Jazz owner Ryan Smith said it from the beginning.
And now, Dwyane Wade’s presence and voice as part owner of the team is being added to the chorus, blending in on a harmony of tones regarding basketball excellence, corporate acumen and community progression.
All of it is an extension of Smith’s vision — and now Wade’s — for how the Jazz should and can be run, how business should and can be done, how enlightenment should and can be shared.
Smith revealed many of those intentions during an interview in December, leaving out the part about Wade coming aboard, a wowza revelation that was posted on Friday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who quoted the eight-time All-NBA player as saying:
“This goes way beyond the dream I had to just play basketball in the NBA. I’ve seen Shaq do it in Sacramento. I’ve seen Grant Hill do it in Atlanta. I’ve seen Jordan do it in Charlotte. If this partnership is going to be anything like my relationship is with Ryan, there are going to be a lot of things that I’ll want to be involved in.
“… I do not take it lightly to have this opportunity. To make real change, this is where you have to be — at the top — and Ryan knows that. I’m thankful for him, and I know, too, that I bring a lot to this partnership outside of just my basketball knowledge and skills.”
So it is that Wade’s purchase of a percentage of the Jazz blows far past his guidance for and connection with Donovan Mitchell, who has been compared to Wade in style of play, and who Wade has taken underwing since Mitchell’s rookie season.
Smith originally said he had big plans for the Jazz, building on what Larry and Gail Miller already had put in place, looking for ways to install fresh ideas and experiences from and for management, coaches, players, fans and the community around the team, including all of Utah and beyond. That is the very thing that Smith’s company, Qualtrics, says it provides for its clients — data and ideas for improved workplace environment and results.
And that’s what Smith now believes Wade will bring to the Jazz and to Utah.
“There is a broad picture here,” he told ESPN. “It’s much more than just basketball. This league is the biggest platform that there is, and we ran toward that. … This is actually what we signed up for. We’re the newest ownership group. We’re the youngest. Dwyane’s a perfect fit. … I want to work with Dwyane on and off the court, on the business side, and so do our partners — because of who he is as a human being and what he’s accomplished. Those are the kinds of people you want to be around.”
Said Wade: “This is about the next phase of my life as an investor, a businessman, an entrepreneur. For me, this is an opportunity to grow.”
Wade bought into the Jazz because of his friendship with Smith, who he met a couple of years ago on a golf course — Smith is an avid and accomplished golfer — and grew to respect, not just on account of his potential business partnership and mentorship, but because of the man’s attitude about and commitment to racial and social causes, recognizing the positive effect he intended to have in realms far beyond the lines on a basketball court.
Smith said as much in December, emphasizing the importance of the Jazz winning, but also using their influence for the betterment of society as a whole.
He fervently spoke of throwing his weight behind good causes, one of which the Jazz wear on their uniform — a patch for the “5 for the Fight” campaign, which has raised more than $30 million for cancer research. He’s also provided scholarships for kids in need, giving educational opportunities that otherwise would not exist.
As for racial and social and LGBTQ issues, Smith said he would do whatever he could to help lift the community in those areas, adding: “These should have been solved hundreds of years ago. We’ve just got to do better. And I’m going to do my best to lead out on that the same way I’ve done at Qualtrics. We can do better as a state. We can do better as a league. I stand with our players … systemic racism might be the worst experience there is … we want to get rid of these bad experiences. No one should have to grow up or deal with that. And I will do everything I can with this platform to help use it to get rid of that bad experience.”
It’s a platform he now will share with Wade.
“We’re not running away from the racial and social and LGBTQ conversations,” Wade said. “I’m committed to doing the work. I talk about the LGBTQ community, which everyone knows is important to me. My daughter is part of that community.
“I don’t look at this as only a Utah Jazz relationship. I look at this as a relationship that’s multifaceted — business, basketball, me being able to bring Ryan into my world, just as he’s bringing me into his world.”
And both now are a big part of the Jazz’s world.
Wade’s basketball acumen and achievements are well known.
But he’s also universally respected among NBA players, and that respect should reflect and resonate in a useful way among those players, concurrently helping the Jazz and their fans and Utah better understand and relate to them and, going the other way, help the Jazz better appeal to those players.
The Wasatch Front isn’t exactly an NBA destination spot, it’s not South Beach — something Wade is well aware of, him having played so long in Miami — but it also isn’t Hooterville, USA. It’s no tiny Amish village on the edge of some Western outpost, where dust is eaten on the trail and horse and buggy are the featured mode of transportation.
If Wade is as involved as he said he intends to be, the success and the influence of the Jazz will expand. And the vision Smith had for the franchise as he bought it will edge closer to being made real.
That’s a substantial win for the Jazz and for the city and state they call home.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.