When retired NBA players attend All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City and swap stories about their time in the league, there will undoubtedly be tales about the rookie hazing they dished out and endured.

But Adrian Dantley will not have stories that align with that piece of NBA culture.

From the time he entered the NBA in 1976, he refused to participate in the initiation ritual, even when it came to John Stockton and Karl Malone.

“When I was a rookie in Buffalo, somebody told me to carry the bags from the bus to the hotel,” Dantley recalled. “I told him: ‘I’ll tell you what: We play a game of one-on-one, and the loser carries the winner’s bags,’ and that put an end to that.”

Dantley, who spent 17 seasons in the NBA before finishing his pro career with one season in Italy, was a six-time All-Star who averaged at least 30 points in four of his seven seasons with the Jazz. Like the dynamic the Thunder have in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies in Memphis and the Kings in Sacramento, when your team is the only professional sports show in town, the fan base is loyal and rabid.

That is how Dantley, who will turn 68 on the final day of February, remembers Salt Lake City.

“Of all the cities where I played, that was my favorite,” he told Legends Magazine in a telephone interview in mid-January from his home in Maryland. “Other players would come into town and ask what there was to do, and I said I really didn’t care because I was too busy working out and playing ball. I didn’t need anywhere to go. I just wanted to get minutes.”

Dantley played for seven NBA teams over the course of his career and was with the Jazz from 1979-80 to 1985-86 before a contractual dispute with coach Frank Layden led to his trade to the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. He then spent three seasons alongside Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and a young Dennis Rodman, playing a reduced role on offense but going to the NBA Finals in 1988 when the Pistons lost an epic seven-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a career 54 percent shooter and never shot worse than .531 while he was with the Jazz, numbers that are not seen all that often in today’s NBA because of the popularity of the 3-point shot and the decline of the midrange game.

“That was just a shot selection thing,” Dantley said. “I was very comfortable from 18 to 19 feet out, and I always took good shots. If I had been a volume shooter like some of these guys today, there’s no telling what I might have averaged.”

As it was, Dantley averaged 30.7, 30.3, 30.7 and 30.6 points per game in four consecutive seasons from 1980-81 to 1983-84. And in four other seasons with Indiana and Utah, he never averaged lower than 26. He had to accept a reduced offensive role in his later years with Detroit, Dallas and a short stint with Milwaukee before he retired. Still, Dantley certainly made his mark in NBA history with two scoring titles, a Rookie of the Year award, an Olympic gold medal (1976 Montreal) and a Comeback Player of the Year award.

Listed as a small forward because of his height (6-foot-5) but a guy who played more like a traditional power forward, Dantley was with the Jazz when Stockton and Malone came into the NBA as rookies.

“Karl, like me, was a weightlifter, and that made him unstoppable. He was very country, very likable and very competitive, and when he was young, I remember him coming in with a big old truck.”

Malone, of course, became a part of the Jazz teams that went to the NBA Finals in consecutive years against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The “Mailman” was a beloved figure in Salt Lake City and the state of Utah, which he would leave from time to time by crossing the Salt Flats late at night to enter Nevada and play cards in West Wendover.

(Side note: Any and all retired NBA players who are in Salt Lake City for this year’s All-Star game are hereby advised to make that same trip and gaze out the car windows at Utah’s famous Salt Flats. Unless you have seen that vast expanse of barren white land with your own eyes, you will never be able to appreciate one of the most wondrous expanses of America).

With Stockton, Dantley immediately noticed a competitiveness that anybody who came to know point guard could appreciate. Stockton began his career as a backup to Rickey Green, an All-Star in 1984, and eventually took over the starting job.

“When he came in and played with Rickey, we had two great point guards,” Dantley said. “But the thing with John, you could tell in practice how good he was going to be because of the way he competed. He always wanted to do well and play well.

“I liked him because he was quiet, but you couldn’t let that fool you. He was wide-eyed at first, but he was very competitive,” Dantley said. “He ran the show, and I later learned that he became very vocal as a veteran.”

Stockton and Malone both keep relatively low profiles these days after being a national story in the mid-90s when facing Jordan & Co. Remember, an entire generation was enthralled by the competitiveness of the Jazz and the Bulls during those epic NBA Finals.

Younger NBA fans have no recollection of those years and can only try to get up to speed by listening to their elders and watching YouTube. The NBA has its hands full in rekindling an appreciation for the game’s history. In the days before social media and the pandemic, it was customary for people to gather together, watch games and debate the merits of the all-time great players and teams.

But because we live in the social media age, that is happening less than it once did. Ask anyone with teenage children or grandchildren what causes them the most anxiety, and the “staring at the smartphone” dynamic will be atop everyone’s list. Commissioner Adam Silver’s infatuation with the NBA App shows how the league is trying to appeal to a younger demographic, often at the expense of older NBA fans who are perfectly content watching games from the sofa on a big screen. Dinosaurs? Maybe, but some might say a 64-inch screen is superior to a 6-inch screen to anyone with their head on straight.

But this generational difference is one of the peculiar things older Americans are being forced to become accustomed to, along with watching the decline of the low-post and the midrange game in an NBA where the 3-point shot has become king. When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich commented that it is time for a 4-point shot and a 5-point shot “so we can make it a real circus. Then it will be a different sport, it won’t even be basketball, it will be a bunch of crap,” a large segment of the NBA’s older demographic smiled in appreciation.

When Dantley came into the league, there was no 3-point shot. And in the first year it was introduced, 1979-80, the Atlanta Hawks attempted a total of 75 3-pointers over the entire season. (Dantley was 0-for-2 for the Jazz).

Today’s NBA players are political and outspoken, just like many of their predecessors, and their massive social media followings give them an extraordinary amount of influence in dictating the national dialogue. The national media often seizes upon this low-hanging fruit and foments racial disharmony, which will be a topic at All-Star Weekend in a city where the population is 72.5 percent white, 19.9 percent Hispanic and 2.7 percent Black or African-American.

But racial disparity does not equate to a racist dynamic, as some Black players have had a more difficult time adjusting to Salt Lake City than others, as we learned most recently from Donovan Mitchell, who was cheered Jan. 10 when he made his return to Utah with his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For Dantley, who went to a primarily white Catholic university at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, the learning curve was not steep because he had grown accustomed to being around people who did not look like him.

“Of all the cities where I played, guys would ask me, 'How can you play here?’ But it was the best place that I played. People were great to me,” Dantley said. “Those were the most supportive fans I have ever been around, and to this day, I remain close friends with (Jazz broadcaster) Ron Boone, who came up with me on the Lakers, and during the summers when I ran summer camps there.”

Dantley also recalled how the Jazz team doctor helped him alleviate a chronic back problem by having him wear orthotics to compensate for a slight difference in the size of his legs. “Haven’t had a back problem since.”

Let’s hope the retired players who gather in Utah this February keep Dantley’s stories of his fond memories of Salt Lake City in mind. Perhaps they may even play a role in altering the national dialogue surrounding the intersection of race, sports and politics. If everyone can fly out of Utah having made that part of the national dialogue, All-Star Weekend will have been a success on a level that may matter more than anything.