Utah Jazz should find a way to let Deron Williams retire as a Jazzman

CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 30: Former NBA and Illinois Fighting Illini player Deron Williams holds up his bobble head during the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at State Farm Center on January 30, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 30: Former NBA and Illinois Fighting Illini player Deron Williams holds up his bobble head during the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at State Farm Center on January 30, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

After former Utah Jazz All-Star Deron Williams and former head coach Jerry Sloan made amends this summer, it would be cooler now than ever to let D-Will ride off into the sunset as a member of the team that drafted him.

Among today’s Utah Jazz fans, there’s no question that Donovan Mitchell is the player that has taken them by storm, absolutely captivated them. Yes, there are likable and important players across the roster, but Donovan’s skill on the court and the way he carried this Jazz team last season have made him emerge as a tantalizing player and an overwhelming fan favorite.

Some of the younger Jazz fans may not believe it today, but there was once a former Jazzman who had a similar effect on the Utah faithful. That man was Deron Williams.

I admittedly was pretty young during the height of the John Stockton and Karl Malone years, so while those guys will always hold a special place in my heart along with the likes of Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell and others, my favorite player during my growing-up years in which I actually understood the game of basketball was without a doubt Deron Williams. I imagine the same goes for many of my fellow fans from the same generation.

At the height of his dominance in Utah, Williams was incredible to watch. His crafty crossover, his stellar pull-up threes, his quick moves to the hoop. His performances in several playoff series, for me especially in 2010 against the Denver Nuggets, will always stand out as memorable ones. He was an absolute thrill to watch and the brightest talent the Jazz had seen or have seen since the Stockton-Malone days.

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell may very well surpass that at one point in the not-so-distant future, but for now, the Jazz have yet to field a single player as exhilarating as Deron Williams since that bygone era.

Unfortunately, the thing that many Jazz fans remember about Williams is the way it all ended – on a bitter and sour note. Friction between he and head coach Jerry Sloan boiled over until Sloan ultimately resigned and Williams was eventually traded. Although the Jazz franchise is in a great place now, at the time it left a rift and a scar that would take years to repair.

And many fans hated D-Will for it. There’s a reason he was mercilessly booed nearly every time he set foot within Energy Solutions/Vivint Smart Home Arena. Some of that animosity was deserved, but a lot of it was unfair, especially for a player that had given so much to the Jazz.

Love him or hate him, it’s sad to see how Williams’ career panned out after leaving Utah. He never again reached the same exhilarating heights, and I’m certain that deep down he regrets how things panned out between him and the team that drafted him.

Such a belief was further evidenced by a recent exchange that occurred this summer. Deron Williams did something he admittedly has wanted to do for years. He met with Jerry Sloan to apologize and put the past behind the both of them.

A recently released story by Utah Jazz digital writer Aaron Falk (accessible via the link in the tweet below) described the situation in full detail. It’s an absolute must-read for Jazz fans, especially those that continue to harbor feelings of ill will towards D-Will.

It reports that Williams apologized sincerely to Sloan about past occurrences and behavior. The two of them, particularly Sloan, got a lot off their chests as the two made amends. My favorite details that were expressed in the article were that Williams made it clear that, looking back in hindsight after playing for multiple coaches, he realized that “he learned more from Jerry than he did from the other coaches combined.”

He also expressed his true sincerity on the matter by stating, “How it ended has always hung over my head and affected me. I wish I would have handled it differently.”

Much of the conversation between Williams and Sloan was held in private between the two, with the conversation ending with looking at old photos together and shaking hands. Man, what I would’ve given to have been able to be a fly on the wall during that chat. Whatever was discussed, the best news of all is that the hatchet has been buried, the past was left behind them and the former player and coach that once butted heads have now made amends.

Despite the fallout with Deron Williams, I’ve never been one to show animosity towards him and was always opposed to Jazz fans’ treatment of a player that dominated a large portion of my growing-up years. Deron always did and always will hold a special place in my heart, even if I do understand the bad feelings toward him. However, for years I’ve been saying it’s time to move on from the negativity towards D-Will and instead embrace all he did for the Jazz.

If this latest exchange between him and Sloan doesn’t officially prove that point, I don’t know what will. Utah Jazz team president Steve Starks expressed that exact sentiment as well with a perfectly-stated quote that ought to be the final words in converting any on the fence back to the side of embracing the former Jazz All-Star–

"“Hopefully Utah is his basketball home and he feels like he’s part of the Jazz family. It would be fun to have him come to games and once again be connected to the organization and fans.”"

I agree one hundred percent. Considering that Williams still has a home in Utah and spends a good amount of time in the state where his professional career got underway, I hope to see him around at games and as a part of the community and Jazz family. And when he is, he better receive the respect that he deserves.

Not only that, but I’ll take it one step further. I think that now that Sloan and Williams have put the past behind them, in order to ease the tension between Williams and the fans, and to welcome the prodigal son back into the fold, the Jazz should make arrangements to allow D-Will to retire as a Jazzman.

It could be a simple gesture such as a ceremonial contract much like what Paul Pierce signed with the Boston Celtics so he could retire with the team that reared him and to whom he brought a championship. Or maybe if Williams gets back into game shape, he could sign a mere 10-day contract to check in late during a game to officially be able to wrap up his basketball career where it all began.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time to officially welcome Deron Williams back into the fold. And allowing him to mend all past wounds and repair all burnt bridges by letting him retire in a Utah uniform would be an absolutely wonderful gesture and the classiest of acts from all sides.

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Life is all about learning from mistakes and forgiving one another our trespasses. Everyone loves a good story about redemption and second chances. Why not build one of our very own between Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz?

One way or another, I hope we get a chance to see Williams more and more a part of the Jazz family. And I can think of few things more thrilling or gratifying than seeing my former basketball hero back with the squad where it all began.