During Friday night’s Utah Jazz game vs. the Phoenix Suns, the team honored former All-Star, All-NBA, and Olympian power forward Carlos Boozer, who is arguably the team’s greatest free-agent addition ever, and became a focal point of the franchise for six seasons between 2004-10.
Various video montages — including game highlights and testimonials from former teammates — were played throughout the game, and during a stoppage in play during the third quarter, he was celebrated at center court with a tribute that included a framed jersey, and thousands of rapturous fans serenading him with screams of “Boooooooozzzzzz!”
Prior to the game, though, he spent almost 20 minutes chatting with media members, reminiscing, and answering questions about everything from his humble beginnings in Juneau, Alaska to the now-infamous tale of the time late pop superstar Prince rented his house.
Here are some of the highlights:
Memories of Utah and the Jazz
Boozer said there was no pressure replacing Karl Malone in Utah, because Andrei Kirilenko was already very good, he was joined in free agency by Mehmet Okur, and the team drafted Deron Williams a year later to form a talented core:
“I had a blast here. I had a great time, man — this is one of the best teams I ever played on. We were like a family. Coach Sloan made sure of that, Larry Miller made sure of that. My kids would be running up and down the hallway, all our kids would be doing the same thing. We had a really unique team where everybody was an option.
“Me and Deron got a lot of the shine, but Memo was great, AK47 was terrific, Matt Harpring was great, Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap were young pups who were obviously studs. We had a bunch of guys that could play. We got Kyle Korver, the knock-down [shooter] — looks like Ashton Kutcher out there with a jump shot. We just had a really great team of guys that loved to play basketball. And then we had coach Sloan, that knew how to put all the pieces in the right spots. So we had a blast.
“Really, it was off the court. D-Will threw some of the best Halloween parties of all time! I don’t know if you guys know about that. It’s just moments like that of our team away from the game that really sticks with me.”
Falling short and falling apart
The Jazz made it as far as the Western Conference finals one time during Boozer’s tenure, but they always seemed to come up short against the Lakers or Spurs. The year after Boozer left in free agency, the team was blown up with the sudden retirement of Jerry Sloan and trade of Deron Williams:
“Slowly but surely, all the pieces came together. We felt like we might have had enough, maybe we were missing some size — as we’re rolling against the Lakers and they’ve got Lamar Odom and [Andrew] Bynum and Pau Gasol, all 7-footers at their positions, and the Spurs were loaded, too, with size. We felt like we could beat everybody else, and we were in every game.
“I thought we really needed one dominant center, like if we could have got Marcus Camby, or DeAndre Jordan was really young but he was coming up, Tyson Chandler … I felt like we were that piece away from winning it. But obviously, there’s only so much money to around.
“We really enjoyed the atmosphere that Larry had here, may he rest in peace, and when he left, it changed — the dynamic changed when Greg took over; it wasn’t the same vibe.
“It feels like it fell apart really quickly. Who knows what would have happened if we had stayed together.”
The influence of Jerry Sloan
Boozer made it a point to note that the late Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan constantly emphasized how much the Jazz needed him, and empowered him to take his game to the next level:
“There’s a couple coaches in my life that really stick out for me personally. Obviously my dad put the ball in my hands. My high school coach, who’s also here, really helped my development. Coach K gave me the foundation of the pro that I would be moving forward. And coach Sloan gave me a chance to be a star. He talked to me a lot — we talked on the phone maybe three or four times before I even got here, before I signed the contract. And then when I got here, [we had a conversation] where he felt like there were certain things I could bring to the table that no one else on the team had. So for me, he really took my career from here to here. I wouldn’t be sitting here now if it wasn’t for coach Sloan.”
Thoughts on the current Jazz team
He does keep tabs on how the organization is doing. He said he and Williams frequently discuss the roster, particularly Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Meanwhile, he has a bond with Jordan Clarkson, as they were teammates on the Lakers in 2014-15, Boozer’s final season in the league:
“They got some studs over there, man. [Jordan] Clarkson was my rookie when I was in L.A. Stud — loves to play ball. And he’s found a home here, Sixth Man of the Year, gives you guys a huge lift off the bench. Obviously the ‘Eiffel Tower,’ [sic] there’s nobody like him — he’s like the modern-day Dikembe Mutombo in this era. He blocks everything. I wish we would have had that guy back in the day. And then Donovan’s special, man. He’s one of those guys that can score with anybody in the league. True superstar. He takes on that pressure. They’re fun to watch.
“[I watch them] a lot, actually. We keep up with ‘em. Me and Deron talk about ‘em a lot. See, I think we would have won if we would have had Rudy Gobert; he thinks we would have won it if we would have had Donovan as our two-guard. So we go back and forth with that. It would have been cool if we would have had both! If we were born a little bit later and they were born a little bit earlier … you know?”
His franchise record that endures to this day
Boozer famously is the last Jazz player to post a triple-double in a regular-season game — waaaaay back on Feb. 13, 2008, against the SuperSonics:
“I did hear about that. My kids actually told me — they keep up on Instagram pretty heavy, and I guess it came upon the ‘Gram.
“It was an accident — I was just playing ball! I wasn’t trying to get it! We were in Seattle at the time, and I’m just passing the ball, having fun, trying to win a basketball game, and the bench yelled out to me, ‘Yo, you get one more assist, you get a triple-double!’ So I got a rebound and Ronnie Price leaked out; I just threw the ball and he raced down and let it bounce a couple times, and when he caught it, it was an assist. So it was a team triple-double.”
What he’s up to now
Boozer lives in Miami, noting that after growing up in Alaska, he resolved to live somewhere warm and sunny if he could afford it. While he dabbles in occasional TV analyst work, his life now is pretty much about his kids:
“Just [being] a dad, man. Just enjoying some basketball. My oldest son plays baseball, so I’m on the diamond a lot watching him play. My two twins play basketball, so I’m following them around as they make some noise — they just won state. My little daughter is all over the house. So just being a dad. I do a little bit of ACC Network stuff here and there, a little bit of NBA TV, so I’m talking about the Jazz a lot. But for the most part, I’m just a dad, man, enjoying the game, enjoying life, traveling a little bit, trying to lose some weight for the summer like everybody else.”
And finally … Prince renting (and taking liberties with) his house
The story has been out for years about the time the late pop superstar took over the hoopster’s pad out in California and lent his own eccentric vibe to the place. But hearing Boozer re-tell it and sprinkle in some hilarious details was the highlight of the evening:
“So once upon a time, I bought a house in Bel-Air. It was actually right before I came to the Jazz for training camp. I bought a crib out there, it was crazy — like 18,000 square feet, it was a lot. We just got it decorated, we’d probably only spent like three or four days in the house — at the time it was me and my [now]-ex-wife CeCe, it was just me and her, we didn’t have no kids yet.
“I bought the crib, I moved here to Utah, came here for the season, my realtor in L.A., Roxanne, kept hitting me up saying, ‘Someone wants to rent your house.’ And I was like, ‘No. I ain’t even spent any time in my house.’ And then she told me, ‘Well, he’s willing to pay 95 grand a month.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ Since I’m gonna be in Utah for the next eight, nine months …
“So I flew out to L.A., met him there. He came up in a limo, got out of the car — I didn’t know who it was until he got out of the car. I’m looking at Roxanne, saying, ‘That’s Prince, right?’ She says, ‘Yeah!’ It ends up being Prince. We walk around the house for maybe an hour, I showed him some of the intricacies of the house. There was a tanning deck but also a tennis court that I turned into a basketball court. And he was a huge basketball fan — grew up in Minnesota, was a big Kevin Garnett fan, so we talked about KG. And then he rented the crib.
“That happened to be the year I tore my hamstring like four or five times. So there’s a really good physical therapist in L.A. She’s phenomenal, so I went out to see her. And I kept calling Prince: ‘I’m gonna stop by the house, if you need anything, let me know.’ But he wasn’t returning my call. I pulled to the house — I had these two golden lions on the gate, and that wasn’t there. I was like, ‘Is this the right address?’ I drive back down the street, come back up the street. It was a symbol I had never seen before. I’m like, ‘What the f--- is this? Whose house is this?’ I put my code into the gate and it opened up.
“I drove in and I go upstairs. And he had ripped out every single thing in my house — 18,000 square feet — and he put it into a storage facility. And everything was purple and black everywhere. There was purple and black carpet, purple and black beds. I had a weight room — he turned the weight room into a nightclub with a disco ball and DJ booth … which I thought was pretty cool! He had a massage parlor in one room. He transformed the entire house to make it like his. And I’m not used to this — I’ve never rented a house out to anybody before. I’m 22, 23 — I’m kinda beside myself.
“So I’m calling and calling — at least the number I thought was his. I’m like, ‘Did he change his number?’ It was like an ex-girlfriend thing going on! I finally get ahold of him, and he’s in Asia doing a tour for his album. And he finally hits me back, and he’s like,’Booz, don’t worry. I got you.’ He wired me 500 grand to ease my mind. He’s like, ‘When I move out, it’ll be like I was never there.’
“Long story short: he rents my crib out for a year, for 95 grand a month, puts 18,000 square feet of a house into storage and redecorated the entire house — down to the forks. Then wires me half a mil to just ease my mind. And then when I got there at the end of his lease, it was like he was never there. That’s how much money Prince had! Unbelievable. True story, though.”