Gordon Hayward’s Players’ Tribune announcement, titled “Thank You, Utah,” is more than 2,100 words long and doesn’t really talk about the Boston Celtics until the final few hundred words. In journalism, you call that “burying the lead.” In lengthy farewell stories, though, that’s actually pretty normal. (Reminder: 99 percent of Players’ Tribune stories are ghostwritten.)
If you got the news from Twitter and not the piece, there were a few good moments. Most of the piece is dedicated to thanking Utah Jazz fans, as the title would suggest, and that’s the way it should be. It’s a gut punch for the Jazz that Hayward is leaving, damaging a six-year plan. Hayward can at least say some nice things about his former team before walking out.
You can read the full piece here, but we’ll put a few highlights below.
Hayward was a big Subway fan in Utah
When I got to Salt Lake City, in the summer of 2010 — I know it’s a cliché, but man, it’s the truth: I was just a kid. I remember the drive. I drove all the way there, with my dad, from Indiana to Salt Lake City, just to save money. I knew I had all of these expectations as a top 10 pick … but at the same time, I was only 20. This was my first job away from home. And I was so nervous about everything that was in front of me. I remember my first real routine as a pro — finding a Subway near me (well, a mile or two away), and just walking there, every day, so I could use my Subway card like I always had. And that was really it for me, at first: Practice, and Subway, and video games. I was pretty closed off.
Playing under Jerry Sloan, even for one season, meant a lot
I was literally the last Jazz player left who played under Coach Sloan — and I always took that as a lot more than just some piece of trivia. That was something that truly made me feel like a part of the fabric of this franchise. And that fabric is something that has meant a lot to me, ever since.
OK, if you’re a Jazz fan still bitter about things, you can probably stop reading now. About two-thirds of the way through, Hayward starts talking about why he chose Boston.
Yes, Brad Stevens was a huge part of Hayward’s decision
The last time I had a decision this tough … it was in college, during my sophomore year, after we lost to Duke in the national championship game. I’d gotten on NBA radars as a result of my play that March, and there were projections that I might even be a first-round pick in the draft. And so I had a decision to make: Should I leave my comfort zone at Butler and move on to the NBA? Or should I stay another year, and give it another go, and try to finish what we’d started — try to win a championship?
It was such a tough decision. But there was one person who I knew I could talk to about it from every angle, who I knew would give me the smartest and most honest perspective available: Coach Stevens.
Like Hayward said, Stevens was “the person I knew I could count on the most.” That is extremely high praise.
Now Hayward and Stevens have “unfinished business” from 2010, when they lost the NCAA national championship game. Hayward saw Boston as his best chance at an NBA title down the line, and now he’s taking that chance.
Once again, if you want to read more, the full piece is here.