From his seat behind the hoop at Vivint Arena, Dr. Richard Anderson very much became part of the fabric of the Utah Jazz over the course of many years, with other longtime fans easily able to recognize his name and face thanks to the antics he regularly displayed.
Anderson died at age 78 after a battle against “a very aggressive cancer,” an obituary recently published in the Deseret News stated.
An exact date of death was not given, although the Salt Lake Tribune reported it occurred Sunday.
Anderson was a world-renowned surgeon, but also became known as the guy who brought saxophones and rubber chicken heads to games to distract opponents (behavior that got him in trouble with referees) and held signs such as “The only good Laker is a Salt Laker” when Los Angeles came to town.
A Deseret News story during the 1998 NBA Finals, when the Jazz faced the Chicago Bulls and Anderson’s fame was arguably at its highest, described him this way: “When he gets out of his scrubs, he heads for the Delta Center and settles into his front row, slightly obstructed seat just under the Jazz basket. There, he magically turns from Dr. Jekyll into Dr. Heckle.
“With bizarre clothes and Jazz insignia imprinted on his face, he continuously pulls from his ‘tackle box’ numerous items geared to either cheer up the Jazz or irritate their opponents. The surgeon is arguably Utah’s most obnoxious basketball fan, and he loves the attention.”
When news of Anderson’s death hit Twitter, many people shared memories of him at Jazz games. A sampling:
Sad to see this news. Never knew him but always loved his passion when seeing him on tv during the games.— Tony Parks (@tonyparks801) March 28, 2023
He once brought a saxophone to a playoff game, played a note to sound exactly like the buzzer and threw the Lakers off at the end of a qtr. https://t.co/CKHQeBf9ih pic.twitter.com/3Z4se3VlhM
i was able to sit next to him several times. when we sat down he would open his bag and hand us a mini-megaphone or some other item to cheer with and say - "it's a loan, not a gift". he brought everyone around him along on the joy ride.— Jerry Hyde (@thejerryhyde) March 28, 2023
That's sad. He was almost as big as the players at the time! Love to his family— Jason (@jason_newton053) March 28, 2023
Definitely remember him. Got into trouble for tossing a ball in the air during free throws.— Brian Horman (@EffnHorman) March 27, 2023
R.I.P. Doc 😢 https://t.co/9szwE6bQz2 pic.twitter.com/e0Ch4ToBw7— JazzNation (@JazzNationNews) March 28, 2023
Away from that public image that many had of him, Anderson was known as an incredibly caring and skilled doctor.
His obituary states he received multiple lifetime achievement awards from various organizations for his work as a surgeon, and he contributed hundreds of scientific journal articles and book chapters “on eyelid, orbital and facial plastic and cosmetic surgery.”
From 1984-1999, he served as professor and chief of the division of ophthalmic, plastic and facial cosmetic surgery at the University of Utah after an eight-year stint at the University of Iowa.
A number of Jazz fans also shared memories they have of him in that capacity.
Dr Anderson was my surgeon when I was 18. The size of his heart and personality were only matched by his alligator skin cowboy boots! Rest well Doc- you changed lives.— Shari (@shariphippen) March 28, 2023
My Dad had a rare disease in his optic nerve 35 years ago and Dr Anderson was on the staff that did an experimental surgery to help return the sight to his eye. My Dad loved him. He was such a great Doctor. He was a HUGE Jazz fan.!!! He will be missed— Sydney ……. Ready To Tank (@sydala) March 28, 2023
RIP Doc Anderson 💔— Matty Baggs (@daddybaggins1) March 28, 2023
He was my eye doctor as a baby. I was born with my right eye shut and it's cause of him that I have any use in that eye.
I grew up watching him at the Jazz games with his duffel bag of props. I've missed seeing him in his seat. https://t.co/9Z4isJ05qs
A viewing will be held on Friday and funeral services on Saturday.