John Wooden is kind of how I became a Jazz fan
In a weird sort of way, I might have never become a Jazz fan if not for John Wooden.
Not having ever been a fan of college hoops and being the wrong age, John Wooden was for a long time most known to me as a legendary coach who often said that John Stockton was his favorite NBA player, and the only player he would pay to see. During Wooden’s 99th birthday celebrations last October, Bill Walton even talked about Wooden’s love for Stock.*
When my mom was little, my grandparents would take her to basketball games or they would listen to games on the radio. Many years later, she became a full-fledged basketball fan as a grad student at UCLA in the John Wooden-Bill Walton era (price of admission to games: one quarter).
It was only because she was watching the original Dream Team’s games in 1992 that I started watching basketball. For whatever reason, I found myself liking the way one particular guy, Karl Malone, played more than any of the other guys on the squad (most of whom, I have to say, I’d never heard of).
When the regular season started after the summer, I continued following Malone (while of course coming to simultaneously appreciate the play and demeanor of Wooden’s favorite, John Stockton); this is how I became a Jazz fan.
RIP John Wooden.
*In an interview in 1996, Wooden said, while discussing his love for the sport:
I’m concerned about the basketball today, somewhat. I think it’s becoming too much showmanship and I don’t like that. If I want showmanship, I’ll go see the Globetrotters. In the pros today, the player that I’d rather see than anybody else is John Stockton from Utah, the all-time leader in assists. It’s not just because he’s the all-time leader in assists. It’s his demeanor. He’s a spirited player but never gets mad. He’s quick, he’s intelligent, he’s unselfish and he can do all things well. (Academy of Achievement)