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Utah Jazz, Edwards hope to feel a good kind of blue in home opener

Blue Edwards slams one home during Jazz '92 playoff series with the Blazers.
Blue Edwards slams one home during Jazz '92 playoff series with the Blazers.
Jeff Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — If things go as planned for the Utah Jazz in their home opener Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, almost everything except the mood in the arena and the name of the halftime performer will be blue.

The “Blue Out” will include:

Blue Jazz pride jerseys on all of the players.

Blue Jazz gear on every fan.

Blue glow sticks.

Blue Edwards, the former Jazz player, will even be there.

“It’s great. I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Edwards said in a phone interview from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m going back there as a fan just to sit back and watch the game and watch the players play and soak in the atmosphere of the loud noise and the people interacting.”

The only non-blue part of the night will be a popular halftime act called Red Panda, whose eye-popping ability to kick bowls onto her head and balance them while riding a tall unicycle gives her a pass on not matching colors.

For Edwards, this will be the first time he gets to soak in the fan atmosphere in the place he called home during the earlier portion of the Stockton-to-Malone era of Jazz basketball. The athletic guard played for Utah in two stints, from 1989-92 and 1994-95, but the soon-to-be 51-year-old has not returned to the Beehive State for a personal visit since a few years after being selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the NBA expansion draft in the mid-90s.

Edwards, drafted 21st overall in 1989 by Utah, has often thought about returning to his NBA roots. It just hasn’t happened for a father of four whose career in North Carolina is still connected to basketball.

The Jazz invited him in part because of his nickname, which so happens to be color coordinated with the home-opening theme. His appearance is part of the organization’s ongoing alumni program, which has previously reunited fans with former players like Tom Chambers, Andrei Kirilenko, Antoine Carr, Darrell Griffith, Mehmet Okur and the 1984 “Team With Heart” playoff squad.

As such, Edwards will be signing autographs and mingling with fans on the Vivint Arena concourse at the Fanzz team store before the game.

“When I got this opportunity, I definitely jumped at it,” Edwards said. “It’s a very welcoming and inviting feeling.”

The post-Finals Jazz fan base might not be too familiar with Edwards, but old-school fans still remember the incredible athleticism of the East Carolina University product who represented the franchise at the 1991 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Edwards, a second team All-NBA Rookie player in 1990, averaged 8.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 261 games with the Jazz. He also logged time in Milwaukee, Boston, Vancouver and Miami before wrapping up his pro basketball career overseas.

Edwards said he tries to keep tabs on his old team after all of these years, something that’s easier thanks to sports apps on his phone. He connected with fans in each spot but would have preferred to remain with the Jazz his whole career.

“Sometimes if you’re very blessed, you can be in one city you’re entire career,” he said. “If not, it’s a business. You have to go where the work is.”

Edwards said the favorite part of his NBA career was being drafted by the Jazz in the first round. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with and associating with Utah’s Hall of Fame trio of John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan. He also has fond memories of playing with Darrell Griffith, a player he admired growing up, Thurl Bailey, Mark Eaton, Mike Brown, Corey Crowder and Delaney Rudd.

Feeling the nostalgia, Jazz fans?

Edwards feels it when he uses lessons learned from that group, especially from Sloan, as he mentors boys and girls with his AAU basketball group (Charlotte Fire), does speaking engagements and conducts clinics, camps and individual skills training sessions.

Edwards tries to teach through making a connection to trust.

“A lot of the stuff I do through my AUU program, Jerry Sloan did. I paid attention and listened to what he said and his approach,” Edwards said. "If I can teach a guy or a girl to be successful on the court, why can’t I use that same lesson to teach them to be successful off the court?”

Edwards said he occasionally keeps in touch with former Jazz teammates. He used to see Rudd often in summer basketball tournaments because they were both coaching AAU teams.

Edwards laughed recalling a conversation he had with the former Utah point guard about plays his team would run.

“I know you’re doing all that Jazz stuff,” Rudd told Edwards. “ I see what you’re doing.”

Edwards’ response sounded like the Jazz’s approach back in their pick-and-roll prime.

“You might know what I’m going to do, but you’ve still got to stop it,” Edwards told him.

“It was a fun thing for both us,” he added.

Another fun thing?

His nickname, Blue.

It originated from a not-so-fun moment, though.

When Theodore Edwards was a kid, he started choking on something and lost his breath. His sister found him and alerted their mom, “You’ve got a blue boy! You’ve got a blue boy!”

Thankfully, Edwards’ mom was able to resuscitate him and save his life. There was a small repercussion, though. His siblings mockingly called him Blue after that incident.

“My brothers and sisters called me that to pick on me,” Edwards recalled. “They called me that so much it stuck with me.”

It really took hold his senior year in high school when his school’s P.A. announcer enthusiastically called him “Theodore Blue Edwards” over the loudspeaker after a breakaway dunk one game.

Eventually, Theodore Blue Edwards was shortened to Blue.

Decades later, the fitting name is part of a fun reunion and opening night festivities for his old team.

“I’m going to have a good time no matter,” Edwards said. “But hopefully it’s a great night of basketball.”