ATLANTA — After the final buzzer sounded, even following a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night, a group of family and friends waited for Derrick Favors in the stands of State Farm Arena.
Once the general fans exited, the South Atlanta High School graduate was able to put the Utah Jazz’s 117-114 loss behind him as he reconnected with a wide-ranging age folks from his hometown before the team flight departed to Chicago to wrap up the four-game road trip.
Against Atlanta, Favors ended with 15 points and a game-high 15 rebounds in 27 minutes. But way before the veteran big man was thriving in the NBA, that talent was noticed on the prep level and even dating back to Crawford Long Middle School — where is jerseys are now retired at both stops.
“First of all, he had the skills and size to do it and he was humble enough with a hard enough work ethic to get it done,” said Favors’ Atlanta Celtics AAU coach and mentor Jammar Stegall. “As you can see, ain’t nothing changed much from Day 1 until now. He’s still basically the same person, just his size. You know what I mean?”
Even as the longest-tenured Jazzman, the entire fabric of Favors’ personality is based in Atlanta.
Favors proudly represents his Cleveland Avenue neighborhood. In fact, during the Jazz’s practice in New York on Tuesday, March 19, Favors was spotted in a pair of customized slides at the National Basketball Players Association building with “Cleveland Avenue” stamped across them.
He wears Atlanta Braves jerseys to games and even pulled out a throwback Jamal Anderson Atlanta Falcons jersey following the Jazz’s 120-100 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 14. Favors has resided in Salt Lake City for the last nine seasons, but the A-T-L is forever home, as he owns property in both places.
“I think Utah is kind of similar to Atlanta in a way because they both are small cities, but I think the biggest difference is that Atlanta’s a big small city if that makes sense because it’s cut up in so many different areas,” Favors explained. “Sometimes, people from the outside of Atlanta like to claim that they’re from Atlanta but that’s Atlanta too so it gets kind of big, but Atlanta has grown over the years.
“It’s no longer like a southern city now, it’s almost like you can compare it to New York now so I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”
Favors’ 10-year anniversary of graduating from South Atlanta High School is approaching soon as he was ranked No. 2 behind Memphis Grizzlies guard Avery Bradley on the 2009 ESPN Top 100 list for their class. DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Mason Plumlee, Lance Stephenson and Kawhi Leonard were other notable pros among that class but Favors won MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game.
At 27 years old, Favors says it’s crazy how time has passed so quickly in the past decade especially seeing his peers who are still relevant. Most of them share mutual feelings as well.
“Yeah it is, it’s cool, every time we see each other we make sure we acknowledge each other,” Bradley said of Favors. “This league, it’s hard to stay in and I’m happy for him and I’m happy he’s playing well and wish him the best every single time I play against him.”
Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams shares the same agent as Favors, Wallace Prather, and grew fond of him once they entered the league. Williams spent his high school years in Georgia, where he was named Mr. Georgia in 2005, and recently became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer for points off the bench.
“Fav a little younger than me but I got to know Fav in the pros,” Williams recalled. “He was younger than me, so I never really hung around him but once we both were pros, we began to work out together. We’re always in the same gym in the summer time.
“We’re a tight knit and Favors is part of the crew.”
Favors is averaging 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 58 percent shooting. He may not get to return to Atlanta as often as he would like, but his impact extends beyond just basketball in that area which is why rapper Takeoff from the group Grammy Award-winning group Migos mentioned him on a song.
“I’m a Jazz musician, came from Utah, Derrick Favors,” Takeoff rapped on the song “I Remember.”
And as he’s proudly introduced to the sellout crowds of Vivint Arena to “I Get the Bag” by Atlanta artist Gucci Mane featuring Migos as his theme song during the announcement of the starting lineups.
Also, following Utah’s 114-83 win in Chicago on Saturday, Favors pulled out a black Goodie Mob shirt. It honestly doesn’t get much more Atlanta than that.1 comment on this story
“Aw man, that was love. I surprised because everybody was hitting me up like, ‘Man, you’re famous, famous. Man, Takeoff shouted you out,’” Favors said of the Takeoff mention. “But naw, that was love.
“I don’t know them but one of the rappers I know personally is this dude named Yung Ralph who most people aren’t familiar with outside of Atlanta,” he added. “It was way back because he was from my neighborhood and he lived across the street so that’s how I knew him, and I know a lot of other local guys.”