I heard a media member saying the other day that Gordon Hayward is a great fit for Utah. He mentioned the swingman’s versatility, talent and, well, his race. The insinuation was that Hayward is a natural fit for popularity in Utah because he is white.
I hear that often and it’s easy see why people draw that conclusion. Andrei Kirilenko was popular in Utah, as were John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Kyle Korver. But guess what? Greg Ostertag wasn’t.
That’s because Ostertag wasn’t very good.
Saying Caucasian players will be especially popular in Utah is failing to give Jazz fans credit. They want players that can play. Karl Malone remains one of the two or three most popular players in franchise history. He drew his share of criticism, but that was related to his controversial moments and his departure for the Lakers.
Deron Williams was grumpy and standoffish, but had a huge following in Utah. Carlos Boozer had a big following, though his detached attitude kept him from being as popular as he might have been. Adrian Dantley had problems with Jazz management, but fans loved him. The reaction when he had his number retired in Salt Lake was stirring. Thurl Bailey, Darrell Griffith and others were also beloved.
Hayward is popular because he’s an exciting young player who is dedicated to improving. Claiming someone will be a bit more popular because his skin matches the majority of the audience seems shallow. Give Jazz fans some credit. If the guy can play and he’s a good person, he’ll be popular — whatever his race.
Kevin Durant would be popular in Utah. Deliriously popular.
Jazz fans just want to see the next hall of famer.