The Utah Jazz should retire Deron Williams’ No. 8 jersey

Deron Williams, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Deron Williams, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /

Take a good, hard look at the list of players who’ve played for the Utah Jazz, and few names will be as polarizing as that of Deron Williams. Still, given Williams’ impressive on-court play, his No.8 jersey should be retired in the coming years.

Should the Utah Jazz randomly decide to hold some sort of legitimate popularity contest during the NBA’s coronavirus-caused hiatus, Deron Williams likely won’t be winning. Throughout his six-year stint in a Jazz uniform, he caused a great deal of good out on the hardwood, but it’s the way he left — and the reasons for it, of course — that’s still most fresh in the minds of Jazz fans.

Obviously, NBA franchises don’t hold actual popularity contests with campaigning, mail-in ballots and an eventual victor. What they do, though, is retire the jerseys of the most beloved ballers to ever play for ‘em — a kind of popularity contest in its own right, if you think about it.

To date, the Jazz have retired the jerseys of seven past players:

  • Adrian Dantley, No. 4 – He appeared in six All-Star Games for the Jazz.
  • Pete Maravich, No. 7 – He earned two All-NBA nods in only six years in Utah.
  • John Stockton, No. 12 – He’s the all-time assists leader with 15,806 dishes
  • Jeff Hornacek, No. 14 – He averaged 14.4 points in 477 appearances for Utah.
  • Karl Malone, No. 32 – He was twice voted the league’s Most Valuable Player.
  • Darrell Griffith, No. 35 – He won the 1980-1981 Rookie of the Year award.
  • Mark Eaton, No. 53 – He won Defensive Player of the Year twice while in Utah.

Take a deep dive into the above player’s résumés, and you’ll see a few trends take shape. Players largely earned their jersey retirements with the Jazz for two reasons. First, they spent an extended period of time playing for the Jazz — a minimum of six seasons appears to be the requirement.

Second, individual accolades hold a great deal of convincing power with Jazz ownership. Things like All-Star appearances and All-NBA Team nominations improve a player’s odds of having his jersey retired.

Upon closer inspection, Hornacek is the only real outlier. The key role he played in the Jazz’s two consecutive title runs in 1997 and 1998 gave him the favorable bump he needed.

With the above in mind, making a case for Williams isn’t all that tough.

His first year in Utah, it didn’t take long for Williams to crack Sloan’s starting rotation as his go-to point guard. And this wasn’t a “sympathy promotion” of any kind, either — come the end of the 2005-2006 season, Williams’ play would earn him NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.

In only his second year in the NBA, Williams bypassed the infamous “sophomore slump” to lead the Jazz to the team’s first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1998, beating both the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors along the way …

Things would get better, though.

Year three brought with it Williams’ first-ever double-double average with 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game. From there, he’d go on to average a double-double for the next two years, as well. After six years, when all was said and done in the Salt Lake Valley, William’s managed 17.3 points and 9.1 assists per game to go along with a more crowded trophy cabinet:

  • NBA All-Star, 2010 and 2011
  • All-NBA Second Team, 2008 and 2010

The biggest thing William’s case for jersey retirement has going for him, though?

Drafted by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick in 2005 out of Arizona, it was Williams’ job to bridge the gap between the Stockton- and Malone-led years and Jerry Sloan’s next push for an NBA championship. Thanks to Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, as a small-market franchise in a big-city league, the Jazz weren’t only relevant — they were title contenders again.

And while this might not seem all that important, no matter how much time it takes, it’s the same reason Kevin Durant’s No. 35 jersey will one day hang in the rafters in Oklahoma City, as well.

As players, there’s a night-and-day difference between Williams and Durant, but KD brought hope, relevancy and legitimate title aspirations to a market that desperately needed them.

Williams did the same exact thing.

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Sorry, Jazz peeps — emotions aside, D-Will fits the bill. Time heals all wounds, and with Williams having made clear-cut attempts to mend wounds with both Sloan and Utah Jazz fans, in hindsight, it won’t be long before he’s viewed as one of the all-time greats to ever play in Utah.

No. 8 will soon be his and his alone.