He’s the unsung hero. He’s one of those guys that not everybody talks about, but he comes in and gets the job done. —Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.
SALT LAKE CITY — Right outside the kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House is a central gathering space.
It’s there where families play games, laugh, hang out, and create special memories.
The Great Room is what it’s called.
It’s most often filled with joy, but there is also a sacred area, too.
Nestled in the far back corner, there is a special five-foot lamp that only gets lit when a child passes away.
“We leave it on for 24 hours in memory of the child,” said Carrie Romano, Chief Executive Offer of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area.
“It’s a way to give notice to the other families in the house and staff and volunteers that something sacred is happening for somebody in the house at that moment,” she continued. “It’s important that we do that because most of the folks we serve go home with their children and are so grateful for the care they’ve received, but some of the families we serve don’t go home with their kids.”
Another more cheerful object in The Great Room is a life-sized Derrick Favors standee, where many of the families love to pose for photos.
A life-sized stand of Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors sits inside the The Great Room of the Salt Lake City Ronald McDonald House as a promotional item for his charity work with the organization. | Eric Woodyard, Deseret News
The large cutout is a photo of the Utah Jazz big man, in full uniform, to represent his partnership with the organization.
“It’s fun because it’s always, like, Derrick is always with us,” Romano said, glancing at the picture. “He’s here all the time.”
Favors’ standee isn’t just in the Ronald McDonald House, either, they’re spread throughout hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants throughout the Intermountain area of Utah, Western Wyoming and Eastern Nevada.
“I got one at home, too,” Favors said, smiling.
He signed on to become an ambassador for the Salt Lake City-based charity in 2015 to help raise money and awareness for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area.
Salt Lake’s Ronald McDonald House is a 24-hour site dedicated to supporting families with an ill or injured child. The 60,000 square foot building has 72 rooms and serves roughly 4,000 families per year. Anyone with a child 21-years-old or younger that is being treated at a local hospital can stay at the Ronald McDonald House to enjoy the home away from home for free.
Throughout the years, Favors has visited the building, donated tickets, money, gifts and time to the cause, plus participated in public service announcements and commercials.
As the Jazz enter the postseason series against the Oklahoma City Thunder this Sunday, Favors is the longest-tenured Jazzman on the squad.
On Thursday in Portland, he became the 12th member in Jazz history to play in at least 500 games for the franchise. His presence on the team is certainly felt as he averages 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks as a consistent threat.
“He’s the unsung hero. He’s one of those guys that not everybody talks about, but he comes in and gets the job done,” said Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell. “We all understand how hard he works on the court and his mentality of going and being the gritty guy on the boards.”
At 26-years-old, Favors will also enter free agency this offseason, but no matter what happens, he has left an indelible impact on the Salt Lake community through his charity work. Growing up on Cleveland Avenue, on Atlanta’s south side, taught Favors the value of helping others.
“I can relate to it,” Favors said of the struggle. “I had classmates in group homes, in Boys & Girls Clubs or their family situation was kind of different so I've seen how much of an impact that could have on a person or mother or father so that’s what kind of made me look into it because I understand the impact.”
Even as his name stayed tied up in trade rumors earlier in the season, Favors kept a level-headed approach while coming to work every day. He never disrupted the locker room but kept contributing at a steady pace. In the end, Favors didn’t end up getting traded and the Jazz earned a fifth seed with a 48-34 finish to the regular season.
“I’m having a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it,” Favors said of playing for Utah. “I’m enjoying every minute of it. Just being healthy, being able to play my game and to be the player that I know I am. I’m definitely enjoying it and having a great time.”
The difference between Favors this season as opposed to last year is his health.
During the 2016-17 season, he was hampered by a host of injuries, most notably with his knee and back but he worked tirelessly this offseason to stay durable and move into 10th place on the Jazz all-time rebounding list in March. Favors also ranks seventh on the Jazz’s all-time list for blocked shots while only sitting five games this season with non-serious injuries.
Utah is 2-3 in the games Favors has missed.
Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) grabs a rebound in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
“Defensively, he’s so unique in his instincts and I think he’s finding more and more how to play to his strengths on offense,” Snyder said. “He’s more confidence shooting the ball, particularly that corner three but he’s been great midrange and he’s learning to cut more. I think he’s getting better.”
A group of 120 folks from the Ronald McDonald House and Boys & Girls Club got to see just how much better Favors is becoming last week. He left 120 tickets for the local charities with commemorative T-shirts to watch the Jazz host the Los Angeles Clippers on April 5. Favors put up 16 points in 28 minutes to help the Jazz win their fourth straight against the Clippers, 117-95.
The best is yet to come and Favors has no plans of slowing down for the Jazz and for the community. Everything else will take care of itself in the offseason as far as the business end of his contract with the team.
“I’m fortunate enough and was blessed enough to be in the position that I’m in,” Favors said. “I see people with different situations, whether they’re homeless or going through stuff in their lives or whether they have kids or family members that are sick and they can’t really afford to play for medical stuff so I just decided to find a way to brighten their lives by making a couple appearances, autographs or inviting them to the game just to ease the stress that they’re under.”