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About Utah: He helped save the NBA, and the Jazz

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26 2014 10:00 p.m. MST

“David always had a soft spot for the Jazz,” remembers Checketts. “He was a great help to me. He mentored me after I got to the Jazz, he sent me league resources to try and help me turn it into a first-class franchise, he did everything he could.”

And when a $6.5 million loan the Jazz owed First Security Bank was due, the commissioner flew to Salt Lake himself and accompanied Checketts to the bank to lobby for more time to pay it off.

Checketts: “David came out to personally see Spencer Eccles at First Security and tell him what the league would mean in the future and where it was headed. If they’d pulled the loan, the Jazz would have been no more. But I think Spence was really buoyed by David’s words and that’s why he stuck with us and they didn’t call in the loan.”

David Stern not only helped save the NBA, he helped save the Jazz.

“I give him a tremendous amount of credit,” says Checketts, who briefly worked for Stern and the NBA after leaving a much healthier Larry H. Miller-owned Jazz franchise in 1989. “He was always looking out for us. Always looking to help.”

That included my ski day.

“I can’t remember the specifics,” says Checketts, “but my guess is that he called the Jazz to tell us he was coming to Utah to ski and asked if there was a writer he could talk to while he was here to help raise the profile of the franchise and generate publicity for the league. That’s just the way he operated.”

I’ll bet Bowie Kuhn never did that.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: benson@deseretnews.com

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