She grew up to the sound of Hot Rod Hundley, his voice a saxophone call behind the plays of Stockton-to-Malone. She remembers their first shot at the championship, her mom a bundle of nerves as they watched the pivotal match. She can’t remember who they played, or exactly how old she was, but she remembers the specter of her great grandmother hovering in the room with them. Her great grandmother had been an avid Jazz fan.
She couldn’t watch the end on TV, the game coming down to the last seconds and Jazz with the possession. She fled to the dining room, and her mom stayed in the kitchen watching the final moments under the fluorescent lights and lingering smells of dinner. She flicked on the massive radio and laid down next to it, the new blue carpet cushioning her cheek. She listened, her stomach a tight knot of anxiety, as the Jazz inbound the ball. Hot Rod’s words were a staccato rush; he told her Stockton took the last shot standing atop the key.
She can still hear the call, his voice – raspy with excitement – so vivid in her mind.
“John Stockton takes the Utah Jazz to the NBA finals.”
She can still see her mom skipping and leaping around the formica counter, tears streaming down her face. She understood why her mom was crying; she felt it too. This win was meant to be; Stockton and the Jazz had done it for her great grandmother.
She can’t remember when Hot Rod retired, doesn’t remember much about when she heard he had passed. But she does remember Jerry Sloan retiring. Thousands of miles away, she streamed his farewell speech and remembered her great grandmother, the way Stockton sunk that final shot, the ecstatic cries of Hot Rod streaming through the speakers, and her mom celebrating in the kitchen.