SALT LAKE CITY — When Alec Burks walks into Vivint Arena, it’s hard for him not to flashback to — has it really been eight years?
That’s when the kid from Kansas City first stepped foot into the arena where he would play parts of eight NBA seasons in.
“I was 19, 20, never been to Utah,” said Burks who the Jazz took in the 2011 NBA Draft. “Just coming in here bright-eyed, fresh out of Kansas City and then Colorado, world on my shoulders, felt like the world to see.”
Burks returned to that arena on Friday with Golden State. It’s not the first time he’s been back, and likely won’t be the last, but he gets the same ovation every time. A loud cheer from a thankful fanbase.
Those fans saw him go from being a member of what they dubbed the “Core Four” to sitting out long portions of seasons due to injury to eventually fighting his way back. But it was more than just who he was on the court. In Utah, Burks grew from being the young bright-eyed kid to being a father.
“He is the best,” Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said last month. “He had to overcome some injuries when he was here — a couple of them. He’s finding himself with an opportunity to play and he did that while he was here as well. But he can really score the ball. He’s one of the best guys. Anybody who has played with AB raves about the kind of person he is. He’s a high-character guy that loves to play. I could go on and on about him as a person and a player.”
Last month after the Warriors and Jazz game wrapped up, Burks and Donovan Mitchell caught up in the players' parking lot outside of the arena. The conversation grew so long that Burks had to be called over by coaches to get on the Golden State bus. Everyone seems to want to be around Burks.
“I think Alec is really well-respected here by his ex-teammates and the fans,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s been a stalwart for us whether he’s started or coming off the bench.”
And he’s earning that same respect in Golden State. It’s not the situation he thought he was signing up for. He thought he’d be playing with Steph Curry and helping the Warriors maintain a championship level. Instead, he’s one of the veterans in a locker room full of young developing players.
“We’re so young that they call him ‘Old man’ which, how do you think that makes me feel?” Kerr said. “Alec is hardly old, but on our team, he’s the old man. And so, he’s very well-respected and he’s just a guy … with no drama. He just shows up to work every day, puts his work in. He’s just poised and confident and steady and as I said, an excellent player too.”
Burks started on Friday, giving the crowd a chance to cheer for him and he helped give the Jazz a real scare. Burks led the Warriors with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting, showing off the scoring ability that helped win over the Utah crowd.
After spending eight years in Salt Lake, the place won him over, too. He balks when the idea of Utah being a boring place to be comes up — an idea his Golden State team helped cement with some comments during the teams' playoff battle in 2017.
“I think people say that because they are only here for a day and then they leave,” Burks said. “I was here for 8 years. Nothing but fun out here for me. It’s cool, calm and collective. It’s not a big city but not a small, small city.”
And it’s still a place he considers home.
"Driving around here, I know everything that goes on, man,” he said. “It’s a second home.”