Utah Jazz: Heartthrob status doesn't suit 'Thinker' Korver

Published: Friday, May 2 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Oh, no, here it comes, and Kyle Korver knows it. He's been warned. He's bracing himself for the question he dreads worse than a hand in his face at the three-point line, the question he's been hearing for years.

How does he feel about being an NBA heartthrob?

His eyes almost roll back into his head. He pauses and sighs, his shoulders slumping in surrender, and then he plows ahead, offering the same practiced answer he's repeated a thousand times.

"I just don't know how to answer that question," he says. "I don't know how I'm supposed to respond. It's very awkward."

Touche. The reporter hates asking the question, and Korver hates answering it — but there's no ignoring it, either. Korver, the string-bean swingman for the Jazz, enjoys a rare level of popularity, even by NBA standards, especially by females.

On any night in EnergySolutions Arena, there are enough signs to fill the Republican Convention, most of them held aloft by women. Kyle, we love you. Kyle, will you marry me? From two young girls: Kyle, will you wait for me? From two older women: Why go for two when you can go for three?

Local souvenir stores are running out of children's size XL No. 26 jerseys — the size women buy because there are no jerseys made in their sizes.

At a recent charity event, Jazz players were enlisted to sign autographs and have their photos taken with fans. Korver's was the longest line, snaking its way back from the bowels of the ESA out onto the court, and many female fans asked to sit on Korver's lap.

Korver's female fans are different than what you might expect from the NBA arena. For the most part, these are not groupies in provocative, come-hither clothing. These are grandmas, housewives, grade-school kids and teens, ranging in age from 7 to 60 (to wit, the sign in the ESA: My grandma thinks you're hot.").

TV stations and newspapers have already produced several in-depth profiles about Korver, and he's only been with the team for four months. The media honeymoon is on for Korver. Veteran TV newscasters like Shauna Lake are reduced to asking fawning questions like this one: "What did your mom do to raise a guy like you?"

"There have been a lot of articles lately," Korver says. "It's embarrassing."

There also are dozens of Kyle Korver Web sites, none of which belong to Korver himself. Some of them have such accurate information about him that he calls it "creepy."

His charm is not limited to women. As Korver warmed up on the court before a game one day, a man showed up holding a sign with a photo of a baby on it — whom he had named Korver, after the player. When Jazz vice president of communications Linda Luchetti pointed this out to Korver, he made a beeline to the man and signed his sign.

"Wow," he said to Luchetti as they walked off the court. "I've had dogs named after me, but never a person."

Go figure. All this attention and adulation for a player who averages less than 10 points and plays less than half the game.

Yet NBC/NBA shill Ahmad Rashad wants to talk to him before a game, and TNT pulls him aside before practice for a one-on-one interview. He receives almost as much fan mail as Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, the undisputed superstars of the team. When someone asked Williams about the "MVP chants" he generates from fans, he smiled and noted they weren't as loud as the cheers that Korver gets.

No player since Jeff Hornacek has been so immediately embraced by Jazz fans, and Hornacek arrived as a bonafide star. Korver was given a standing ovation the first time he took the court for the Jazz.

"It's gone to another level with the fans and the amount of love and offers he's receiving from 7-year-old girls," says teammate Jarron Collins.

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