On March 7, 1974, New Orleans became the 18th member of the NBA as a nine-man group headed by Fred Rosenfeld and Sam Battistone paid $6.15 million for the expansion franchise. Then on May 3, 1974, Pete Maravich was acquired by trade from Atlanta, becoming the first player in franchise history.
That spring, a contest was held to name the expansion team. Of the more than 6,500 names submitted, eight semi-finalists emerged: Jazz, Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights.
After much deliberation, team officials announced that the new team name would be the New Orleans Jazz on June 7, 1974.
Three contestants had entered the Jazz name with the same postmark date, so team officials had Miss New Orleans 1974, Kay Johnson, choose a winner out of a hopper. That winner was Steve Brown, a 27-year-old broker and transplant New Yorker.
Brown, a self-proclaimed Jazz freak who had once played in a league with Julius Irving, said, I grew up on Knickerbocker basketball, but this is my team now.” He received two Jazz season tickets and a trip to the 1975 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix.
As the undisputed “jazz capital of the world”, the city embraced the new name. And, for the second time, Jazz had been born in New Orleans. To convey a distinct Mardi Gras theme, purple gold, and green colors were used and the logo featured the ‘J’ as an eighth note. The team colors were actually selected prior to the name.
In the summer of 1974, an expansion franchise was preparing for its first season of competition in the NBA. The New Orleans Jazz were looking for something or someone to generate excitement among their new basketball fans. With his exciting style of play, Maravich was seen as the perfect man for the job. Additionally, he was already a celebrity in the state due to accomplishments at LSU. To acquire Maravich, the Jazz traded two players and four draft picks to Atlanta.
The expansion team struggled mightily in its first season. Maravich managed to score 21.5 points per game, but shot a career-worst 41.9 percent from the floor. The Jazz posted a 23–59 record, worst in the NBA.
Jazz management did its best to give Maravich a better supporting cast. The team posted a 38–44 record in its second season (1975 – 1976) but did not qualify for postseason play, despite the dramatic improvement. Maravich struggled with injuries that limited him to just 62 games that season, but he averaged 25.9 points per contest (third behind Macadoo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and continued his crowd-pleasing antics. He was elected to the All-NBA First Team that year.
The following season (1976 – 1977) was his most productive in the NBA. He led the league in scoring with an average of 31.1 points per game. He scored 40 points or more in 13 different games, and 50 or more in 4 games. His 68-point masterpiece against the Knicks was at the time the most points ever scored by a guard in a single game, and only two players at any position had ever scored more: Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Baylor was head coach of the Jazz at that time.
Despite being barely competitive, the Jazz drew well during their first five years. However, by 1979 the franchise was sinking financially. Barry Mendelson, the team’s executive vice president for most of the early years, said one factor in the financial trouble was an 11 percent amusement tax, highest in the U.S. at the time. The team also could not attract much local corporate support—an important factor even in those days—or local investors.
Battistone concluded that the franchise could not be viable in New Orleans and decided to move elsewhere. After scouting several new homes, he decided to move the team to Salt Lake City, even though it was a smaller market. Salt Lake City had previously been home to the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1970 to 1976. The Stars had been extremely popular in the city and had even won an ABA title in their first season after moving from Los Angeles. However, their finances collapsed in their last two seasons, and they were shut down by the league 16 games into the 1975 – 1976 season after missing payroll. Although Salt Lake City was not known for its jazz culture, the team decided to keep the name, as well as the team’s original colors of green, purple, and gold (the colors of Mardi Gras).
On June 7, 1974, the New Orleans Jazz were admitted as an expansion franchise into the National Basketball Association (NBA). Team officials choose the name because of its definition in the dictionary: collective improvisation. The team began its inaugural season in New Orleans in the 1974 – 1975 season. The team’s first major move was to trade for star player Pete Maravich (who had played collegiately at LSU) from the Atlanta Hawks for two first-round draft picks, three second-round picks, and one third-round pick over the next three years. Although he was considered one of the most entertaining players in the league and won the scoring championship in 1977 with 31.1 points per game, the Jazz’ best record while in New Orleans was 39–43 in the 1977 – 1978 season. Maravich struggled with knee injuries from that season onward.
New Orleans – Salt Lake City
1974 – Present / National Basketball Association
1979 – Present / Utah Jazz
1974 – 1979 / New Orleans Jazz
Jazz – The Jazz nickname was originally chosen through a name the team contest, which produced seven other finalists: Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. As the undisputed “jazz capital of the world”, the city embraced the new name. And, for the second time, Jazz had been born in New Orleans. To convey a distinct Mardi Gras theme, purple gold, and green colors were used and the logo featured the ‘J’ as an eighth note. The team colors were actually selected prior to the name.
NBA Championships 0
2015 – Present / Vivint Smart Home Arena
2006 – 2015 / EnergySolutions Arena
1991 – 2005 / Delta Center
1979 – 1991 / Salt Palace
1975 – 1979 / Louisiana Superdome
1974 – 1975 / Municipal Auditorium & Loyola Field House
2020 – Present / Ryan Smith
2009 – 2020 / Greg and Gail Miller
1986 – 2009 / Larry Miller
1985 – 1986 / Sam Battistone and Larry Miller
1974 – 1985 / Sam Battistone
1 / Frank Layden
4 / Adrian Dantley
7 / Pete Maravich
9 / Larry H. Miller
12 / John Stockton
14 / Jeff Hornacek
32 / Karl Malone
35 / Darrell Griffith
53 / Mark Eaton
1223 / Jerry Sloan
– / “Hot” Rod Hundley
*Blue is this team’s history