Utah Jazz chaplain Jerry Lewis dies at age 80

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward-center Derrick Favors speaks with the media during exit interviews at their practice facility in Salt Lake City Wed., May 8, 2018, after losing to the Houston Rockets in game 5 of their Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Jerry Lewis was always available to give advice to those who needed it.

Before Utah Jazz games, the longtime chaplain would make his rounds through the locker room, visit with players and coaches and converse. Often, topics would include everything but basketball.

As a result, he became one of the biggest constants in the Jazz organization in the past three decades.

“Ever since I’ve known him, he was always a positive influence on everyone around him,” Jazz power forward Derrick Favors said. “He was always willing to give you advice, or offer a prayer. No matter what, all he wanted to do was be a positive force.”

Lewis passed away on Saturday. He was 80. He is survived by his longtime wife, Jean. His obvious legacy will be as a the team chaplain, which began over 30 years ago. But he was also a longtime minister who served at multiple churches in the valley.

But, Lewis always went far and beyond his day-to-day duties. He became a pillar for Jazz players to lean on in times of personal need. He presided over weddings, in addition to being the team chaplain. It wasn’t unusual for players of opposing teams to attend service pregame.

“Our condolences to his family and friends,” The Jazz said in a statement. “Jerry was a fixture during Jazz pre-game, gathering members of both teams together in a moment of reflection and prayer.”

Favors said players would often seek Lewis for advice, even if they weren’t religious. In this sense, he was more than the team chaplain for the Jazz. He was one of their best friends as well.

“We all definitely appreciated his presence,” Favors said. “The fact that he always brought such a positive energy, he was a help for all of us. We are going to miss him.”