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Stockton-to-Malone Week: At the airport the night of “The Shot”

August 9, 2010
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Days from now, Karl Malone will join John Stockton and Jerry Sloan in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Let’s fete and honor the greatest duo in NBA history with Stockton-to-Malone Week. S2M Week is brought to you by my digital pack ratting, est. circa 1995.

US WEST spokesman Duane Cooke said a “major calling event” occurred just before 10 p.m. Utah residents trying to call friends and family got the fast busy signal and “all circuits are busy” recording, indicating too many callers for the telephone system to handle.

[2:30 a.m., Salt Lake City, four hours after The Shot]
Nearly 20,000 fans flocked to a private air terminal in Salt Lake City at 2:30 in the morning to cheer the arrival of their conquering heroes. They held signs and chanted “MVP!” and waved purple foam fingers declaring “We’re No. 1!”

An announcement that the plane was delayed 90 minutes and wouldn’t arrive until 3 a.m. did little to dampen the excitement. It just meant there was more time for people to drive to the airport. New arrivals outnumbered those who were leaving early by at least 4-1.

When the team finally landed about 3 a.m., the anxious crowd went crazy. Fans lined up along the airport’s road to cheer for the conference champions as their cars inched along behind the flashing lights of a police escort.

Malone stepped from the plane, and smiled like he had never smiled before. Stockton smiled, too–a miracle almost, twice in one day. Morris perched on the hood of his car as it inched its way through the crowd, and Carr wept as he slapped hands with fans through a restraining fence.

“We love y’all!” he told them. “You never let us down.”

The city was rabid with excitement. …For a few days, after the trials and frustrations of nearly twenty tumultuous and sometimes desperate seasons, the state of Utah knew nothing but unfettered joy and peace and happiness and hope. [“To the Brink” by Michael C. Lewis / desnews]

Fans at the airport:
–“Our husbands are home asleep,” Wendy Feller said, laughing. She and a “group from the neighborhood” in Layton – including Meryl Rasmussen, Vicki Knowlton, Danielle Nuttall and Chrissy Burton – ran around their block, hooting, honking and hollering.

–Linda Knavel and 28 of her relatives, including five children and eight grandchildren, unfurled an 8-foot banner, one of 10 signs they made within minutes of the win. They left Brigham City and stopped in Layton to pick up other relatives, filling three vans.

Knavel’s daughter, Jana Nelson, was so excited she hyperventilated when Stockton’s shot went in. She ended up on the floor in a dead faint – a story her family gleefully recounted. Nelson’s 18-month-old daughter, Janeese, in turn, wandered around saying “Show Title,” a take-off on all those “Show Me the Title” ads on TV.

–James Gallaher, 42, Tooele, skipped work Friday to welcome the Jazz home. To him, waiting three hours for the team was worth it. “I’m supposed to be at work in an hour from now,” he said as the players got off the plane. “I got ‘sick’ when the Jazz won. There’s no way I’m going to work.” (desnews)

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