Basketball bonds: Gordon Hayward's father has helped the Jazz player during every step of his career

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 11:35 a.m. MDT

"Every time he went down, I was just cringing because I was like, 'Oh my goodness, this guy, he's going to get hurt,'" Hayward said. "At that time, he was traveling AAU nationally. If he had any basketball future, it was going to go down the drain."

The end of Gordon's gridiron days — and any chances to end up on the Indianapolis Colts' roster — came about the time he made a painfully honest admission to his father.

"He said, 'Dad, you know, I really like football. It's a lot of fun. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when you watch it on television."

Hoping to avoid "Ambulance Talk," Gordon eventually focused on two sports in high school: basketball and tennis.

And he was good at both. Really good.

For a time in high school, Gordon and Heather were mixed doubles partners with dreams of playing tennis at Purdue, their parents' alma mater. As has been chronicled, Gordon was only 5-foot-11 as a high school freshman. He didn't have high hopes for a college career in hoops, let alone harbor NBA aspirations.

Some inspired "Mom Talk" convinced him to not give up on basketball when he considered calling it quits as an underclassman guard.

The rest is well-known Hayward history.

Gordon experienced a shocking growth spurt, shooting up to 6-4 as a sophomore and eventually hitting the 6-8 mark as a senior.

He became part of Indiana's rich basketball history, finishing his heralded high school career with a Hollywood-esque last-second layup to lift Brownsburg to a 40-39 win over Marion in the Indiana 4A state championship on the Pacers' home court in 2008.

He then became part of NCAA tournament lore at Butler, a college he chose in part because it was close to home (14 miles) and for its computer engineering program.

The Bulldogs' 2010 March Madness run featured a couple of "Van Talk" sessions in Salt Lake City after Butler beat favored Syracuse and Kansas State at EnergySolutions Arena to make the Final Four. It also included messages received in misery after his famous half-court heave ricocheted away from the bottom of the net as time and Butler's title hopes expired against Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium, only 15 miles from the basket in his driveway.

Whether he'd played in a buzzer-beating thriller or bubble-bursting heartbreaker, the parental insights followed.

"Van Talk's always fun when everything's going well," his dad said. "When things aren't going well, the last thing you want to do is have Van Talk."

Special bonds

Not surprisingly, Gordon's parents, ever mindful of his best interests, played pivotal roles in his decision to leave college after his sophomore season and pursue a pro career, leading to him being plucked up ninth overall by the Jazz three drafts ago.

A lot of factors played into Gordon's transformation into becoming an NBA player, including a ton of hard work, help from other coaches and teammates, many prayers, that fortuitous growth spurt, God-given athletic talent and hundreds and hundreds of those chalkboard chats and court battles with his dad, dating back to when he was a scrawny toddler.

There's something special about sports bonds between a father and a son — especially when sacrifice is involved and recognized.

"(My dad) influenced me in everything I've ever done. When I was little, he was my hero. He taught me everything I knew," said Gordon, who emulates his role models' frugality, pleasant personality and genuine respect for others. "He coached me in every single sport, whether it was something he was good at or not. He would always learn the game and try to instill those skills for me. He's been great for me."

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