Utah Jazz fans, it’s time to stop booing Gordon Hayward.
The guy gave you seven years of his career and it’s three years since he left. Come on.
Hayward was booed every time he touched the ball on his return to Utah this week with the Boston Celtics.
His team still won 114-103 with team-mate Jayson Tatum putting on a clinic and Hayward shooting 4-12 for 12 points, five rebounds and two assists.
But Jazz fans did everything they could to make him feel unwelcome, and cheered whenever he messed something up.
Okay, it’s a standard response to give some stick to a player who abandoned your franchise, and it probably hurts more for Utah.
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Not many big free agents tend to sign there, and not many big stars stick around long, legendary duo John Stockton and Karl Malone excepted.
But while Hayward walked, he did everything he could to stay classy, and the Jazz even took out a full page ad in a local paper to thank him for his service.
Since then, the 29-year-old forward has had to battle back from a horrific, potentially career-threatening injury suffered just minutes into his regular-season debut with the Celtics.
Surely it’s time to bury the hatchet?
Hayward’s Celtics team-mate Ends Kanter, himself a former Jazz player, put it best, saying: “One thing about Gordon, before he’s a good basketball player, he’s a really good teammate, so it’s just a little silly that he gets all the boos still.
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“I don’t think it’s hate any more. It’s just, they’re just enjoying it.”
Pantomime villainy can be fun. But does Hayward really deserve it? He described leaving the Jazz in 2017 as “the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
He said his seven years in Utah had “meant everything” to him, that Jazz fans “mean the world” to him and his family, and that he had felt like “part of the fabric of the franchise.”
Hayward joined the Jazz as a boy. And he left as a man. He wasn’t just paying lip service to the place when he penned an open letter to the people of Utah on leaving.
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In it he wrote: “They say that Salt Lake is a great place to raise a family — and I know that sounds like something people just say. But you spend enough time here … and you realize that it’s true.
“And for me, as far as that goes — I feel like I’m indebted to Salt Lake, twice over. Because not only has this been the city where I’ve started my family, and not only has this been the city that’s helped raise my daughters for the last couple of years … but long before that, during my first few years in the league — I also feel like this city helped raise me. And I feel like this city took me in, as part of its own family.
“And I just wanted to say thank you for that.”
Whether he still feels that way is debatable. But it’s been a long time since he left. And Gordon Hayward deserves better.
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