A long, blue banner hangs behind one of the basketball goals in the Grandview High School gym. In big, block lettering, Alec Burks’ name is written across the canvas. A few steps outside the gym, Burks’ NBA Utah Jazz jersey shines in the school’s trophy case.
There are still some within the Grandview basketball program who refer to Burks as the Chosen Son, and the visible reminders of his days as a Bulldog aren’t exactly subtle.
The Chosen Son returned to his shrine Friday night.
With the NBA enjoying its all-star break in New Orleans, Burks made the trip to Grandview High, where he and other former Bulldogs were recognized during halftime of the boys basketball game against Raytown South that Grandview won 56-54.
“I come here and just remember being young, carefree, just being around my friends,” Burks said. “It was great times. I love coming home.”
Burks looked around the gym as he spoke Friday, surveying the floor he once turned into a highlight reel and used to showcase talents that helped him score a college scholarship at Colorado.
He spent only two years with the Buffaloes before opting for the NBA. The Jazz used the 12th overall pick to select Burks in 2011.
“He loves coming back here every chance he gets because this is where it all started for him,” said Steve Burks, Alec’s father. “This is where the dream started. He held onto it.”
He hasn’t forgotten that, either.
When Burks signed a sponsorship deal with Adidas, it was written into the contract that the sports apparel company would provide the Grandview boys and girls programs with jerseys and warmups.
“The school doesn’t have that much money,” Burks said. “I know the parents can’t afford it, just like mine couldn’t, so I try to help out as much as I can.”
As a thank you, Grandview coach Randy Farris presented Burks with a plaque during halftime. After the short ceremony, current players showed their gratitude with handshakes and hugs.
“I came to almost every game he played,” said Grandview senior Tyrone Taylor, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season. “I text him all the time. We have a good relationship. He’s like my older brother.”
Atop the Suburban Blue Conference standings, the Bulldogs are seen as a potential favorite to reach the Missouri Class 4 state tournament. It would be their first appearance there since Burks led the Bulldogs to the championship game in 2009, his senior season.
Burks was chosen the Missouri Gatorade player of the year in 2009, when he also won the DiRenna Award, given to the top high school basketball player in the Kansas City area. He scored 23 points per game that season.
The individual accolades stockpiled throughout his career. It was another memory that struck Burks as he walked into the gym Friday.
“Winning districts,” he said. “It was pandemonium.”
Five years later, Burks still makes Grandview his offseason home, he said.
His parents, Steve and Dina, remain Grandview residents, though they spend much of the NBA season traveling to follow their son’s professional career.
It’s included some better moments this season.
Burks’ third year with the Jazz has turned into his best in the league. He is averaging career highs in points (13.4), rebounds (3.2) and assists (2.6) while serving a sixth-man role off the bench.
The Jazz, however, are just 19-33, despite winning three in a row.
“The league is a grind,” Burks said. “It’s getting better. The grind is paying off. We’re all getting better.”