It's great to see how invested this current group of players is in the community. —Jazz president Steve Starks
SALT LAKE CITY — One of the longest winning streaks in franchise history came to an end over the weekend, but Utah Jazz players are carrying on with another impressive trend — of thoughtfulness.
In recent weeks, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder have each gone out of their way to do some good, soothe heavy hearts and bring smiles to tear-stained faces.
A couple whose 4-month-old baby just died, the father of a heartbroken 5-year-old girl, and a cash-strapped student in need of help for a date have each received sympathetic assists from those Jazz players.
Know the "Jazz DNA" phrase general manager Dennis Lindsey occasionally refers to?
This is Jazz DNA in action.
"It's great to see how invested this current group of players is in the community," Jazz president Steve Starks said. "They seem to be feeding off one another and have bought into the culture on and off the court."
Doing nice things for others is nothing new for the Jazz. The organization even has a department that focuses solely on community outreach. In addition to ongoing philanthropic efforts, there is something genuinely touching about the intrinsic compassion from players who are engaging in impromptu gestures of kindness.
On Sunday, Jazz fan Todd Ausmus wrote a gut-wrenching post to the Facebook group "Utah Jazz Die-Hards Unite," hoping to help him and his mourning wife, Christina, get a night away from their house after the sudden death of their only child, 4-month-old Mason.
"Jazz nation...I regret to inform you we lost a fan," Ausmus wrote, explaining that his boy had died accidentally at a babysitter's last Wednesday. "The reason for this post is that I need to get my wife out of the house and clear her mind. If anyone could get us to a Jazz game we'd love to go tomorrow night. I don't mean to sound like a charity case, but at this point I'll do anything to help us cope. Thanks for taking the time to read my post! #gojazz"
Crowder ended up seeing that shared post and tweeted out at 10 p.m. Sunday: "I WOULD LIKE TO HELP. CAN SOMEONE GET ME IN CONTACT WITH THIS FAMILY."
Ausmus was put in touch with Crowder's agent, and the grieving Ausmus couple will attend the Jazz-Rockets game on Monday night thanks to the new Jazz forward's big heart. They plan on buying and wearing No. 99 Crowder jerseys as a way to say thanks.
"When I put that post out there, I was just hoping that someone that didn’t want to go would give us some nosebleed tickets," Ausmus told the Deseret News. "Crowder really stepped up and really took care of us, so we’re really grateful."
Ausmus was going to surprise his wife with a bit of good news, but she quickly figured out what was going on after his phone wouldn't stop buzzing following Crowder's tweet.
"It’s not something we wanted blown up, but at the same time the overwhelming love has brought a sense of comfort," Ausmus said. "We don’t know how to feel at this point, but we’re excited to be part of a good community. Humanity has been restored for us."
Under different circumstances, another father can relate. Earlier this month, converted Jazz fan Steve Kerwin recorded his daughter's emotional response to the news that her favorite player was traded. The video and one player's reaction went viral.
The Kerwins moved to Utah from Michigan two years ago, and his 5-year-old daughter became a huge fan of Joe Johnson when they attended a Jazz game last season. Skyler was thrilled to see a player wearing No. 6, the number on her soccer jersey. As her dad explained who Joe Johnson was, the well-liked NBA veteran hit a 3-pointer, the crowd erupted in cheers and Skyler had herself a favorite player.
"She fell in love with him," Kerwin said, chuckling.
She even named her fish Joe Johnson.
That's why it was so upsetting to Skyler on Feb. 8 when the Jazz traded Johnson to the Sacramento Kings (Johnson was later waived and now plays for the Houston Rockets).
Kerwin captured the moment on video.
"We are going to the Jazz game Friday," he told his daughter, who stopped dancing as he talked.
"Tomorrow?" she asked.
"I do have something to tell you."
"Joe Johnson does not play for the Utah Jazz anymore."
Skyler sadly replied "Nooo!" while putting her hands to her face.
Ingles happened to see the tweet. He instructed the dad on Twitter to reach out to the Jazz and added, "I will get her a jersey of choice ASAP!" Before the game the following night, the Jazz posted an adorable video of Skyler receiving a small uniform top with her new favorite player's number and name on it — No. 2 Ingles.
"Shout out to the whole #UtahJazz organization and Joe Ingles for bringing a smile to her face again," @Kerdaddy wrote after the experience. "Also, congrats to @JoeIngles7 for picking up the best free agent fan in the whole NBA! #takenote"
Don't be surprised if Joe Johnson the fish gets an aquarium neighbor named Joe Ingles. Skyler still loves Johnson — they're going to the Utah-Houston game to see him play — but she's now the popular Australian athlete's biggest little fan.
"Joe Ingles literally just slid right into that spot," Kerwin said. "She doesn't take her eyes off of him when he plays."
Over the weekend, Mitchell earned MVP status in the eyes of another Jazz fan when he responded to a direct message. BYU student Josh Buhler congratulated Spida for winning the dunk contest and then made a request: "Can you hook up a huge fan with two tickets so I can ask this girl out in my chemistry class?"
Mitchell immediately responded that he was working on it and then, after a couple of exchanges, wrote, "Got you brotha!!" Mitchell informed him he had acquired two tickets and instructed him, "Go ahead and ask her."
Buhler thanked Mitchell for being "the best S(WINGMAN) ever."
Before Saturday's big date and game against Dallas, the Utah Jazz Twitter account humorously tweeted out, "Dunk Champ, match maker (heart emoji)."
According to Buhler, the date went well.
This all came after Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio was given the NBA's Community Assist Award earlier this season for helping raise money and awareness to fight lung cancer and for assisting in the Jazz's "5 For The Fight" cancer-crushing campaign. This is a personal mission for Rubio, whose mother Tona Vives died from lung cancer in May 2016.
This current Jazz team is living by the mantra the late Larry H. Miller displayed over the years and encouraged through a heartfelt thought that continues to inspire nine years after his death. Miller's quote is the slogan for the franchise's community efforts: "Go out into the world and do good until there is too much good in the world."
It's becoming more evident that these players care about winning, of course, but also about the fans who cheer them on. It brings to mind the inspirational quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes: "You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him."
It's all making the Jazz an easy team to root for.
"We are proud of them and how they represent the Utah Jazz and the NBA," Starks said.
"You don't see things like that. This is why everybody loves the Jazz here," Kerwin said. "I'm a big NBA fan, but I would have never thought I'd become a Jazz fan — but you just get sucked into the environment."
If all that wasn't heroic enough, Crowder even came to the rescue of a grandmother who happened to fall in his vicinity after a recent game. Her granddaughter took to social media to thank him for "saving your newest, biggest fan from a twisted ankle." She added, "This is a story we'll hear for ages."
At the rate the Jazz players are going, there might be more similar stories to tell for years to come.