Sports / Utah Jazz / 

A life-long relationship: Derrick Favors' homecoming an emotional one

Oklahoma City Thunder center Derrick Favors (15) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tip off the game as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder open the 2021-22 season at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

Oklahoma City Thunder center Derrick Favors (15) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tip off the game as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder open the 2021-22 season at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Quin Snyder smiled as if greeting his son; heck, he may as well have been.

The Utah coach met former Jazz center Derrick Favors at the scorer's table just before Wednesday's game, and the two enthusiastically embraced. It was just one of many emotional scenes for Favors, who was playing his first game at Vivint Arena as a visitor since joining the Jazz in 2010.

His only goal, he said following the game, was to not walk by the visiting locker room. He didn't want to accidentally end up going to the wrong locker room — the very place he spent close to a decade.

"Obviously, he did a lot for us and for his team and organization," Joe Ingles said Wednesday morning. "So I have no doubt he will be well appreciated tonight by the fans."

It was something Oklahoma City head coach Mark Daigneault sensed.

A player doesn't spend that much time with an organization — and choose to go back after being traded — if there isn't a strong bond there. That played a role in Daigneault choosing to start Favors. He wanted to give him that moment of his name being called and letting the fans shower him with applause.

"I'm not gonna lie, he's coming home," Daigneault said. "This is a special place to him and I wanted to acknowledge that. It's no secret how this market feels about him and how he feels about this market. Every organization can only hope that a player feels that way when they leave a place."

The fans didn't disappoint, either. After Jazz PA announcer Dan Roberts bellowed Derrick Favors' name as an OKC starter, he paused and allowed the fans to embrace him.

But that wasn't the loudest cheer of the night. Due to long lines to get into the arena due to the vaccine/COVID-19 test check at the doors, the crowd was relatively sparse as lineups were announced.

By the end of the first quarter, the arena had filled in. That's also when a special video tribute for Favors was played before fans. It showed the former Jazzman's journey through his years in Utah — from his introductory press conference to his big playoff shots to smaller moments with his teammates.

After the video, he raised both hands to the crowd and waved, clearly emotional.

Utah was home. The Jazz were his family. And in some ways, that hasn't changed.

"You hope that you have a chance to get to know someone on a personal level like I've had a chance to know Fave," Snyder said. "I don't even think about him as a player anymore — though, he's a heck of a player. I just think about who he is as a guy. My relationship with Fave is a lifetime one."

Based on the crowd response Wednesday, Snyder's not the only one that feels that way.

The homecoming was supposed to already happen when Favors was traded to New Orleans before the 2019-20 season. He was scheduled to return to Salt Lake City twice, even. The first game, Favors was hurt and didn't make the trip to Utah; the second one was going to be in mid-March, just after the NBA got shut down due to COVID-19.

The extra wait made the return that much more emotional.

And with all that happened, Favors met his goal Wednesday: He didn't end up accidentally going into the Jazz locker room, though he probably would have been met with open arms if he had.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with saying you miss him," Snyder said. "There's certain people you see that just make your day better."

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast