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Loyalty over everything: Rudy Gobert never wanted to be anywhere other than with the Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) goes up for a dunk as the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) goes up for a dunk as the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Rudy Gobert’s loyalty to the Utah Jazz has never wavered.

After tensions between Gobert and Donovan Mitchell rose during the 2019-20 season hiatus, through every roster change over the years and every time that he’s been asked about his contract situation or about the future of the team, his responses have remained steadfastly consistent. Gobert wants to win, and he wants to do it here.

On Sunday morning, the Jazz announced that the team and Gobert had agreed to a contract extension. League sources confirmed an earlier report by ESPN that the deal is a five-year extension worth $205 million with a fifth-year player option.

“I believe in this organization and that’s why my decision was easy to make because that’s where my heart is,” Gobert said via Zoom. “Since I got here, I always thought that having a chance to bring a championship to the state of Utah, to this city and to this organization would be something pretty powerful.”

There was never any doubt in Gobert’s mind that a deal would get done, whether that happened before the 2020-21 regular season began or after was not a concern of his.

Staying even-keeled about the situation as negotiations between his agent and the Jazz continued over the last few weeks, the rest of the Jazz players never had any inkling of how talks were going.

“I applaud Rudy,” Mitchell said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell if the negotiations were going great or if they were going bad, whatever they were. None of us really knew until it happened, and I give him credit for coming into work straight-faced, ready to go and locked in.”

Gobert’s dedicated himself to preparing for the upcoming season and not letting the contract negotiations distract him from what he wants, the legacy that he wants to leave and the way he wants to do it.

Shortly after news of the extension broke, Gobert released a letter he’d written to Utah and in that letter, which thanks the community for embracing him over the years and allowing him to become a part of a place that feels like home, Gobert only names two individuals — his mother, and Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.

“When he talks about our staff and his teammates it’s obviously nice to be included in that,” Snyder said. “There’s a level of loyalty that Rudy has that’s special.”

He’s not wrong.

That’s why it was impossible not to see Gobert’s letter in direct contrast with another letter written to Utah back in 2017 by Gordon Hayward after his chaotic and unceremonious departure from the Jazz. It’s hard not to make comparisons across the board between the two players and how differently their stories have played out.

When Hayward chose the Boston Celtics over the Utah Jazz, Gobert posted a video on Instagram of him singing along with Chris Brown’s Loyal, which is more or less a song about not being loyal or trustworthy.

Gobert made a point on Sunday to say that if he’d hit free agency next summer and ended up on a different team and later won a title with that team that it wouldn’t have been as sweet as winning with the Jazz.

“It would mean a lot more to bring a championship here,” Gobert said. “Because of all the struggles that we’ve been through the last seven years. All the blood, sweat, the deceptions, the losses in the first round of the playoffs. It wouldn’t have been the same. Obviously winning a championship is great, wherever you are. But I don’t think it would be the same for me to win it somewhere else.”

In Hayward’s Players’ Tribune letter he detailed how much Utah had meant to him over the seven years he’d spent with the Jazz, how he’d grown into a man with the team and started a family in Utah.

Despite Hayward saying in the letter that the Jazz fans “mean the world to me and my family,” ultimately he wanted to chase a championship with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who had coached Hayward at Butler. He called not winning an NCAA title with Stevens “unfinished business.” Now a member of the Charlotte Hornets, that business is likely to never be finished.

In the letter that Gobert wrote to Utah on Sunday, he too detailed his seven years spent in Utah and how the values that were instilled in him by his mother — be true to yourself, work hard and respect others — are the same values that he has seen and experienced since arriving in Utah in 2013.

But rather than say thank you and goodbye, Gobert said this:

“I’ll end by saying thank you, I’m here to stay, and I’m here to WIN a championship. I’m here to win with my brothers, I’m here to win with coach Q and I’m here to win with you, Utah.”

It is not an accident that Gobert mentioned Snyder in his public letter. Gobert credits Snyder with creating the culture and identity of the Jazz and for giving him a chance to become a great player and two-time defensive player of the year.

When the Deseret News later asked Gobert how important Snyder is to his success and his continued legacy, Gobert did not hold back giving one of the most clear endorsements that any NBA coach can receive.

“I don’t think that I would be the player or the man that I am today without Quin,” he said. “When Quin got here he give me a chance and he believed in me when he didn’t necessarily have to believe me... He’s been one of the the biggest figures for me in this organization and I believe that the day we are able to bring a championship to Utah, I want it to be with Quin.”

So after all the hemming and hawing, all the worries from fans about getting a deal done, the wait is over. Gobert is here to stay, Mitchell is here to stay, and with Snyder leading the way they are looking to give Utah an NBA title.