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3 brothers surprise Rudy Gobert with custom sign in return 'home'

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SALT LAKE CITY — When Jon Vandermyde first heard that Rudy Gobert had been traded, there was legitimate sadness.

The Jazz fan base had loved Gobert for nearly a decade after he came to Utah as a skinny kid from France. He left as one of the most dominant defenders of his generation — or any generation. In between, there were thrilling playoff victories, heartbreaks in free agency, hope of capturing an elusive title and, ultimately, disappointment.

The Utah Jazz's roster reset over the summer made sense from a basketball standpoint. From an emotional one, though, it was tough on many fans. Jazz fans have latched on to and championed many players over the years, and not many have embraced them back the way Gobert did.

"Not only are we fans of him on the court but just how he represents Utah and represents the type of people that we want to be," said Vandermyde "We were just genuinely bummed when he was getting traded. He just put so much into this community and we just thought, 'What can we do to thank him?'"

He and his two brothers came up with what they felt was a good idea.

When Gobert walked into the Grand America Hotel on Thursday evening, a surprise was waiting for him: a 5-foot metal sign in the shape of the red gradient Jazz logo that said, "Merci Rudy — Jazz Nation" on the bottom border. That was cool and all, but when Gobert looked closer and saw the real meaning to the project. The entire sign was made up of messages from Jazz fans thanking him for his years on the court and the impact he had in the community.

Vandermyde and his two brothers own Vandy Creations, a Utah company that specializes in custom metal showpieces. Over the last few months, the brothers collected over 300 messages to put on the sign.

"It was amazing," Gobert said. "It just warms my heart to see that the fans took the time to do that for me. It's something that I'll be able to keep forever. I didn't get to read all the messages yet, but I read a few, and it means a lot."

It's been a strange last 24 hours for Gobert. It was odd going through Salt Lake City again; it was weird going to the visiting locker room during morning shootaround; it was even a bit unusual sleeping at his own house on Thursday night.

"Just driving downtown there's a lot of memories that pop up, from my early years to the last few years, and what we'd been able to accomplish as a team," Gobert said. "And, of course, the relationship that I've built off the court, which to me means more than any type of sports accomplishment, and the work in the community; that's what I'm really proud of."

Sure, he's a visitor now, but all the memories that have rushed back since touching down in Salt Lake have made this much clear: "It feels like home," Gobert said.

"I have amazing relationships here that will last forever, regardless of what happens in business and what happens in the professional aspect of life," he said. "Some of the bonds that I have here are those that last forever."

Some of those bonds are between him and coaches — like assistant Alex Jensen, who oversaw much of Gobert's development. Some are between him and the local community — like with his Rudy Kid's Foundation, which remains active in Utah even after the trade. Some are between him and thousands of fans he has never actually met.

Those are the ones who will be cheering when he's announced on Friday night.

"There will not be a single person that's sitting down and not clapping and cheering," Vandermyde predicted. "And you can't say that about very many players at all. Players cut ties and do all sorts of stuff, but Rudy made it clear from the beginning, he does not want to leave Utah. He loves Utah."

And the Jazz fans still love him right back.


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