One lasting memory I’ll always have of former Jazzman Mehmet Okur:
A few years back, when he was still playing for the Jazz, Memo was warming up before one of coach Jerry Sloan’s practices at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. As we chatted about the previous night’s game, Memo dribbled a basketball near one of the baskets. He made a quick cut toward the hoop and, as I recall, was going in for a layup.
That’s when we both heard a strange sound. A strange sound, yes.
I’ll just leave it at that.
I looked at Memo and suppressed a wry smile. He looked back at me and said rather sternly, “It was my shoe. My shoe, not me.”
That’s Memo for you. A fun-loving character, yes, but definitely big on propriety.
Okur announced his retirement from basketball today. I’d say he’ll be missed, but he already has been missed, especially among his Jazz teammates.
“(He was) a funny man,” former teammate Paul Millsap said. “I have a lot of great memories. It’s sad to see that he’s retiring because you want to see him succeed, you want to see him do well. But that’s the choice he made, you can’t help but respect him.”
Okur played seven seasons for the Jazz for the Jazz between 2004 and 2011. Originally drafted by the Detroit Pistons, where he won a championship ring, he signed a big free agent deal with Utah prior to the 2004-05 season.
He definitely had his moments with the Jazz and became a favorite with fans when he’d start bombing 3-pointers.
He even earned the nickname, “Money Man.”
He averaged 19 points and nearly eight rebounds a game in 2007, the year he was named to the Western Conference All-Star team.
Fans may remember Memo for being the “Money Man,” but to my friends and colleagues in the sports reporting business, Memo will be remembered mostly for being a really nice guy.
It may come as a shock, but some athletes aren’t happy, easy-going guys like Memo. In fact, few are.
Here’s another memory of Memo:
He had already been traded to the Nets before the start of the 2011-12 season. In January of this year Memo and former Jazz teammate Deron Williams made their much-anticipated return to EnergySolutions Arena and, of course, I wanted to speak with both of them before the game.
DWill was, understandably, the big story and it was important I get comments from him before the game started. But when I walked into the Nets’ locker room, there sat Memo with a big smile on his face.
Before I could begin interviewing him, he began interviewing me. He kept asking things like, “How are you?” and “How’s the team looking?” and “You doing OK, man? You happy?”
It’s funny, over the 21-plus years I’ve spent at the Standard-Examiner I’ve had the chance to interview many athletes. Rarely, though, has one ever interviewed me.
But then again, Mehmet Okur is a rare individual.