Core memory achieved: Jordan Clarkson gives 4-year-old super fan the experience of a lifetime
The popular Utah Jazz guard shows the kindness he is known for while making a little girl’s day
On Jan. 15, Brett Hadley, a lifelong Utah Jazz fan, innocently posted a photo of his 4-year-old daughter, Ivorie, to social media.
In the photo, Ivorie is holding a sign outside the Delta Center that reads, “I L00VE CLARKSON,” with a double zero rather than the letter “o” because that’s the jersey number Jordan Clarkson wears.
You never really know what interests or hobbies kids are going to gravitate toward, and it’s normal for parents to see if their children will latch on to their own interests so they can share experiences. That’s how Ivorie got drawn to basketball.
She would play with her miniature hoop and Hadley would help her to recognize players until she was doing it all on her own, pointing out Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and other players on the Jazz squad as they appeared on the television. But Clarkson has been her favorite.
She would look at the TV screen and call out, “Clarkson, where are youuu,” until he was back on the court. At 4 years old, Clarkson is the Jazz player that Ivorie has known the longest.
In the social media post, Hadley explained that his daughter was hoping to catch Clarkson’s attention with the sign, but they weren’t allowed to take it into the arena because signs larger than 11 inches by 17 inches aren’t allowed inside. Rules are rules.
Hadley was disappointed because his wife, McKenzie, and Ivorie had worked on the sign together and, it being Ivorie’s first Jazz game, he wanted everything to go well. But he was understanding.
He snapped a photo of Ivorie with the sign and while the family was watching the Jazz go through warmups, he threw it up on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“I posted it, not really thinking anything of it,” Hadley said in an interview with the Deseret News. “It was just like, this is heartbreaking, she wanted to show this sign and it’s a bummer. But even more it was like, this rule is lame, but I get it and look at how cute she is holding it.”
Hadley checked his phone about an hour later and the post had started to gain some major traction, with numerous people tagging Clarkson and some well-known influencers reposting it as well.
“I had a lot of people sending it to me,” Clarkson said. “Saw it after the game and got to it.”
When the family got home that night after the game, they saw that Clarkson had not only liked the original post, but that he had responded.
“Appreciate u! Sorry wasn’t able to see yall but we’ll figure something out. #L00ve.”
“I showed her and she put her head into her pillow and was all embarrassed,” Hadley said. “But she thought it was so, so cool.”
Clarkson had his people reach out to Hadley and they arranged for the family to come to the next game. Clarkson wanted to make sure he didn’t miss Ivorie this time around. He remembers what it was like meeting NBA players and seeing them in person when he was a kid and how much of an impact it had on him. So he wanted to do the same for Ivorie.
“The ones I was probably super geeked up about was Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and A.I. (Allen Iverson) and Paul Pierce and K.G. (Kevin Garnett) when those two were in Boston,” Clarkson said. “Those are the ones that I like lost my mind over. ... I just wanted to show the same love that little girl showed.”
On Jan. 18, the Hadley trio were met at the gate and taken down to the court ahead of the Jazz’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ivorie was given a Clarkson jersey and some other Jazz swag and as they sat courtside during warmups, she was overjoyed to spot Clarkson.
“She pointed to him while they were warming up and was like, ‘Look, it’s Clarkson! It’s Clarkson!’” Hadley said. “She knew a little bit what was going on and she was having fun, but she had no idea that he was going to actually come over to us.”
When Clarkson walked over to the Hadley family to meet Ivorie, shyness and embarrassment took over. She buried her head into her mom’s chest and couldn’t stop laughing.
“She was kind of shy,” Clarkson said with a laugh. “But it was cool, and she seemed like she was having fun so I had fun.”
Clarkson signed Ivorie’s jersey and spoke to the family for a few minutes before going back to his pregame routine.
“She wasn’t scared, she was laughing and trying to make a game out of it,” Hadley said. “He signed the jersey and then a few times he’d look at her and wave and then she would turn her head the opposite way and he laughed and she laughed. It was just so cool for her.”
Ivorie has continued to wear the Clarkson jersey at home and a game that she used to play with her parents has taken on new life. She used to pretend to be “mommy,” telling her mom and dad that they were the baby and that she would take care of them.
Now, Ivorie pretends to be “Clarkson” and helps the baby — Hadley or his wife, McKenzie — find their mommy.
“So she has these pretend games with me where she’s pretending to be Jordan Clarkson helping people out,” Hadley said. “For her to do that, she sees Jordan as this extremely nice and friendly person that wants to do good things for people. Jordan doing something like this just really shows what he is as a person. It’s not just about him being a basketball player.”
“It’s all about creating memories. That’s the best part about this. That’s why we come out here and do our job. Of course, for our own families and all that. But also to make sure the fans feel loved too.” — Jordan Clarkson
Hadley had heard through articles and interviews that Clarkson was kind and funny and well liked by teammates and other fans he’d met, so he figured it was true. But the family was struck by the generosity of Clarkson.
“I wasn’t wanting anyone to feel sorry for us. It was a rule that I didn’t know. I wasn’t expecting anything,” Hadley said. “But this was just so generous and this is a memory she’ll have forever where she knows that basketball players are really nice people and they want to do good things for other people. That’s bigger than doing things on a basketball court.”
For Clarkson, who has endeared himself to Jazz fans from the moment he joined the team via trade in 2019, that’s all he can ask for.
“It’s all about creating memories,” he said. “That’s the best part about this. That’s why we come out here and do our job. Of course, for our own families and all that. But also to make sure the fans feel loved too.”