Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Leapin’ Leaners and Low Tops Utah Jazz charity event held at the EnergySolutions Arena. This annual event is intended to give fans the opportunity to mingle with coaches and players and for the organization to raise money for the Larry H. Miller Charities. If you’ve been wanting the chance to interact freely with your favorite players, this is the place to do it. The players meander about in a casual fashion – taking pictures, making conversation, playing games, and bantering with each other for fans to see. Here’s a low-down of some of the details surrounding last night’s events:
Pictures reveal that the dress code for the event is a little odd. Odd, but fun, nonetheless. All guests are instructed to wear elegant/semi-formal dress attire with….gym shoes. The dress code applies to everyone. Most of the players’ ensembles fell into the ‘he’s looks pretty decent’ category, but there were definitely those that really stood out – for better and for worse. Let’s start with those falling in the ‘for better’ category. Does Tyrone Corbin ever look bad?! He looked dapper as usual and chose a great grey suit/shoe combo. Sidney Lowe and his wife win for best coordinated duo. DeMarre Carroll and Earl Watson also had some serious swagger going on. DeMarre looks like he’s working with the same stylist hired by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant these days – bright orange shirt, pink bow tie, high water slacks, pink socks, orange and pink Nike’s, and of course, the glasses. It sounds uber-ridiculous, but he actually pulled it all together quite well. It was a great combo of nerdy, athletic, adorable, and sexy. Kudos to DeMarre! Earl was also looking pretty fly too, sporting a tan jacket with black velvet accents, red check tie, and some seriously classy red Jordan’s. The man knows how to dress, and if there must be an ultimate winner, he wins the award for best dressed of the night in my book. That totally took me by surprise. And you know what else took me by surprise? How incredibly awful Gordon Hayward looked. I adore the kid, but he looked ridiculous! He looked like he just rolled out of bed and found himself wearing an old forest green shirt of his dad’s, slipped on some unkempt uber-baggy pants and some white high-toppy boat shoes, and jumped in his little Honda to head to the arena. He is taking this thriftiness to a whole ‘notha level! Gordon Hayward, where is your swagger?!?! I asked both Earl and DeMarre if they could help Gordo out, and they very emphatically agreed that he needs fashion help on most days. Neither hesitated to poke a little fun at the guy, so I guess I figure that gives me license to do so too. I will say, though, that Gordon wears one of the most genuine smiles on the team, and that definitely counts for something.
A large part of the event is a silent auction where attendees could bid on various Jazz items as well as various items donated by the community. Of course you had your autographed Jazz jerseys, player pictures, and team balls up for grabs, but there were also things like professional water skiing lessons, designer watches, and flowers for a year (flowers for a year, hint-hint!) for the bidding. One category of items that kinda shocked me was signed jerseys of past players now playing on different teams –so a Hawks jersey signed by Kyle Korver, a Minnesota jersey signed by Kirilenko, and a Bulls jersey signed by Carlos Boozer. Wasn’t expecting to see that. But even more shocking than that was the most shocking item of all – a children’s book signed by the one, the only, Croatian sharp-shooter Gordan Giricek. What?!?! Yes, you read that right and no, I did not make that up. I’m still kicking myself for not having placed a bid.
A variety of games and activities are set up along the outskirts of the court area of the arena for fans and players to join in some fun together. Video games, air hockey, ping-pong, and foosball. My date and I challenged Paul Millsap and a random child to a game of foosball and needless to say, my date and I won. I wish I could say it was because of our mad skills, but I questioned Paul’s genuine investment in the game from moment one. At one point I think I told him to ‘look alive’ as I wanted to know that we beat him fair and square and not that he was just gonna let us win. To Paul’s credit, he was very friendly with us and he even opened up a little about his new two-week-old baby girl. While people played games on the outskirts, others jumped on the court to shoot some hoops and play a little one-on-one with players. My biggest regret of the night is not having challenged Jeff Hornacek to a game of Horse.
All in all, the Jazz put on an amazing event. It had a nice casual, laid back feel, people really seemed to enjoy themselves and the night was a success. My hat goes off to all those who organized and contributed to this great event. Events like this remind me that Utah Jazz basketball transcends the court and is a strong force in bringing our community together. It’s no New York, but I sure love Salt Lake City. And if you take out the cold winters, Paul assured me that he loves it too.