The Night the Jazz Beat the Heat (Again): Jessie’s Winning Experience

A few weeks back I posted Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games. When I wrote it I had no idea that it would be read and shared thousands of times.

I don’t know if I was more surprised that it resulted in hundreds of positive comments where people shared fond memories of following the Jazz over the years or that it had exactly zero negative comments. I wondered if I’d slipped into a parallel universe where people on the Internet are as polite and conscientious as they are in real life.

I invited one of the post’s commenters— Jessie VanDreew Jackson, along with her husband Dallin— to sit on the front row of the Jazz / Heat game February 8th. I am grateful that I was able to do things that I enjoy— writing and sharing my experiences— and to have those things result in fun and enjoyment for others.

What follows are Jessie’s own words about her experience as my guest at that Jazz / Heat game.

The evening began when we drove up to the side of Energy Solutions Arena. We drove down the VIP ramp, feeling like celebrities and were able to park about 15 feet away from the entrance! It was extremely handy since it was a rainy night.

We met up with Bryan, his wife, and some of his other guests at the door. We were immediately impressed with how awesome and kind Bryan and his wife were. [Bryan’s note: Thanks for the kind words Jessie.] When we arrived at the Lexus Club we were given our cool plastic tickets that had lanyards attached to them.  We immediately were welcomed with the smell of seafood, beef, chicken, and other fabulous foods. The chef served a specialty entrée concoction of shrimp and bananas, two ingredients that you would never guess to put together, but the mix of sweet with the shrimp was to die for!

After eating Bryan guided us through the tunnels to find our seats, on the front row across the court from the Miami bench. We were able to watch Lebron James and company warm up before the game started. We were close enough to hear Lebron belt out part of the song that was playing from the rafters and practice his signature dunks. All the while, my husband and I were thinking about how he wasn’t taking the game seriously and that he was totally going to lose!

We saw that the Lexus Club offered people earplugs, which we thought was strange at first, since we’ve been in the lower bowl before. However, during the game, we noticed that the sound resonates even louder off the floor making the arena deafening.  Being so close to the players and being able to taunt the players and refs and yell support at the Jazz players made us feel like we weren’t just watching the game, but were part of it.

During half-time we went back to the Lexus Club for a quick treat of ice cream sundaes with brownies! After a taste, we ran back for the second half of the game. The game was really loud at the end. It was almost like feeling electricity after Trey Burke and Marvin Williams made their clutch shots. We could feel the energy of the arena and of the fans. It felt so real.

Bryan was a super nice guy; it was fun to meet and get to know him and his wife. This was the perfect game to go to gain the full experience of what it means it be a true Jazz fan.

Seeing Jessie and Dallin have fun at that game reinforced my belief that when we do what we enjoy and what comes naturally to us, as I had done by writing the 14 Things blog post, that we can elevate the experiences of those around us.

The Jazz victory over the Heat was a very special experience for me as well.

Thanks Jessie!


A Winner Is Selected

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my blog or Facebook sharing with me your favorite things about the Jazz. I was blown away by the immense positive outpouring. And it was a lot of fun to reminisce– many of the memories were highlights that I enjoyed growing up with the Jazz.

I put the nearly 200 comments into an Excel spreadsheet, than headed over to to select a number randomly.

I then got on a google hangout call with David Locke to share the good news with the lucky winner, Jessie. If you’re interested you can watch a recording of the call here as we shared the good news with Jessie.

Oh, and the game she’ll be attending? The Miami Heat.

Go Jazz!


Humility, Astonishment and an Invitation to Grow

I am humbled and astonished at the overwhelmingly positive response to my last post, Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games.

I must admit, the idea to include a contest where the winner will be my guest at an upcoming game was my wife’s idea, so if it happens to be you, be sure to thank her.

In an earlier post I shared that publicly sharing my thoughts and feelings online is new and somewhat uncomfortable for me. But many of the comments readers of my last post made helped me to remember just how special the Jazz is, what a unifying force the team is for Utah, and how blessed I am.

I was particularly pleased to read about how many family relationships have been strengthened by watching the Jazz play— grandmothers and grandchildren, parents and children, and brothers and sisters. My favorite stories are those of couples who found romantic love grow out of a shared love of the Jazz. It’s great to hear from people who got engaged at a game or whose game-night dates blossomed into happy marriages.

My dad had incredible vision. I think that before he bought the Jazz he could see all this good that would come from keeping the team in Utah. He must have seen something, because in the eleven seasons before he bought the team the Jazz had never made a profit. And this was before the era of global superstars, when the NBA Finals were still broadcast on tape delay. It was a very different world.

I have a theory that he did know all the good that would come by keeping the team in Utah, and I think that’s what motivated him to take the risks that made it possible. And not just one risk, or even two, but three of them.

The first risk was buying the first half of the team, the second one was buying the second half, and the third risk was building the arena. Any one of these risks could have had a tremendously different outcome and jeopardized his other businesses. If you’ve read his autobiography, Driven, you’ve heard all this before.

I myself learned a lot about my dad’s life by reading Driven. I had no idea that prior to buying the second half of the Jazz, my dad had the opportunity to sell the first, and that if he had, he would have walked away with $6M profit in just fourteen months. And that was in 1986— adjusted for inflation that’s like nearly $13M today. Was he crazy? Who wouldn’t do that?

I’ll tell you: Someone who had a sincere desire to serve the community. Someone who saw money simply as “Numbers on paper and a tool for doing good.” Someone who understood that the things he had been blessed with were gifts from God, and that he did not own them but was merely a steward over them. Someone who had the words, “Go about doing good until there’s too much good in the world” inscribed on his headstone.

One of the ways my dad went about doing good was by teaching. In fact, he believed in the power of teaching so strongly that he established as the second responsibility for every employee of the Larry H. Miller Group: “Be a Teacher.” (The first responsibility is to “Protect the legal, financial and moral well-being of the company.”)

I have taken my dad’s instruction literally. After spending nearly eight years working to make one of his most ambitious dreams— Miller Motorsports Park— a reality, I have started a company within the LHM Group called Miller Inspiration.

Miller Inspiration is dedicated to collecting and sharing the principles, philosophies and practices that Larry and Gail used to grow the Group into what it is today— a company that produces billions of dollars of revenue annually, employs more than 10,000 people, does business in nearly all 50 states and which is committed to enriching the lives of its employees and giving back to the communities where it does business.

Miller Inspiration incorporated on the LHM Group’s 34th anniversary, and it just so happens that I’m the same age now that my dad was when he started his own company. In addition to providing inspiration to the employees of the LHM Group, Miller Inspiration will serve business leaders and entrepreneurs outside the Group through speeches, seminars, coaching, consulting and a book.

I invite you to grow with me as Miller Inspiration grows. One of the best ways to do this is to sign up to receive my blog via email. I also invite you to connect with me on Facebook.

Most of my blog posts won’t be about the Jazz, and they won’t include cool contests or giveaways (though the response to this last one was so awesome that I’ll almost certainly do it again next year).

But I will write about some of the things I’ve learned as part of a phenomenally successful family business— insights gleaned from Larry and Gail, my brothers who also work in the business, and from the many other great mentors and teachers that I’ve been fortunate to have had. I will write about my experience and the wonderful privilege that being alive is.

I’ll share things that I’ve learned in my global travels— I’ve been to 52 countries including North Korea, I’ve slept on a banana leaf under a full moon in the Amazon rainforest and I’ve soared over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon. Like so many of us, I’ve searched for meaning and purpose in scriptures, textbooks, classrooms, conferences and countless conversations. And I’ve devoted my life to learning, teaching, connecting, and sharing my experiences, and as fully as I can, my blessings.

I hope you’ll accept my invitation to grow with me and Miller Inspiration as it grows. I truly appreciate you reading, and your friendship.

Much love,



Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games

I have a confession: I’m not actually much of a sports fan. I don’t follow college sports, I couldn’t tell you who won last year’s World Series, and if it the Internet wasn’t abuzz with the fact that the two teams going to the Superbowl are from cities where marijuana’s legal, I probably wouldn’t know who they were. But when your parents own a professional basketball team, it’s impossible not to be a fan.

Sometimes, and especially after a particularly close loss, I’ll wake up the next morning and my first thought is, “Dang! I can’t believe the Jazz lost last night.”

But win or lose, there are many things I love about Jazz games at the EnergySolutions Arena. Like and comment on this post on Facebook by sharing your favorite thing about the Jazz and I’ll enter your name into a drawing to attend a game as my guest. If we’re not already Facebook friends, you can find me here. The winner will receive two courtside tickets to a game this season, dinner in the Lexus Club and VIP parking. In other words, you’ll experience the game as I do.

I recognize that I’m extraordinarily blessed. It’s my privilege to share this experience with you in writing, and I look forward to sharing it with the winning reader in person.

Here are 14 things I love about Jazz games, in no particular order:

  • The Food

The team behind the foodservice at the Arena is incredible, which explains why the food is amazing. I eat in a dining room reserved exclusively for Lexus Courtside Club members that has its own chef, bartenders and wait staff. The food is healthy, delicious and presented beautifully. I don’t eat many meals outside of the Arena that I enjoy as much. There’s even a sundae bar at halftime.

  • The Bear

Furry, fearless, daring, and eminently entertaining, the Bear’s a true superhero. I could watch 48 minutes of his antics. I love his dramatic entrance on a Harley and watching him barrel down the entire length of the lower bowl’s stairs on a plastic sled. But most of all, I appreciate the pre-game hug he makes a point to give me.

  • Sitting Courtside

I feel a breeze when the players run by. I’m close enough to read their tattoos, hear them call plays and talk to each other, and see their sweat fall when they inbound the ball. Players and referees occasionally respond to my questions or comments. I often think of Jay-Z’s line in Empire State of Mind, “I could trip a referee,” but of course I’m always on good behavior. I want to like to keep my seats.

  • The Fans

I love to see so many people at the games having a great time, and my experience is enhanced by knowing that my mom and dad took a huge risk to keep the team in Utah to make this possible. I particularly enjoy seeing and interacting with many of the fans who have been attending as long as I can remember.

  • The Staff

There are a number of employees who have been with us for more than twenty years. They feel like family, and I’m always glad to see them. I have known many of them since I was eight years old, which was when my parents bought the team.

  • The Promotions

The Jazz promotions team dreams up a ton of fun, creative and entertaining ways to help promote marketing partners during timeouts and quarter breaks. I never tire of watching the Bear-as-bowling ball slingshot across the floor to slam into oversized Coke Zero bottles in an insane version of bowling.

  • The Parking

I’m fortunate to park in the back lot where the players park. My spot is twelve steps from the door to the building. It’s especially nice when it snows. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

  • Ticket Back Offers

A few Jazz marketing partners place promotional offers on the backs of tickets. My favorite is the Scheels offer for a quarter pound of fudge for each ticket stub. I’ll sometimes walk around after games to pick up tickets that have been left on the ground. The fans who leave those obviously don’t know what they’re missing. Their loss is my (weight) gain.

  • The National Anthem

A branch of the US armed forces presents a color guard at center court before tipoff. It’s accompanied by an artist performing the Star Spangled Banner. I appreciate the beautiful ceremony and the opportunity it provides to pause and reflect on our blessings and freedoms as Americans.

  • The Energy

When you think about it, it really is amazing to be in an arena— a building built for the purpose of competition. Under the bright lights and up close the players seem like giants. There aren’t many opportunities in most of our lives to experience this sort of intensity. And it’s one of life’s great joys to experience the electricity of playoff energy, and especially the Finals. There’s nothing like it.

  • The Players

It’s always a privilege to watch those who are the best in the world perform whatever it is they do. NBA players are some of the best athletes in the world. They are so quick and so strong. I also appreciate the opportunity to see them up close and as “real human beings.”

  • Player Introduction

I love when the lights go down and the Jazz are introduced. A dynamic, dramatic video showcases each player, and I enjoy it every time I watch it. I also love seeing the players bounce up and down in anticipation of the start of the game. They have the exuberance of children, and I know exactly how they feel.

  • Close Games

I love the thrill of close games. I enjoy knowing that the outcome could be decided by a random bounce, a last-minute drive or a lucky tip. In those moments I always wish I was playing instead of merely spectating.

  • Winning

It’s true that “you can’t win ‘em all,” but I just love the confetti and streamers that shoot from the rafters when the Jazz win. I’m particularly glad for the players after each win, and I imagine each victory as a bit of payoff for countless hours spent in the gym or at practice.

I’m also happy for the coaching staff, because I have some idea of the endless hours of video they watch and the stats and games they analyze. I know it matters to the trainers, doctors, chiropractors, equipment people and ballboys. And to all the front office staff, and of course, the fans. And I know that everybody on the team spends a lot of time on airplanes, motorcoaches and in hotel rooms.

I’m very grateful to be in a position close to the Jazz that allows me to experience all of these things on a regular basis. I also appreciate you reading my blog, and I look forward to reading your comments regarding what you love about the Jazz. I will select and notify the winner by Friday, January 31st at 5pm MST.

May every ball bounce your way.