SALT LAKE CITY — The year was 1992.
Jae Crowder wasn’t quite 2 years old but basketball was already becoming his obsession.
Every night before he went to bed, Jae had a routine with his father, Corey, who was a member of the Utah Jazz at the time.
It would go something like this:
“He would line up like he was hiding and I would have to say ‘No. 15 Corey Crowder’ and he’d run back and forth like he was in a layup line and that’s a true story,” Corey recalled. “He did that every single night when he was 1 years old.”
These days, Corey Crowder isn’t the one being introduced in the Utah arena anymore — it’s all about his son, Jae.
On Friday, the former Jazzman returned to his old stomping grounds, formerly known as the Delta Center, as part of the Jazz alumni program to watch Jae take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at Vivint Arena.
“I’m all for supporting him,” Corey said. “This is not about me, this is about him, this is his time.”
For Jae, it was a dream come true to put a smile on his dad’s face. Corey traveled from his home in Fort Myers, Florida to share the experience.
He typically attends games at least once a month.
“He does a great job of looking at the schedule and planning ahead,” Jae said. “So when I have a home stretch he comes to hang out. He comes for sure once a month.”
The football toughness, strong mind and will to win in Jae is a product of Corey’s tough love. Corey appeared in 51 games for the Jazz during the 1991-92 season that reached the Western Conference Finals with John Stockton and Karl Malone while learning a lot from legendary coach Jerry Sloan.
“He’s always been that way since I could remember,” Jae said. “Me playing basketball, he’s been a tough critic and I love it. I think I wouldn’t’ be here what I’m at today without him so it has helped me get to where I’m at."
More so than any particular game or play, though, Jae enjoyed being around his dad during his downtime.
“I just remember him training in the offseason and me being in every gym he went to and him letting me tag along to watch how he worked,” Jae said. “I think that’s where I get most of my work ethic from was watching him and wanting to be just like him growing up and that’s one of my best memories that I have.”
When Corey first learned that his son was traded to Utah before the Feb. 8 deadline, he knew Jae would love the city. Jae called to inform him of the deal and he instantly knew it would be a perfect fit, after struggling for the first 53 games in Cleveland.
In his first six games in Utah, Jae has come off the bench to post 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes while still learning Quin Snyder’s system on the fly. Snyder was also happy to welcome Corey back.
“In Corey’s case, obviously having Jae on the team is a special night for him and for Jae to understand his roots here in Utah,” Snyder said.
With Snyder’s structure, Corey was confident that Jae would be held accountable for his actions. He hopes to see him in Utah for the remainder of his career. No. 99 is already becoming a fan favorite.
“That’s Salt Lake for you,” Corey said. “I think they reward guys that come in here and they work hard and that’s indicative of the community so I’m very happy that they have done that. I think he’s found a home and I hope he stays here for the rest of his career. I think that would be awesome.”