Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 3)

THE JACK BULL

All Jerry wanted for his birthday was a KUIU vest to walk in (03/17)

I met Jerry Sloan, and his son Brian, about the turn of the millennium. Karl Malone had purchased elk hunts for both of them, and he asked me to be their guide. I have written about that story, and many other experiences I have had with Jerry and his family in another article a few years ago, when Jerry announced he was in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s and Lewy Dementia. I will leave a link for that at the end of this, if you care to read it.

There are people who knew Jerry longer and better than I. Who spent more time with him than I. Who talked with him more than I. Who know more about him than I. But, none of them knew him exactly like I did. 

My relationship with Jerry was quite unique. It really had little to do with basketball, other than the games my wife and I attended with him and Tammy after his retirement. We would meet up with them at their house and ride with them as Tammy drove. We would park in the same place beneath the arena and be warmly welcomed as we went through security. Jerry would shake everyone’s hand and ask how they were. We would go up to dinner at their reserved table, sit with them in their seats several rows above the Jazz bench and enjoy the game. When the game was over we went back to their home, chat for a few minutes, and say our goodbyes.

Jazz vs Rockets Playoff Game (05/18)

It was very interesting to me that whenever I attended a game (with or without Jerry) I was given the same treatment by the security and Jazz employees at the game. They knew who I was and all referred to me as “Jerry’s guide”. They would chat it up with me and ask what adventure I had been on or what my next one was. I had access to the players “family lounge”, and was shown the respect of being Jerry’s family. It was very flattering and humbling at the same time. Even while Jerry was still coaching, I would wait outside the locker room before the games I attended. The players would go out to shoot around and he would come out and visit with me for several minutes. Many times he would have me bring the people I was with down as well and they got to meet Jerry. I always received VIP treatment from him and all the players.

One time in particular I called Jerry before a game and asked if I could bring a basketball I was auctioning off at a fundraiser for him and a few players to sign. I met him at the locker room over an hour before the game, he signed the ball and had all the players coming out sign it as well. I had nearly every player’s signature, including Karl’s, and knew the ball would generate a lot of money for the cause. As I was leaving he said, “Hold up.” He took the ball and went back into the locker room, a couple minutes later he came out and said, “I had John [Stockton] sign this one as well. It’s the only thing John ever signed that I had ties too. It was pretty cool, and only Jerry could of made that happen. The ball auctioned for $1,800.

Jerry had time for everyone (02/16)

That was the extent of my basketball relationship with Jerry. I don’t even recall us ever discussing basketball when we were not at a game. Whether I missed a great opportunity or not to learn basketball from him is undeniable, but basketball simply was not our common bond, or what our relationship was built on.

Jerry epitomized loyalty and kindness. That was evident from the countless stories being told over his life — particularly the last several days since his passing. Whether it was to his family or his farm, his teammates or his players,  his associates or friends, Jerry Sloan was loyal.

Jerry called me his friend the first time we met. Nothing he ever said or did the next two-plus decades made me think otherwise. After our first few days hunting elk, he turned to me and said “Tony, most people are wired 110, not you, you are wired 220. If I had a team full of guys like that, we would never lose.” What a compliment that was.

Coach and “The Dream” (05/18)

May 4th, 2018 we went to the Jazz playoff game against the Rockets. Before the game we had our traditional dinner upstairs and Hakeem Olajuwon was in town. He respectfully came up to Jerry and shook his hand and introduced himself to me as well. We all chatted for a few minutes. Hakeem showed great respect and admiration for Jerry. It was obvious Hakeem knew he was in the presence of one of the all time greats, and wanted nothing more than to pay his respect. Listening to those two talk for a few minutes was priceless. It was inspiring and humbling. Two hall-of-famers, and some of the best ever at what they did. It was unbelievable that I was able to participate in that interaction.

Top Golf with the Sloans (03/17)

March 18th 2017, Brian and his son, Grant, were in town. We went to dinner and Top Golf that night. As always, Jerry was more than accommodating to all who approached him. We ordered some snacks and watched Grant hit golf balls a country mile. Jerry never turned a person away when they wanted to say hi or get a photo. Man, the guy amazed me. Earlier in the day we had gone to the local sports expo. That night at dinner Jerry ordered dessert; he called it “clown face.” We laughed because it did look like a clown’s face. It was some sort of ice cream and toppings. Jerry had humor — sometimes it was dry, but it was humor. We laughed about “clown face” several times the last three years. One of the many “Jerry comments” that I will never forget.

“Clown Face” (03/17)

February 9th, 2019 was the last basketball game I went to with Jerry. The Jazz were playing the Spurs and beat them fairly handily. While Tammy and Shannon (my wife) went to get some snacks and drinks at half-time, Jerry had me show him my hunting and fishing photos from the last year. My phone is full of photos of all different kinds of animals and fish from all over the world. It didn’t seem to matter what I showed him, every photo had a story, and he would ask about the person who caught the fish or got the animal. We talked about his and Brian’s elk hunt, and also the two different hog hunts we went on together. Keep in mind, those were almost twenty-years earlier.  It was a moment in time that seemed to stop, and one that will be branded in my mind forever. We left that game after the third quarter, as the game was out of reach and Jerry was tired.

At the time I had the feeling I might never attend another game with him. When we got to his house we didn’t go in this time, we walked them to the door and shook his hand as I always did. Jerry was tired. As we made the 45 minute drive home that night, I told Shannon that we probably wouldn’t attend another game with Jerry and Tammy. I am not sure how many games we attended with them after his retirement over the years, If I was in town whenever Tammy offered, I would make sure our schedule worked out so we could go.

My thank-you gift to Jerry for his years of friendship (03/16)

June 20th, 2019 was my last extended visit with Jerry. I spent over an hour with him. He had his John Deer hat on, and we must have walked at least a mile. This is something he was adamant about to stay healthy. I hadn’t seen Jerry in four months, as I was out of the state guiding my hunting trips in New Zealand and Alaska. I was home for only three days, so I called Tammy to arrange the visit. I was leaving for Alaska for the summer the next day, and I wanted to make sure I said goodbye.

Even Though Jerry was in great shape, I was going to be gone 3 months. You just don’t know what could happen to someones health in three months when they were battling what Jerry was. Like every time before, I showed him photos of my adventures, and talked about hunting. Tammy texted me later that night and told me Jerry told her I wore him out. He said “man, Tony sure can talk.” I guess that is the 220 in me that he noticed twenty-plus-years earlier.

The Sportmans Expo (03/17)

For the next eight months I didn’t see Jerry. That is my busy time to fish and hunt. We did talk on the phone several times during those months. I would always text Tammy (because Jerry didn’t text) to see Jerry’s schedule before I called. I didn’t want to catch him when they had other things going on, or other people over. I also didn’t want to wake him during his midday naps. As long as I knew Jerry, he always got in his nap. When we talked, it was only for a couple minutes. Just enough for him to ask where I had been, when I was going again, and for me to ask what he had been up to.

In late November of 2019 my phone rang. That was not uncommon at all, but what was uncommon was that it was Jerry calling me. I thought it must be an accident, as my number is usually the first name in most people’s phones, and I get butt dials all the time. But Jerry had an old school flip phone, so butt calls were not gonna happen. I answered and on the other end was that distinctive voice. “Tony, this is Jerry Sloan, what have you been up to?” I remembering chuckling before I answered him and said “I just got back from Alaska hunting Sitka Blacktail deer.” He asked “Why would you want to be in Alaska in the end of November?” And I said, “Because I wasn’t very smart.” He laughed and said, “Neither am I, that must be why we are friends.”

Jerry gave me his Hall of Fame-Inductee basketball (03/16)

It was the only time I recall him calling me with apparently no purpose. He had called me several times in the past, returning phone calls or confirming plans, but this time he called me from what seemed to be out of the blue and with no purpose. He never knew when I would be in or out of town, so I would touch base with him when I was around and we would grab lunch or just chat on the phone. But this time was different. I don’t know why he called. It was strange as it just wasn’t what he did. But I remember the conversation like it was yesterday and I even remember calling Brian after and telling him about it. Memorable is an understatement.

Early February 2020 is the last time I saw Jerry. I was in Salt Lake and called Tammy to see if I could stop by and say hi for a minute. I did this when I was in town. She said yes, as she always did, and I stopped in that evening. There was a basketball game on, and Jerry was lying in bed watching it. I walked in and shook his hand like I always did, and he of course asked what I had been up to. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly 8 months. He had been battling Parkinson’s and Lewy Dementia now for over four years. He was less talkative than he had been for all the years I had known him.

Jerry’s Hog on the Tejon Ranch (06/02)

The diseases he was fighting were taking their toll. He was by no means giving up, but you could tell the battle was long and hard. It was the shortest visit I ever had with Jerry. Tammy was in the room in a chair watching the game with him, and I sat on the side of his bed. We had small talk as he faded in and out of sleep. Tammy said he didn’t eat a lot when Jerry spoke up and asked when they were having dinner. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a Dum-Dum sucker I had picked up at the bank earlier, and offered it to Jerry. I remember it was sour apple, he declined and said he had a drawer full of candy next to his bed. Tammy opened the drawer and he wasn’t lying, the drawer was full. Jerry loved his sweets. I opened the sucker and ate it myself. Jerry Drifted in an out of sleep while Tammy and I talked for a couple more minutes. I mentioned our hog hunt again to Jerry, and asked if he wanted to go on another one. He responded, “I have to check my schedule.” Tammy and I laughed at that same dry humor that he had shown since the day I met him.

Jerry drifted off again and I told Tammy I should probably leave. Tammy and I talked for another minute or so when Jerry spoke up and said, “you guys are being too loud. Tony, it’s time for you to  go.” Those are the last words Jerry spoke to me. I leaned over, shook his hand and told him I would see him later. I wondered if that would be the last time I would ever see Jerry Sloan. Our friendship on earth likely had just written its last chapter. I walked out with a tear in my eye, much like right now. A part of me wanted to stay longer, and stretch out what I felt would be my last visit, but just like when Jerry benched a player, he had benched me. “Tony, it’s time for you to go.”

Jerry’s granddaughter, Megan’s, Volleyball Tournament (02/16)

I called my friend Jay Brandriet on the way home. This friend had interviewed Jerry countless times when he was coach. He had worked for the local radio station for years and knew Jerry from those days. I told him I had just been visiting Jerry for a few minutes catching up. He then told me the following story from Spring of 2009.

“My assignment was usually to cover the road locker room. I remember a particular night where I needed to go over and get sound from the Utah side of things. This was a rare off-night for the Jazz at home, which they had not played well. Jerry came out and was ready to talk. We all had to wait for a particular TV crew before we could get started. Jerry seemed tense over the defeat.

There was eight or nine of us crowded around him in awkward silence. I was two feet in front of Jerry, and face to face. We needed a tension breaker here. I knew he was close friends with a buddy of mine.

I spoke up and said, “Hey coach, you and Tony Abbott been hunting lately?”

He smiled and took off his glasses and said, “No, but I did shoot some birds last fall.” His body language changed. I don’t even remember what else  he said. He went from a potentially harsh to deal with competitor, to making us all feel like he was our uncle Jerry.”

The Big Outdoor Expo (02/16)

Jerry Sloan and I became great friends. So much so that in the middle of a season, when the team was slumping and he was about to face tough questions from the media, my name brought a smile to his face and changed his demeanor. 

I checked in with Tammy several times over the past few months, but once the COVID19 hit the state, Jerry couldn’t see friends. I understood, so Tammy and I would text every couple of weeks so I could get updates. Tammy was perfect for Jerry and his challenges.

The week Jerry passed I had talked with Tammy and Brian and knew Jerry’s time was limited. Brian told me a couple very cool things that I will keep to myself. At that point I thought I was prepared to deal with Jerry leaving this life and starting on his next “season.”

On the morning of May 22nd, 2020, Brian called and I knew what it was about. I answered with tears in my eyes already waiting to hear the words, yet the first thing he said was “Hey 220, you know my dad loved you.” I think I am a pretty tough guy. My emotions are fairly minimal and crying is just not something I do. I was sitting in the room with my daughter Jessie, and I had to stand up and walk into the next room and close the door. I cried. Not only did I cry, but I sobbed. We didn’t talk for a few seconds and then he said Jerry had passed just after 1:00 am.

I gave my condolences, and he gave his appreciation for the friend I had been to his dad, and the unique relationship we had formed. We both shed some tears and expressed some personal thoughts. It was very humbling.

Jazz vs Nets game (11/17)

Tammy was nothing short of incredible to Jerry, especially during his battle with these diseases. She was a rock amongst rocks. She definitely made his battle much more bearable. She even remembered mine and Shannon’s birthdays this April, and took the time to send us cards. Tammy Sloan will be our friend for life.

So why did I call this “The Jack Bull?” The Jack Bull is a phrase used to describe a Jack Russell terrier. It would just as soon have its head cut off then release its jaw from a victim it had engaged.

Jerry Sloan, when he played and when he coached, would lock his teeth on his opponent and refuse to release them no matter what. He would just as soon have his head cut off than release an opponent from his jaws. Whether it was going at other coaches, the officials, other team’s, or his own players… he was ferocious and relentless.

But I knew the side of Jerry that was kind, giving, humble, funny and loyal. Most people knew Jerry Sloan the coach, I knew Jerry Sloan as a friend. He was a “Jack Bull” with his friendships as well.

The Jack Bull was as good at what he did as anyone I know. His legacy in Basketball is solidified, and his loyalty to his family and friends is unquestionable. 

His loyalty and kindness to me feels undeserved, but something I will always cherish.

The man who called me “220” the first time we met, who years later told me I was too loud and it was time for me to leave, was one of a kind. My friendship and experiences with Jerry Sloan spanned over two decades, and parts of two different centuries. I met Jerry when he was in his fifties, not much older than I am now.  Our friendship was real, rewarding, sincere, and appreciated. I was friended by “The Jack Bull,” and I am a better person for it. Rest well my friend. Until we meet again.

Tony “220” Abbott

Lunch with Coach (11/16)

Link to previous article. http://tonylabbott.com/my-friend-jerry-sloan/

The Poor Choice.

This is a phrase I have used for years. But what does it really mean?

I am sure most if not all of us were told that we should make “good choices” by our parents when we left the house for the evening. This is pretty universal and one I find myself using with my children. Do we give heed to this plea? Or do we brush it aside as if almost offended by the thought that someone would question our ability to make “good choices”?

The truth is we all make poor choices, some of us more than others, but none of us are free from making them.

Why do we choose to be poor? Think about that. I am referring to financially. Why do we choose to be poor financially regardless how much money we make based on our choices? There are lots of poor choices, but the worse choices we make are the ones to make us poor.

I don’t believe we can all be rich as far as money goes, too many things have to go right for it to happen to everyone. But I absolutely 100% believe we can all choose to not be poor.

Being poor in America is still miles and miles ahead of most other country’s. Most of us do not understand poverty on the grand scale, at least not from experience. We have good, clean, running water, we have fire departments and clean hospitals. We have law and order (for the most part). We typically don’t deal with plagues and starvation. We can buy food anytime of day or night. Overall our country is pretty well off. If you get sick there is likely a treatment or medicine that are readily available to you and at a moments notice.

Now those in our country that do fall into the poverty level have many ways they could get out of it. For whatever the reason they choose not to. There are the extreme situations beyond someones control that does cause poverty, but these are exceptions to the rules. In America if you want to not live in poverty you have that ability. And if you want to prosper it is also a choice. The infrastructure all but guarantees no poverty and with just a little bit of effort you won’t be poor.

So this brings me to being poor, which is different then being in poverty. Being poor is a choice.

Why do nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck? This is an astounding number and one that is hard for me to believe, but it is the number I can find and it looks verifiable.

The answer is pretty simple, we choose to be poor because we choose to live paycheck to paycheck. This will be hard for many to comprehend but stay with me for a minute, they answers are right in front of us.

We are a want it now society and we are willing to put almost everything on credit to get what we want and not have to wait. We put furniture on credit, we buys cars on credit, we get recreation vehicles on credit, we get new phones on credit as well as computers. Plastic surgery is also put on credit as is most of our vacations. Almost everything we do we are happy to finance it.

Now lets be fair, buying a house on credit is the only way 99.9% of us will ever own a house. So we get typically a 30 year mortgage and if we are lucky we get a rate between 4%-6% and are in it for the long haul. This IMO is acceptable as there would be no homes owners if this wasn’t available. But we should pay it off as soon as we can. We know that stringing a home loan out for 30 years on a $300,000 loan will add over $100,000 to the total amount paid over a 15 year note. What could you do with $100,000? We can discuss that later.

But going into debt for me stops with a home. On a rare occasion emergency medical bills may need to be financed and I understand that as well, but again that is the exception. There are many that advocate student loan debt, I do not fall in this category. We are seeing now that student loan debt is crippling these kids (albeit self inflicted). Now I don’t feel sorry for them as no one forced them to finance an education, but society seems to say without an education you can’t make it in life. If you get student debt obtaining a degree in something that earns you enough money to pay it back I’ll give you a pass. If you get it in something with little to no chance of paying it back I have zero sympathy. I am living proof that making a good living in this country without student loans is very very doable, but that is another discussion.

So take homeownership, major medical expenses and I’ll even include sensible student debt and lets not classify them as “bad debt” and see what we have left? We have a whole lot of vehicles, ATV’s, computers, vacations, smart phones, Ipads, furniture, appliances, plastic surgery, clothes, eating out and many other things that are put on credit with the bank or on a credit card.

Why do we do this? We do it because we want those things now, and a monthly payment is so simple to appease that appetite immediately rather than waiting to be able to pay cash for it. We don’t tell our kids no, we don’t think about what if we lose our job or the economy turns for the worse, we simply believe if we can just make a monthly payment we can have everything we want and we can have it now.

This my friends is why nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. It’s not just the amount of money we spend, it’s that we spend money we don’t have with the promise to pay it back later. In other words we leverage future earnings for immediate satisfaction. We choose to do that so we choose to be poor. Again being poor is not living in poverty. But being poor I classify as living paycheck to paycheck.

Our Iphone we feel we need to upgrade and just make monthly installments. Our clothes we are tired of so we can put them on our Dillards card. Our car is a little older than we like and they are offering 3.9% interest so we can pay it off over 5 years. We don’t want to make dinner at home so we eat out and supersize our meal. The bike one kid had growing up is now not good enough for the next younger sibling and we say we will pay off the credit card next month for it. Johnny down the street got a motorcycle so now our kid needs one. We deserve a vacation so we can just put it on credit. The furniture and appliance store is offering 6 months same as cash and so we buy new appliances, bedroom sets and sofas. The electronic store has 70″ flat screens for the best deal of the year so we put it on our credit card. The tire shop has buy 3 get 1 free and 90 days interest free so we get a new set a year before we need them.

These are all things most people say and justify and rationalize because they want it now, and paying for it later or a little at a time is so easy. These are the pitfalls we fall into, this is why we live paycheck to paycheck, this is why we choose to be poor. Most people finance stuff and end up paying interest because they have leveraged future earning and can’t return to a zero balance.

The last group of things I want to mention before we continue are tobacco, alcohol, candy, chips, ice cream, cold cereal and soda pop. These are all things that are billion dollar industries and that we all spend thousands of dollars a year on. These are vices we have become addicted to and believe we can’t live without them. None of these things are essential to living, yet all of them take thousands from most of us every year.

So now that we have established that we choose to live paycheck to paycheck, what can we do about it? How can we not choose to be poor? How do we ensure that we have a nest egg for that rainy day?

It really is simple; effort, sacrifice and discipline. Those are the only 3 words you need to know. Unfortunately most people are not willing to sacrifice enough or be disciplined.

1st things first, NEVER carry a balance on your credit cards. This is as plain as it can be. Credit card companies are the biggest reason people live paycheck to paycheck. Making monthly payments and minimum payments all the while accruing 18%+ interest are the biggest reasons we are poor. Tear those bad boys up or be disciplined enough to pay the entire balance off every month.

2nd thing, don’t finance furniture and appliances unless you get zero percent interest and you can pay it off in a matter of a few months before interest kicks in. Even if it is zero interest for longer it should be paid off quickly. Carrying debt is a liability and ties your cash up from doing other things.

3rd thing, stop eating out other then on special occasions. And when you do eat out don’t supersize everything. Lots of money to be saved by eating at home and making your own meals.

4th thing, your current phone is good enough. That Iphone 7 makes calls, send texts, checks emails and gets you on social media. The Iphone 11 is not needed if you can’t pay cash for it.

5th thing, cut out those non essential vices….. Smokes, beer, candy, chips, cold cereal and ice cream. You would be shocked how much is spent per household on these non essential things.

6th thing, your vehicle. Yes you need a reliable one for sure but reliable doesn’t mean top of the line stereo system, leather and heated seats, navigation and lifted with tinted windows. It also doesn’t mean brand new. Suck it up and drive that old gremlin and save on that monthly payment.

And the last thing you can do and most important IMO is pay yourself. There is a great book that everyone would benefit from and should read. It’s called The Richest Man in Babylon. The principle of the book is to pay yourself 10% every paycheck and put it in savings. If you do this you will not only earn interest on it but you will have a safety net for unforeseen expenses or accidents.

Paying yourself (sacrifice) and being disciplined to do so every month is the single greatest thing you can do to not be poor. It is the exact opposite of it actually. You are choosing to build for the future rather than spend it all now or worse yet leverage money down the road for instant gratification now.

My friends we live in a country that has done more to raise people out of poverty than any other country. We have opportunities like no other country in the world. With effort, sacrifice and discipline you choose to not be poor.

Unfortunately most have little to no discipline, they don’t want to be held accountable and they are not willing to sacrifice today for a better life tomorrow. We as a country and society simply want it now and the only thing we sacrifice is our futures.

If you don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck all you have to do is start now. keep that phone an extra year, drive that car a little longer, don’t eat out every week, tell your kids no to their 5th pair of shoes, say no to video games and unneeded devices, don’t go to the movies just wait for them online, cut out extra TV channels, quit smoking, stop drinking, get rid of soda, no more candy, ice cream and cold cereal and for sure don’t buy anything on credit that you don’t absolutely have to.

These are all things that any of us can do. We can simply choose to sacrifice them and only pay cash for things we want/need and we can choose to be disciplined and stay the course. We can choose to pay ourselves and not need everything now. If we do these things we won’t be poor. We won’t live paycheck to paycheck and we won’t go into debt thus spending next months or worse yet next years paycheck today.

It really is a choice. We choose to be poor by choosing to use credit and caving to our vices that are not necessary, thus we choose to live paycheck to paycheck. So our poor choices make us poor. Isn’t that ironic?

We live in the most prosperous time of this world and country. We have more options than ever before to learn, grow, create and prosper. We simply have to choose to not be poor. No one makes all the right choices, but we can all choose to not make the poor choice. The choice really is yours. Do you want to continue to live paycheck to paycheck? If the answer is yes then by all means continue on your path. But if the answer is no, if you want freedom, and if you want to better your lives, do so by effort, discipline and sacrifice.

You will find after a few months of this course that the money you are stashing away becomes much more gratifying then that box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, puff on a smoke, sip of a beer, bowl of ice cream, another video game or the upgrade of your phone.

And better yet is you won’t be leveraging next months earnings on today’s non essentials. Which will free you up in the future to work some of those back into your lives.

And if you are disciplined enough to pay that house off early, you will find yourself miles ahead with extra cash to enjoy some of those vices again without leveraging next months income. Paying a little extra on your house each month ends up going along way to financial freedom. Even paying an extra 10% each month on your 30 year note on a $300,000 house would save you over $50,000 over the life of the loan. Cutting out vices would let you reach that goal easily.

We reap what we sow, if you don’t like the bed you sleep in try making it differently. Just remember….. There is always a choice.

My friend Jerry Sloan

There are names that most people recognize. Whether you follow basketball or not, Jerry Sloan is one of those names.

I met Jerry nearly 20 years ago. I am not the starstruck kind of guy. In fact, I could not have cared less that Jerry was the head coach of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Anyone who knows me knows the outdoors is simply what I am. Hunting, fishing, camping or hiking are what I choose to fill my time with. If you like any of these, we are going to be friends. This is true whether you are an NBA Hall of Fame coach or you deliver my newspaper.

NBA great Karl Malone and I shared a friendship that developed from our love for the outdoors. Because of this, he asked me to guide a Utah elk hunt he had purchased for Jerry and Brian Sloan. In order for Brian to hunt he needed to take a one-day class and shooting qualification course for his hunter’s safety certification at the Lee Kay Center in Salt Lake City.

Jerry, Brian and I met for the first time at the shooting center. Imagine my surprise when Jerry and Brian pulled up in a white Ford Econoline van. Certainly not the car I would imagine a Hall of Fame coach to be driving.

Needless to say, Brian passed the course and we were off to Mount Pleasant to hunt elk. Looking back on that hunt now, it was obvious Jerry enjoyed being with his son Brian more than the hunt itself. This hunt brought us all together and began a friendship that I will always value.

The hunt only lasted two days. Brian shot his elk the first day and Jerry got his the next. I remember Jerry pulling out an old Winchester model 70 30:06 rifle that he was so proud of. At the time I remember thinking the rifle looked like it had not been shot in 30 years and was most likely bought at a garage sale for $100. The box of bullets was older than me and the scope on the rifle appeared more useless than helpful.

None of this seemed to matter to Jerry. In fact, this is exactly who he is. Material things are not important because he is a simple man. The past 20 years have made this oh so clear to me.

I remember watching Jerry shoot his elk at more than 300 yards. How he hit that elk with that gun is still a mystery to me! As we approached that magnificent animal while it was taking its last breaths, I admired the events that had just taken place.

We stood 20 feet away reflecting on the moment when the elk unexpectedly jumped up and charged toward us. Without hesitation Jerry, who was still carrying his “antique” firearm, stepped between me and the elk and shot it before it ran its antler into my gut. Without a thought, he turned to me and said, “That’s better than a fast break!”

About three weeks later Jerry and his good friend Mark McKown met me in Provo to pick up the processed elk meat. Jerry, still driving his Econoline, pulled up to my house and offered to drive to pick up the meat and to take me to lunch.

When I opened the sliding door to the van I noticed there were not seats in the back. Jerry and Mark were sitting up front in the only chairs. I looked around the van, filled with stuff that was probably purchased at garage sales, and I found a place to sit on an ice chest. We headed to a great sandwich shop in downtown Provo.

While walking through the parking lot, I was amused by Jerry and Mark pushing each other out of the way. Just before reaching the doors Jerry crouched down and picked up a penny off of the asphalt. As you can imagine, it was all I could do not to laugh at what I just witnessed. Without missing a step Jerry looked at me and said, “I picked up 18 of those in Chicago one day.”

At lunch that day, Jerry asked me about hunting hogs. I told him I could arrange a hunt in California and he asked me to do it for Mark, Brian and himself. I put together a group of a dozen or so people and scheduled the hunt for after the end of the NBA season.

As the date approached I was finalizing details and told Jerry he could fly into Bakersfield or Los Angeles and I would pick him up from the airport. He declined and said he would rather drive with me. I was taken aback. It was a 10-hour drive to the ranch from Salt Lake City or a 90-minute flight. Why Jerry would drive was beyond me, but that was his wish.

Jerry doesn’t let anyone drive. He is the kind of guy that likes to be behind the wheel. You could see his obvious discomfort after arriving at my house and realizing I would be driving. My youth prevailed and off we went.

We left the house at 7 a.m. in my Ford Excursion with Jerry, Mark and Brian, as well as my 7-year-old son, Jake. As we neared Cedar City, Jerry announced we had to stop and eat at Shoney’s. This was his and Bobbye’s favorite place to have breakfast. When we walked in you could tell that everyone in the restaurant was surprised to see Coach Sloan in their establishment, but everyone who approached him was treated as if they were lifelong friends.

When the hunt finished, and we were driving home, Jerry was in the front passenger seat and I was driving. It was the middle of the night and everyone else was asleep. Driving, to Jerry, is not a simple task. He was obviously uncomfortable with the idea of him sleeping while I drove. He stayed awake and talked to me until the sun rose as we rolled into Cedar City for our expected Shoney’s stop.

For anyone who knows Jerry, they know his language is colorful. Whether it was with his players, coaches or the referees, he used every word in the dictionary and a few others.

One thing he always made sure of was that he never cussed around my young son. More than anything else he could have done, this increased my respect for him. His language was like a church boy’s when my son was around. This showed an incredible amount of respect for Jake and me.

Over the past 20 years Jerry has always had time for me. It is genuine and sincere. He takes my calls, we go to lunch, or he signs autographs for fundraisers and kids whenever I ask.

At about the turn of the century there was a young child being discharged from Primary Children’s Hospital to spend his last days at home with his family. He was in the final stages of his battle with leukemia.

I called Jerry and asked if he would go with me to the hospital. I intended for him to take a picture with the child and give him a signed ball. After picking Jerry up from his house, he told me we needed to make a stop before going to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, we were jumping into Karl Malone’s SUV and the three of us were on our way to the hospital. Jerry had called Karl and asked him to go with us because, as Jerry said, “the child would be much more excited to see Karl than me.”

For nearly 20 years Jerry has never said no to me when I asked a favor. Whether it was signing a ball, going to a fundraiser or getting game tickets for someone who could not afford them, he always delivers. He does it willingly and happily with nothing to gain from me. It’s simply who he is.

Jerry walked away from basketball when he wanted to. He walked away on his terms and at his time. It was a surprise to everyone, but Jerry does things his way.

I remember having his son and daughter, Brian and Kathy, on my radio show after he retired from coaching. He is very proud of his children (he has three) and both Brian and Kathy are great friends of mine. They told my listeners that Jerry walked away and would not return because this is “just how their dad is.” Whatever it’s called, he makes up his mind and does it with zero regrets.

Several months ago, before the public was aware, Jerry shared with me that he has Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Recognizing his health limitations, I asked if he felt up to attending a fundraiser for the Chairbound Sportsman. This is a group made up of veterans and others who are in wheelchairs, and still want to be able to hunt, fish and be in the outdoors. Like every other time I have asked, he graciously accepted and he and his wife, Tammy, drove to Provo for the event.

He spent more than an hour walking the floor of the expo, shaking hands, taking photos and signing autographs for everyone who asked. He did this for anyone — kids, adults, law enforcement — it didn’t matter who. I witnessed what greatness really is. Even with his disease and its limitations, he did what he always does — he made everyone his friend.

The auction that night was one I will never forget. We raised more money for the Chairbound Sportsman than we ever had previously. We auctioned off a basketball that Jerry would sign when he took a picture with the highest bidder. We actually sold three of those balls and photos that night. We could have sold 30 if more had been available.

Jerry received an ovation that night that rivaled any during his Hall of Fame career.

At that auction there was a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle. Jerry wanted to know what it might sell for. I told him, and being the frugal guy he is, he said it was out of his price range. Jerry would rather donate $1,000 and receive nothing than buy an item for himself. I cannot explain it, I can only tell you that he has always been that way.

Jerry’s wife, Tammy, was the high bidder on an item in the silent auction. I called them to arrange a time when I could deliver the item. This time at their house was different for me. Usually I was there to ask him for donated autographs, game tickets or an appearance for a charity or other good cause.

I was there to drop something off with an added surprise. I had purchased the Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle for Jerry and I was going to deliver it as my token of appreciation for the countless things he had done for me.

He answered the door and invited me in. He had just woken from his nap and did not notice I had the rifle behind my back. We walked into the kitchen and spoke for quite a while.

We just joked and shared stories. We talked openly about his health and what his plans were. He inquired about my family and my next adventure. I was off to New Zealand in a week and he was going to Idaho for treatment. He asked if I wanted to trade.

When I presented him with the rifle, I saw a smile I had not seen in a while come across his face. He opened the box and held that Golden Boy like it was the greatest gift he had ever been given. For the first time in our relationship, I felt like I was worthy of his friendship. He was appreciative and humbled that I would do something like this for him.

We visited for nearly two hours that day. As I was leaving he took me into his office and showed me many photos and memorabilia from his illustrious career. I have never asked Coach for an autograph for me personally. I never felt that it was appropriate for me to do so, and I believe he respects me for that.

Imagine my surprise when he opened up a cupboard and pulled out his NBA Hall of Fame inductee basketball. He asked Tammy for a marker and signed the ball to me. We took several photos and like now, as I write this, I got tears in my eyes.

The great Jerry Sloan gave me his Hall of Fame inductee basketball and signed it to me! Twenty years of never asking for an autograph for myself seemed trivial now. All those years of asking him to do something for me seemed insignificant. Hall of Fame coach and legend, Jerry Sloan, showed the ultimate respect to me and would not even let me mention that I could not take this priceless gift.

As I walked out the door he said he had one more thing for me. He opened the same cupboard and pulled out a John Deere ball cap. He signed it and handed it to me and then sent me on my way.

Jerry and I have tentative plans to drive to his ranch in southern Illinois this summer. It’s nearly 30 hours one way and I told him I would drive. He said that’s fine, as long as we can take his truck. Whether his health allows it or not, only time will tell.

If it does not, I will be grateful for 20 years of friendship from one of the most genuine people I know. If it does happen, I will be the luckiest man on the planet for 30 hours.

Jerry Sloan is my friend, and I will always cherish that.F

The 10 Best I saw play Basketball.

My ability to judge anyone prior to 1982-ish is not good enough to
discuss the greats of Bill Russell, Wilt, Walton, Cousy, West and many
others. I was simply too young. Those are left for the era prior to mine
to sort out. What I can do though is tell you about the best I ever saw
play, and I can tell you why.

1. Amongst the educated and unbiased, one man stands alone as the
G.O.A.T. We love him, we admire him, and we are in awe over him and his
accomplishments on the hardwood: Michael Jordan, AKA MJ, AKA Air Jordan,
AKA His Airness. This guy is the top of the food chain and why I started
with #1. I don’t need to go through his stats or his trophy’s (personal
or as a team), as those are all well known. What I will say is NEVER has
anyone been more tenacious or fierce on the hardwood than MJ, at both
ends of the floor. This guy could and did do it all. NO ONE ever won a
title on his watch. In other words, when he broke through in 1991, and
until he finished in 1998, the only guy to win chips was another ALL
TIME GREAT, “The Dream,” when Michael was on “vacation,” and didn’t play one
season, and only played 17 games another. Jordan simply said “Not on my
watch,” and that was the end of it. His Airness put his name on the top
— everyone else has been playing for second, and likely always will be.
This is where it gets interesting. 2 though 6 are pretty
interchangeable, IMO. I can make an argument for many in any of the
positions, as can most of you, it really comes down to what you put the
most credibility into, but I will stand by my list on any stage.

2. Lew Alcindor, AKA Kareem Abdul Jabbar. This is the ONLY guy in the
history of the league that had an unblock-able and unstoppable shot. The
Sky Hook was deadly from two feet, 12 feet, or beyond. He would simply
get the ball, and with his back to the basket, turn to his left and
float the most beautiful shot this world has ever seen. The best
defenders the league has ever seen tried to stop this shot for 20
seasons, and NO ONE ever did. I remember as a 12-year-old, and my older
brother and his friends would constantly pound me on the court, so I
developed my own SKY HOOK. At 16 I played on a mens city league team
with my brother, his friends, and my Uncle Charles (the best basketball
player I ever played with). At 6’6″ and 175 lbs, I couldn’t back down
your mother to get to the rim, so I had to just shoot over them with my
own sky hook. It frustrated men two-to-three times my age, and it was as
deadly on that level as Jabbar’s was in the NBA. Kareem Abdul Jabbar has
all the team and personal hardware to go with the most unstoppable shot
this world ever has and ever will see. As of now he is the all-time
leading scorer, and will probably end up being second all-time when all
is said and done. (We will talk about the guy likely to pass him down
the list). Longevity and durability play into these rankings. Jabbar
gets the nod as a solid #2 on my list.

3. Larry Bird, AKA Larry Legend. My favorite player of all time, and a
guy that took a backseat to NO ONE, including MJ, when he was at his
best. Larry Bird’s best was as good as MJ’s. No, he didn’t do it as long
and didn’t acquire as many trophies, but Bird’s peak was as high as
Michael’s. He was an assassin, backed down to no one, would always make
all around him better, and had as dominant of 3 year run as any of these
guys we will discuss. From 1984 to 1986, Larry Joe Bird was the best
player in basketball, and everyone knew it. He was in a league of his
own. He would tell you where he was getting the ball, when he was going
to shoot it, how he was going to shoot it, and you could do nothing but
become a victim. Bird wasn’t fast and certainly didn’t jump that well,
but he did EVERYTHING else. If the game were to be played under the rim
and nowhere else, Bird would be the best ever. There was no skill Larry
didn’t have. If you were to build a ballplayer on skills alone, Larry
Bird would be the mold.

4. Kobe Bryant, AKA The Black Mamba. People loved to hate him, hated to
love him, and he embraced it like a true champion. Kobe is the only
other player besides Bird that I thought reached MJ’s level for a while.
Yes, those three reached a level none other ever did. ASSASSINS this
league has had only three, and Kobe was one of them. He was never
outworked or out-hustled. He didn’t take plays off, and he left it all
on the court. He will be immortalized by many because of his tragic
death with the eight others in a helicopter crash, and I totally
understand that. But he was #4 on my list before that tragic event, and
it was because of his ability and drive to be the best. He literally and
figuratively wanted to “be like Mike,” and he came closer than anyone
before him and likely any after him. The Mamba is my 3rd favorite player
ever, behind Bird and MJ respectively. I would have liked to sat across
the table from him, and listen to him break down a game. I don’t think
there was a better student of the game. Kobe Bryant earned his place in
history.

5. Earvin Johnson, AKA Magic. The name he was known by says it all — he
was magical. From his magical final season, to the legendary battle with
Larry Bird while at Michigan State in the NCAA Championship game, to his
first year in the NBA and on, he simply created magic like no one ever
had, like no one to this day ever has, and my money says ever will.
Magic was full of life and was the first player to be able to play all
five positions with ease. Titles and awards litter his trophy room. His
legacy is cemented, and no one questions it. Magic truly made everyone
else better. He ripped my heart out in the finals against Bird with his
“junior sky hook.” I remember it like it was yesterday. Magic is the best
point guard this league has ever seen. He passed better than anyone, and
he made no excuses when he failed. Magic is a guy you would have over
for dinner.

6. LeBron James, AKA King James. A better athlete I don’t think I have
ever seen play basketball, and maybe not any sport. James is simply the
standard for durability and ability in a game played by the best
athletes on the planet. James has evolved over his 17-year career. He
can now shoot the 3, has pretty much silenced the crowd on not wanting
to take the last shot. He has always been as good as any attacking the
basket, takes a backseat to only Magic in his passing skills and court
awareness and, of course, has lots of hardware. I have criticized James,
more than any other athlete in any sport I have ever seen play, with my
good friend Jay Brandriet. I have been so hard on James at times that
Jay (a James hater) actually has to defend him. And though Jay doesn’t
really “hate James,” he definitely is tired of the comparisons to the
true GOAT MJ. The reasons are valid even if you don’t want to hear them.
He came in and named himself King in a league full of Kings. He chased
his championships rather than the five above them who won them all with
one team. And still to this day you can’t count on him at the free throw
line under any circumstances, especially in crunch time. A top five
player he is not IMO, but I see why many of you will make him #2. We
will likely never see another athlete like James, He will be the
all-time leading scorer, barring some catastrophic injury. He will
likely get at least one more championship, and every team he went to and
played with contended for the title. That is impressive. Go ahead and
rank him 2 if you must, but make sure you stop it there.

7. Tim Duncan, AKA The Big Fundamental. Tim Duncan is just a guy you
could plug into any team and any system, and that team and that system
would be better and not disrupt a thing. A better offensive post player we never
saw, and a nicer guy may have never played in the NBA. Tim has all the
awards and hardware and did it against some of the best post players to
ever play. He would take it to Malone, Garnett, Wallace, Shaq, Hakeem,
Dirk, and many others. On the post Tim was deadly, and the bank shot was
the undoing of many of the all-time greats. Tim Duncan would be on any
starting five team I ever had. He was THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL.

8. Hakeem Olajuwon, AKA The Dream. Man, the Dream Shake was just nasty.
His dominance on both ends of the court is as impressive as anyone, and
probably better. He got back-to-back titles (albeit when MJ was on a
break), and he was the best player in the league those two years. Dream
was a joy to watch. His footwork was unbelievable, his defense was all
time great, his peak was better than most, and he was the best
all-around post player I ever saw. There was nothing he couldn’t do on
the block or baseline, and the smoothness with how he did it was
breathtaking. The Dream was just that, a dream to watch.

9. Shaquille O’Neal, AKA SHAQ or SHAQ DADDY was pure power and that was
just the reality of it. He could, would, and did dunk on everyone at
anytime and anywhere. Dominance was what he was, and a more physical
force has never been seen on the hardwood.  He never could make a free
throw, but it didn’t really matter. When he was in the paint it was
almost a guarantee he would make the basket, and then we would just
watch if he would make his free throw with it. Of course, he was just as
likely to air ball it or brick it. He would hurt anyone that tried to
guard him just on a routine (for him) drop step to the hole. People
would foul him, and it wouldn’t be called because they got hurt instead
of him.  He was pure power, and thus ranked in the top 10. He has plenty
of awards and trophy’s that he earned and deserved.  Shaq Daddy was the
most dominant force to ever play the game. That will never change.

10. Karl Malone, AKA The Mailman. Well, Karl set the standard for
durability and longevity. He would be the current all-time points
leader, but injury while chasing a ring in LA ended that. The
back-to-back NBA finals experiences were overshadowed by the GOAT. The
Mailman and Stockton and Sloan ran into the GOAT, and there was nothing
they could do about that. Stockton to Malone may be the most well-known
phrase in all of basketball. It was the staple of the league for years.
The pick and roll was mastered, and it was as much Karl as it was
Stockton. Karl morphed his game into a great mid-range shooter, but yet
could always go to the hole. He greatly improved his free throw
percentage, and thus made him a force his entire career. It was a
pleasure watching and getting to know Karl. He is a gentleman and
charitable. Karl Malone, though never winning a chip like the nine on
the list ahead of him, will always be a guy I like to talk about. He was
polarizing and simply outworked everyone. His work ethic should be the
standard for all athletes.

The most likely to be in the top 10, or probably 5, not mentioned.

Kevin Durant, AKA The Slim Reaper. This guy is the most impressive
offensive player I have ever seen. He has every shot in the book and is
smooth and deadly. He can shoot over you, take you off the dribble, bang
3’s, post up, run the break, and like Mike, has the best mid-range
jumper ever and it’s not even close. This guy, offensively, is the best.
Foul him and he will kill you at the foul line. Play off he will rain
3’s. Double and he shoots over you. There is nothing offensively KD
can’t do. I wish he would have gotten his titles in OKC, but like James,
he had to leave and team up with some other greats to get it done. His
career is far from over, and my money says it has another title or two
in it. His proneness to injury is a concern but moving forward for the
next 5 to 7 years, this is KD’s league.  We will see soon enough if the
East coast is kind to him.

This is not a slight to Stockton, Doctor J, Steph Curry, or many of the others. I
loved Doctor J and Steph, and Stockton.

John is the all time leader in 2 of the main statistical categories. Their accomplishments speak for
themselves. But in a world where we have to rank players, someone is
bound to be left out. This list is fluid and as of now KD and LBJ can
make up some ground, but unless they win more rings, their rank is right
where they belong.

The Fear Pandemic!

There is not a more powerful or influential emotion than fear.

Not Love

Not Hate

Not Joy

Not Sadness

Not Empathy

Not Apathy

NOTHING.

 

The Corona Virus like many illnesses before and like many that will come after cause fear. The masses can’t seem to understand that the fear mongering is actually worse than Covid 19. Yes Covid 19 should be taken seriously, especially by those that are older or immune compromised or any other ailment.

To the youth and young adults even up till 60 there is nothing to panic about. The numbers just don’t add up to the fear. People will die of the Covid 19, and many of them would of died by the health problems they were already dealing with, but the VAST majority will either not come down with it or the case will be so mild that they won’t even know they had it. These are simply the facts. The shame is the media and politicians and medical field will play this out till the last death. Countless deaths will be blamed on the Covid 19 and the majority of society will just take that as the facts even though the wise would be skeptical of it.

As I write this I still do not know a single person that has tested positive for Covid19. Not one. I know thousands and thousands of people all over this world and yet not a single one I am aware of has this virus. Now odds are that will change. I am bound to know someone who will come down with it and maybe even someone close to me. Possibly even myself. And maybe one of them will get really sick or heaven forbid die. But  if/when they do come down with it they will more than likely make a full recovery or not even know they have had it.

It is highly likely that I have either had the virus or have been in close contact with someone or many that have had it, and yet I either was immune to it or I got it and it was so mild I never knew I had it. This is also likely for all of you who are reading this.  The Virus itself is pretty weak. It can be killed with soap and water or hand sanitizer in just a matter of seconds. Proper respect should be given to this virus but it is not EBOLA or THE PLAGUE.    It’s not even close.

The old saying of “never waste a good crisis” is playing out right before our eyes on a level I have never seen in my 50 years on this planet. I thought the 911 tragedy was bad and feel for all those effected by it, but  the over reaction with the Patriot Act was what iced the cake. The reaction to the Covid 19 is looking like it will make the Patriot Act seem to be a picnic when it is all done.

Our rights that are suppose to be protected from the government are being taken by the government that the Constitution was put in place to restrain.  This is not an opinion this is a fact. Mayors and Governors are shutting down public places, ordering stay at home policies, making areas gun free, shutting down schools and businesses and overall wrecking the most bountiful economy of my lifetime and maybe the history of this country.  Some people will never recover from this and unfortunately many will take their own lives because of the devastation this over reaction is causing.

Ben Franklin made my favorite quote of all time, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” . Now I have researched the context of this quote and in fairness he was not saying this as it appears, meaning not how people use it so freely, but that does not make the quote any less relevant to this or any other situation that infringes on  freedoms. He would likely say it if he were around now and it would pertain. Who of you would trade freedom for a little bit of security if the end result was you won’t get your freedoms back?

Now back to the point of this post, FEAR MONGERING is not a good thing. Rarely does anything good come from fear. What fear does is creates panic and irrational thinking and actions. Look at the run on toilet paper and bottled water. Look how it spread into flour and pasta, then milk and eggs. Everyone or should I say most everyone had FOMO (fear of missing out). Some idiot started buying TP and bottled water and all hell broke loose across this country and especially Utah.

I hunt bears, really big bears in real thick forests and dense brush. If I were to fear them or hunting them I would likely be dead several times over already.  There is no room for fear when one is trying to flourish. When people fear all rational thinking leaves their mind, they simply become dumb and cannot make good decisions.

Don’t think for a minute the government doesn’t understand this, don’t think your political leaders don’t use this to get bills passed and money funneled to “their” projects.  Religion uses fear, law enforcement uses fear, teachers use fear, bosses use fear and if I am being honest I am using some fear right now to an extent.

I fear one thing and one thing only, the loss of ANY more freedoms. I don’t fear death or taxes or bears or work or anything else, but I do fear the loss of freedom. Many country’s have fallen because their freedoms were either taken or they never had any. There has never been a Constitution like The United States of America has. It was written not to give us rights because those we are born with, but it was written and put in place to prevent the government from taking our rights. Look at the entire Bill of Rights, it is for us as individuals.

The right to free speech.

The right to keep and bear arms.

And they go on.

I have had several good friends unfriend me or block me from social media the last week, and some of these are friends I am in contact with a lot. I have been scolded and ridiculed, I have been called names and told I was ignorant. I have been cussed at and even threatened. All of this because I simply want people to understand that the fear mongering going on with Covid 19 and the rights being taken away will only get worse on the next “pandemic” because we are allowing it to happen now.

I am for all rights that don’t impose or take from another person, they are all important, whether you want to own a gun or marry someone of your same sex, whether you want to call me names or practice you own form of religion, whether you want to smoke weed or not go to school.

The freedom of association is being assaulted like never before in my life and the economy and many people are suffering because of it. When the Virus goes away and it will, we will of lost a little more freedom, we will be a step closer to socialism and then communism, we will accept it all in the name of “social security”. And before we know it we will not be a free people and this capitalistic country we know will be no longer.

So if you want to fear something fear this…… Fear being a sheep lead by a Shepard who says they are protecting you from the Big Bad Wolf yet in the end will slaughter you for his own gain. That my fellow Americans is what you should fear.

The Covid 19 is real, and it should be dealt with rationally, but “this to shall pass” and people will gear up for another “pandemic”. When this is done we will be a little less free, and little more irrational and a little more willing to give up freedom in the name of Social Security. Now that is something to fear.

 

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