NBA

What do Utah Jazz players leave in their lockers at the end of the season? These children have discovered it.

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A few Advil’s, a shooting pouch and a pair of interesting boxers were just a few examples.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Soni Imanizabayo, 18, of southern Jordan, is all smiles as he walks out of the Jazz locker room with a bag of clothes meant for Jazz basketball player Donovan Mitchell on Thursday. The Utah Jazz rewarded 17 local kids who are making an impact in the community with a Jazz locker room raid at Vivint Arena, Thursday, June 30, 2022. Each winner was nominated by a family member, peer or friend for his exemplary behavior, giving back to the community and demonstrating kindness and inclusiveness.

Audrey Mitchell marveled at the size of her clothes.

With almost any t-shirt and shorts or pants, the 14-year-old Riverton High School student laughed and joked that she could wear them as dresses. After all, the clothes once belonged to a man much, much bigger than her.

Then Mitchell pulled a curious item from one of the drawers – a pair of colorful boxer shorts depicting a cartoon bunny and a woman wearing a revealing bunny costume.

“It sounds very French,” Mitchell said.

Indeed, it was, as it belonged to former Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert. Hours before Gobert was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Mitchell brought home some of his game-worn gear.

Mitchell – no relation to jazz guard Donovan Mitchell – was among a group of 17 youngsters who had the opportunity to raid the lockers of jazz players. Each earned the award by performing acts of service in their local communities. Thursday’s event was held in partnership with Homie, a real estate company.

Mitchell was not originally supposed to raid Gobert’s locker. She had earned the right to dive into Juancho Hernangomez’s after making a free throw on the Vivint Arena court with a ball that had a letter attributed to the “Hustle” star.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maelie Mills received clothing worn by Utah Jazz basketball player Jordan Clarkson on Thursday. Mills, 11, of Clinton was nominated for jazz player items by her neighbor Ivy Lobato, who gets repeated help from Mills with her yard work and errands. The Utah Jazz rewarded 17 local kids who are making an impact in the community with a Jazz locker room raid at Vivint Arena, Thursday, June 30, 2022. Each winner was nominated by a family member, peer or friend for his exemplary behavior, giving back to the community and demonstrating kindness and inclusiveness.

But event organizers didn’t accidentally assign anyone to Gobert’s locker. So, they asked a group of kids to play KO for the chance to swap their original locker with Gobert’s.

Mitchell finished second, but the boy who won decided not to change. So she had Gobert, which left her “dumbfounded”, especially since Gobert is her favorite jazz player.

“I love Rudy Gobert,” Mitchell said. “He’s the biggest on their team and I’m the biggest on my team. He’s just super inspiring to me.

Three sets of items come standard in every Jazz player’s locker: game-worn gear, delineated by player numbers written in black permanent marker; clothing attributed to a player but not worn during a match; and additional gear that featured the team’s former branding, which meant that some clothing was also for women. All clothing left behind had been pre-washed and hung and/or folded neatly in each player’s locker.

Gobert’s underpants weren’t the only original item discovered when the children searched them. In Gobert’s combination safe was a black belt for attaching a bathrobe.

Timmy Hong, 14, secured the locker of Eric Paschall, who is unlikely to return to the Jazz next season after the team failed to extend his qualifying offer. In his locker was the extras: warm-up shirts, warm-up jackets and hoodies, shorts, etc.

But what ended up in Paschall’s combination safe was a packet of Advil. Hong took a photo while holding the package.

Soni Imanizabayo, 18, moved to Utah in 2019 from Rwanda. He said he grew up watching the Jazz play and it was a dream come true to shoot on the field. He was assigned Donovan Mitchell’s locker, where his favorite sweater was a white shooting sleeve.

“Now every time I play basketball I have to use it,” Imanizabayo said. “I will use it every time.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maelie Mills and her father James Mills shoot clothes worn by Utah Jazz basketball player Jordan Clarkson. Mills, 11, of Clinton was nominated for jazz player items by her neighbor Ivy Lobato, who gets repeated help from Mills with her yard work and errands. The Utah Jazz rewarded 17 local kids who are making an impact in the community with a Jazz locker room raid at Vivint Arena, Thursday, June 30, 2022. Each winner was nominated by a family member, peer or friend for his exemplary behavior, giving back to the community and demonstrating kindness and inclusiveness.

Each child received a tour of the Jazz locker room, which last week received new carpeting that matches the team’s recent rebranding. Many of the young fans, some of whom were wearing Jazz jerseys, gasped as they entered and blurted out comments like “Whoa” and “I’m so excited.”

Clint Fugal, who received Mike Conley’s locker, was almost unable to contain his glee and disbelief as he sifted through the point guard’s clothes. Donning his Donovan Mitchell jersey, he tried on a white headband and said, β€œIt’s so cool. Oh my God. It’s so surreal.

When the organizers mentioned that it was almost time to let another group of fans into the locker room, Fugal asked, “Do we have to leave?”

Jessica Emett, 13, was at Vivint for the event in place of her sister, Samatha, who was absent at yearbook camp. She wore a Conley jersey and said he was her favorite player because “he’s a really nice person and he went a long time without making a technical foul”.

Reagan Rhodes, 14, was one of two foreign families who won the experiment. Rhodes comes from the falls of Idaho. The other family was from Kentucky.

Rhodes said his favorite player is Gobert. Although she didn’t win the knockout match for the chance to raid her locker, she said what she will remember most about the experience is shooting on the pitch of jazz.

“It was so cool to be on the field and be able to shoot because that’s where all the jazz players have been shooting,” Rhodes said. “It’s a cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

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