Utah Jazz's Karl Malone, center, hugs teammates Jeff Hornacek (14) and John Stockton (12) as Greg Foster, left, joins in the celebration after the Jazz beat the Rockets 103-100 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals Thursday, May 29, 1997, in Houston. Stockton hit a three-pointer at the buzzer for the Jazz victory.
It has to be done. I'm breaking up with Jazz. I was 11 years old when the whole love affair started. The score was tied 100-100; it was Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals; 2.8 seconds left in the game. Stockton threw up a three pointer … swish. Stockton leaped higher than I've ever seen him leap before.
I jumped and cheered and screamed. The Jazz were entering the NBA finals for the first time ever. That right there was the moment that I committed — fully. I fell deep and hard in love with Jazz and everything that came with him. That's how the relationship started, as most do, with excitement, love and visions of the future.
The first heartbreak came two weeks later when Jazz lost in the finals to the Bulls. I had committed to my team, but he still let me down. The second heartbreak came the next year when Jazz lost in the finals against the Bulls. Again. After Jazz lost that last game in 1998, I cried. And I cried. Because anytime you experience a great disappointment from your lover, you cry. But I cowboyed up, and I continued in my devotion to Jazz.
I watched Jazz lose their greatest players: first Hornacek went, then Malone and finally Stockton. I stayed faithful. I was a fan when their best player was Andrei Kirilenko. I was a fan when they lost more games than they won. I was committed.
Deron Williams came and added new hope and new fire. This could be a healthy relationship again. We could be happy. Soon we were making the playoffs again — not just losses and tears, but triumphs and excitement.
Last year, tragedy struck. Jerry Sloan retired mid-season unannounced and unforeseen. I went to counselling. I did breathing exercises. I meditated.
We could make it through this. We could survive. Weeks later, tragedy reared his ugly face a second time. Deron Williams was being traded to the Nets. We watched the promising season go down the drain, and we suffered loss after loss after loss. It was misery, heartache and tears.
I knew my relationship was on the verge of collapse, but I held tight to what reassurances were left. We still had Millsap, Hayward and Andrei. It was at the end of last season that it finally dawned on me — I was sitting on my couch watching Jazz blow a huge lead — I would never be happy with Jazz. Never.
And so, for the first time ever, I considered leaving Jazz.
And how did he react? He didn't bother to even play basketball. He went on strike and refused to see me. Not only was he not trying to make the relationship work, he wasn't even showing his face. Jazz quit before I did; let the records show.
The final blow came Tuesday. In the midst of an ugly lockout, the players had refused the latest deal that had been given them.
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I knew then that this was the end. Jazz didn't want me; he wanted money. He has perhaps never wanted me. It was never about us. It was about something else entirely this whole time. It had always been a one way relationship. I gave, I loved, I cared, I supported, I watched him lose, I watched him suffer and I watched him ask for more money.
He never gave back — never called, never said I love you, never said thank you. Our love affair was nothing more than a woman begging for love and commitment.
Now I'm done, throwing in the towel once and for all. I'm sorry, Jazz, but our relationship is over.
Bonnie Blackburn Larsen is an English teacher at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan.