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Commentary: Escaping the ghosts of the past: Can the new Jazz do it?

By Aaron Guile

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Sept. 30 2013 10:25 a.m. MDT

Gary Payton, in his hall-of-fame speech in early September said, “when I got in the NBA and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be for the first two years. I watched (John Stockton)."

Payton is being classy when he mentions his rivalry with Stockton.

In other venues, Payton declares Stockton was harder to defend than Michael Jordan. Payton’s been saying things like this for a couple of years, and Utah fans love it.

Many pundits list Stockton in their top-five list of point guards. Karl Malone is likewise debated over for power forwards. Jerry Sloan is in the top 10 for coaching — and technical fouls.

Stockton, Malone and Sloan established Utah's reputation for work and execution. Other iconic players and coaches active, retired and now deceased blessed Utah and the Jazz by carrying on this ethic.

As wonderful as this is, for new players, these basketball greats are a nightmare. Specters of Deron Williams, Stockton and “Pistol” Pete Maravich haunt rookies like Trey Burke. That is a lot of talent chasing them every time they pass, steal, score and turn the ball over.

Aspiring cartoonists have similar pressure.

Newspaper — and now Internet — cartoonists have shaped opinion and humor long before Dr. James Naismith nailed a peach basket to a chunk of wood. Artists and humorists like Bagley, Oliphant, Kellett, Breathed, Larsen, Geisel and Kelly are just some of the greats that hound every splotched ink line, missed portrait and crummy punch-line.

Everyone has ghosts, however, the ghosts that shadow my path are not as locally beloved as a basketball legend like Stockton — not even Bagley. For a rookie from the Midwest, I doubt Burke knows how often he'll be compared to Stockton and Williams.

The second I accepted the assignment to illustrate “the Jazz youth need to escape the shadow of legends," I broke out my highlighters and Sharpies and started drawing. I YouTubed Burke while he was at Michigan and several videos later found myself watching old Jazz highlights. I watched several top-10s and a Stockton retrospective documentary.

I love the Jazz. My kids and I banged pots and pans together in our apartment parking lot right after “the shot." I mourned the loss of both championships. I celebrated the retirements of John, Karl and Jeff (Hornacek). I loved Williams and his tenacity. I regretted the break-up leading to Williams’ trade and Sloan’s retirement. I loved Paul Millsap’s heart.

The Jazz are about passion and hard work. Karl’s workout videos were not the 90s cliché many thought them ridiculed them as. He lived those videos and probably still does. The Jazz were famous for not wearing expensive suits during the Stockton and Malone era, but when Williams and Carlos Boozer did, I never criticized. I could still hear the hammer-on-anvil toll of hard work playing in the background.

While I never sacrifice my body diving for pen on the floor like Bryon Russell, Andrei Kirilenko or Cory Brewer. I hate carpet burns, and the neighbors downstairs would complain at the fat thump that would knock dust from their ceiling.

I do draw every night, however. In the last year, I have gone through several packs of Sharpies and highlighters. My Wacom Bamboo Tablet is beat. Coke Zero bottles, expended pens and shredder dust from failed sketches litter my bedroom floor. I lose myself drawing. I forget the time. I have gotten home from work and started a project only to look up at the clock and realize I have to leave to work shortly having worked through the night, forgotten to do chores, forgotten to sleep and neglected food.

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