Larry Riley, then a top assistant in the Golden State front office, had just stepped out the back door of the gymnasium at Salt Lake Community College. He ran into Rod Thorn, the sharp-featured New Jersey Nets president.

Both men were in Utah on July 23, 2008, for the Rocky Mountain Revue, the Jazz’s since-abandoned summer league.

"Well, Riles," Thorn said, looking at his colleague, "I think we’ve got a trade that will be completed today."

Riley was puzzled.

"I hadn’t heard anything about it," Riley recalled last week.

The Nets and Warriors, though, had agreed to a minor trade that would swap New Jersey point guard Marcus Williams for a protected future first-round draft pick. The deal set in motion a peculiar series of events that will culminate with Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the biggest trade in franchise history.

"What it really does is it closes the books on the Deron Williams trade," Jazz executive vice president Kevin O’Connor said.

But the story of 21 is far more complicated. Over the course of a lifespan longer than the average NBA career, 21 has been nomadic. Teams have fought over it. It has teased.

Twenty-one helped resurrect two franchises. The Jazz on Thursday will begin to learn how it impacts their own future.