This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Five summers ago, when Carlos Boozer screwed over the Cavs by lying to a blind man, privately agreeing to re-sign with then-owner Gordon Gund's team if it agreed to let him out of his initial lower-paying deal and then double-crossing it for bigger money, fans here celebrated the Jazz's timely opportunism.
They cheered Jazz management's taking advantage of Boozer's lack of integrity ... er, business savvy.
Either way, it didn't matter.
At last, a coveted free agent was coming the Jazz's way, albeit by dubious means. The thinking went: It's OK, because he's our guy now.
Truth is, Boozer was not your guy. He was never your guy. He was his guy. He was Carlos Boozer Inc.'s guy.
The real problem with Boozer, the reason he'll only be a champion if some other forces on his team pull him along for the ride, is that he sees basketball in corporate terms. He's his own moneymaker, he's his own investment.
He talks about winning championships, but he's really about protecting his investment, and cashing in.
That describes more than a few modern NBA players. He's not the only chairman of his own board. But it undermines the kind of drive and commitment and sacrifice it takes to be the major push behind a team winning a title.
He would not rush back from injury, in any case, because he didn't want to damage his investment, or even risk damaging it. And no matter what you might read or hear elsewhere, that attitude by one of a team's top players blows a hole in its will, in its ability, to win.
Other Jazz players got hurt -- everybody gets hurt, sooner or later, in a long NBA season -- but some guys fought to get back as soon as possible. Deron Williams returned from his ankle injury long before he was ready to play, and his contributions were limited because of that. And, yet, Williams gained a load of cred among his teammates for doing so.
Williams wants -- and has gotten -- big money, too. But when he signed his lucrative deal last summer, the first thing he said was he wanted to earn that money. He never wanted anybody to be able to say he wasn't earning that money. He wanted to conquer the world and win it all.
Next thing, he went out and showed his determination, falling short in the effort. There have been many others -- past and present -- on the Jazz who did likewise. It might not be possible to actually earn the ridiculous amounts of cash NBA players are paid, but they can lay everything they've got out on the court as real competitors.
That's why they make so much jack, because they play an entertaining sport, and people crave to watch the drama of sporting competition -- warriors doing battle -- play out right in front of them.
When players trade in their competitive drive for security of investment, the paying customers in the stands resent it.
That's one of the primary reasons fans here dislike Boozer now.
He told them he was about one thing when he actually was about something else.
He signed in, he checked out, he opted in, he checked out, again.
He said he was going to get a raise no matter what. And that's what he cared about, regardless of how much he played or didn't play, how much he gave to the team or didn't give. Boozer is an example of the worst of what the NBA too often creates: a true mercenary, a businessman, not a sportsman, dressed out in shorts and sneakers.
He was truly hurt when earlier this month the Jazz didn't offer him a lucrative extension, despite the fact that he missed more than a season and a half of the games under his previous lucrative deal and was semi-ambivalent during the entirety of that span. Only professional sports spawns attitudes like that.
It's good business, bad sports.
Boozer really believes he deserved that raise, and was ticked that he didn't get it.
Nobody says Boozer doesn't have talent. He's a terrific low-post scorer and a skilled rebounder. But he's also apathetic on defense and a guy who looks for his own numbers, sometimes at the expense of his team's success.
That's just one of the differences between him and, say, Michael Jordan.
Jordan was the best ever, but, even after he had won multiple titles, he was maladjusted enough to want more, in the worst way. It was as though his identity was at stake whenever he took the court, even long after he had seemingly nothing more to prove. He cared about money, but he cared even more about winning. And, thankfully, Jordan's not the only one like that. There have been thousands, of all talent levels.
That's a club to which Boozer does not belong.
I once got an e-mail from Boozer's sister, Natasha, telling me that I should get to know Boozer better, that he's a loving, caring person, a sweetheart of a guy.
Personally, he probably is.
Professionally, though, he isn't.
He's made his millions and he's become a success. But he isn't what he might have been: a pro's pro.
It's not that he's sinister. He's self-interested.
It's not that he's dastardly. He's disingenuous.
It's not that he's a cheater. He's a chameleon.
Carlos Boozer is nobody's champion.
He's the chairman of Carlos Boozer Inc.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.