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Derrick Favors’ return to Utah and the tribute that was a long time coming

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Oklahoma City Thunder center Derrick Favors, wearing a blue jersey, and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, wearing a black jerssey, tip off

Oklahoma City Thunder center Derrick Favors (15) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tip off the game as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder open the 2021-22 season at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

For the first time since 2011, and the trade that brought him to the Utah Jazz, Derrick Favors arrived in Salt Lake City as a member of the opposing team.

After he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019, he was supposed to come play at Vivint Arena in November of that same year, but a back injury kept him sidelined and he didn’t make the trip.

The Pelicans second game in Utah was supposed to be played in mid-March of 2020, but just days before that contest could be played, the NBA shut down after Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis in Oklahoma City, coincidentally the place where Favors would end up.

The Jazz had put together a tribute video that never ended up being seen by anyone, and then Favors re-signed with the Jazz the following year. The team used a lot of the tribute video footage to celebrate him rejoining the team.

According to team sources, Favors had been looking forward to seeing the video that never saw the light of day.

After being traded again this past offseason to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz creative team along with the PR staff wanted to make sure that Favors’ first night back at Vivint was a special one.

The new video tribute played during the break between the first and second quarter of the 2021-22 season opening game between the Jazz and Thunder. Favors watched from near the OKC bench and then put his hand on his chest and waved to the crowd multiple times.

The video included footage of Favors playing and making big shots, but also included more subdued moments, like Favors’ introductory press conference with the Jazz when he was just 19 years old and shots of him with his children and sitting against a wall during practice with his teammates.

“The goal was to tell the story of his growth both as a player and person during his time in Utah,” the Jazz told the Deseret News. “The moments with Derrick and his children, who have spent much of their childhood in Salt Lake, were just as important to show as the game-changing shot he made against Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the 2018 playoffs.” 

The tribute video was the second time of the night Favors received a huge ovation from the Jazz crowd at Vivint. When he was announced as the starting center of Thunder, the home crowd showed him love that very few opposing players receive.

And Favors starting on Wednesday night was no accident. Oklahoma City head coach Mark Daigneault said that while Favors added stability to his young squad, it’s no secret how special Utah is to Favors, and Daigneault wanted him to have his moment in front of the fans to which Favors is so beloved.

“He’s coming home,” Daigneault said before the game. “This is a special place for him and I wanted to acknowledge that.”