Jazz fans everywhere.
This is my letter to the new face of the Jazz franchise – my thoughts that I hope will have at least some impact, somewhere down the road.
First of all, thank you. Thank you for giving your all to the Utah Jazz. Thank you for always working to get better. Thank you for being one of the guys that we fans can count on to come out and give it your all, night in and night out. In a league where sometimes effort appears optional and defense is too often forgotten, you have no idea what it means to us fans to see you go all in on both ends of the court every single play of every single game.
Thank you for always competing. Thank you for not being afraid to be a leader and being willing to speak the hard truth, even if it may rub some of your teammates the wrong way. Thank you, because it’s clear that you simply always expect the best out of them.
And thank you for giving us so much reason for hope and optimism in such a trying time.
As much as it hurts us fans to see a guy like Gordon Hayward go, I’m sure it’s even harder for his teammates. You guys fought in the trenches with him. You shared that glorious Game 7 victory with him. You suffered that disheartening defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors alongside him. And despite the series loss, it was clear that you were on the verge of something special.
Even so, he left that – left you and the others – behind. And I’m sure that’s a hard pill to swallow.
But thanks to you, we have plenty of reasons to continue to believe. Because of you, we all still have confidence that this Jazz team can become something special. Gordon was great, but last year, you proved that you were truly unique – the anchor of the defense, the heart and soul of the team. And we can’t wait to see that for years to come.
Because, as I said, though I’m sure Hayward’s departure was hardest on you and your teammates, it’s been a rough few days for us fans as well. After so much patience during the rebuild process, the return to the playoffs made it so clear that everything was about to pay off.
Then, just like that as a result of one simple blog post, it suddenly felt like we were back to ground zero. It felt like once again no players wanted to be here. If Gordon, who the fans and organization had done everything for, didn’t want to stay, who could we convince to remain with the Jazz?
But thanks to you, it’s really not ground zero. We have one of the best building blocks a team could ever hope for. And amidst all the speculation that Gordon simply didn’t want to be here, that Utah can’t attract top talent, that the Jazz will never be able to earn the ultimate prize, thank you for staying true to the organization, for expressing your desire to be here, for engaging with the fans, for truly meaning the world to our fan base both on and off the court.
And reminding us that all that negativity just provides further fuel to your fire.
The talking heads, the national media and the social media trolls can say what they’d like, but if anyone has the determination and the passion to bring a championship to Utah, it’s you. We recognize that. We appreciate that. And we’ll stand behind you in your quest the entire way.
Because of the extension you signed this past year – one that I might add is going to seem like an extreme value by the time it expires – we have the good fortune of watching you play in a Jazz uniform for four more years. However, I know I speak for all of Jazz Nation when I say I hope that we get that privilege far beyond then.
It’s a dying art to stay loyal to one team for an entire career. It’s even harder to do in a small, often overlooked market. But I can assure you that the legacy you’d build would be unmatched. You’re already well on your way to achieving it. Your breakout season last year was just the beginning. And I, for one, am dying to see what you have in store for us next.
This season was highlighted by your devastating blocks, emphatic dunks, passionate displays of emotion and several iconic games such as your epic game-winning tip-in against the Sacramento Kings or your 27-point, 25-rebound performance against the Dallas Mavericks that was a dazzling display of just what you’re capable of. Those moments become legendary for us and I’m sure you’ve only scratched the surface of what’s to come.
Beyond what you’ve done on the court, your dedication and praise for the Jazz organization, the fans and the state of Utah itself is nearly as impressive and admirable as well. You’ve without a doubt won over a fan base and we’re all ecstatic to see what you will do now that you’re officially the face of the franchise and where you’ll take the Jazz over the course of the next four years.
But a lot can change in four years. There will no doubt be disappointments and hardships in a variety of forms along the way. Players can be hard to retain. Fans can be hard to please. Any number of obstacles could arise or criticisms could surface. But I hope you’ll always remember how important you are to us fans in spite of any of those challenges that could present themselves.
Thus, rather than wait until 2021 to tell you how much you mean to this team and how much we would like you to stay far beyond the terms of your current agreement, I wanted to make sure you knew right here and right now before anything could possibly lead you to forget.
And as small of an impact as this may have coming from one single fan, I hope it’s something you’ll carry with you throughout the upcoming years. You have an entire city – an entire state – behind you. At a time when we fans feel so betrayed and disheartened, at least we know we still have you. And whenever things get tough as the team looks to bounce back from this latest bout of adversity, just know that you have us as well.
So last of all, thank you for your loyalty, Rudy. Thank you for staying true to the Jazz. It’s not everyday that someone so committed to a team comes around, especially one with your drive and your talent. No matter what struggles or setbacks you may experience on the court, you’ve given us your all and therefore, we’ll give that back to you every step of the way.
In four years when your unrestricted free agency comes and you’re undoubtedly faced with countless suitors and numberless options, I just hope you’ll remember how your fans feel about you now.
And how we’ll feel about you for generations to come as your loyalty remains.
The team is yours now. And we couldn’t be in better hands.
So for the last time, thank you, Rudy. And here’s to many awe-inspiring years ahead as you engrave your name and your legacy forever into the history of the Utah Jazz.