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 nation at the time. The team also couldn’t attract much local corporate support an important factor even in those days or local investors.
Battisone 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 to Salt Lake City, even though it was a smaller market. However, Salt Lake City had proven it could support a pro basketball team when it played host to the American Basketball Association’s Utah Stars 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 inexplicably 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). Some were offended by the Jazz keeping the franchise name after moving from New Orleans, citing it as a metaphor for the theft of Jazz from its cultural roots; other commentators, including David Halberstam, noted that it was highly incongruous to have a nickname based on a genre of music largely pioneered and led by African-American artists used for a team in a state where the main religious body—the LDS Church—expressed many derogatory ideas towards blacks.
The Jazz were finally able to capitalize on regular season success. In 1996 – 1997, the Jazz had their best record in franchise history (64–18), and won the Midwest Division and finished with the best record in the Western Conference. The team was made up of the players, Stockton, Malone, and Hornacek, as well as Bryon Russell, Antoine Carr, Howard Eisley, and Shandon Anderson. Malone won his first NBA MVP for the 1996 – 1997 regular season, averaging 27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.
The Jazz reached the NBA Finals for the first time after beating the Los Angeles Clippers 3–0, Los Angeles Lakers 4–1, and Houston Rockets 4–2. The Jazz then met Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Finals, losing to the Bulls 4–2, with the last two games decided in the final seconds (scores of 90–88 and 90–86).
In the 1998 NBA Finals (again against the Chicago Bulls), the Jazz took Game 1 at home, 88–85 in overtime. However, the Bulls overcame a slow start to win Game 2, 93–88, easily took Game 3, 96–54 and won Game 4, 86–82 to lead the series 3–1. The Jazz fought back and won Game 5 on the road, 83–81, to trail 3–2 in the series, with Game 6 (and a Game 7 if needed) in Salt Lake City. The Jazz held a lead in most of Game 6, but the Bulls rallied, and in the last seconds of the game, Michael Jordan stole the ball from Malone on the final Jazz possession and then made a jump shot to win the game, 87–86, and the series for Chicago, 4–2.
Miller became a co-owner of the Utah Jazz when he purchased a 50% interest in the team on April 11, 1985 for $9.5 million. On June 16, 1986, he purchased the remaining 50% from Sam Battistone for $17.3 million.
Miller built the Vivint Smart Home Arena (formerly the Delta Center) in downtown Salt Lake City to house the Jazz NBA team.
The Utah Jazz are an American professional basketball team based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Jazz compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member club of the league’s Western Conference Northwest Division. Since 1991, the team has played its home games at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The franchise began play in 1974 as the New Orleans Jazz, an expansion team based in New Orleans; the Jazz moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.
The Jazz were one of the least successful teams in the league in their early years. Although 10 seasons elapsed before the Jazz qualified for their first playoff appearance in 1984, they did not miss the playoffs again until 2004. During the late 1980s, John Stockton and Karl Malone arose as the franchise players for the team, and formed one of the most famed point guard–power forward duos in NBA history. Led by coach Jerry Sloan, who took over for Frank Layden in 1988, they became one of the powerhouse teams of the 1990s, culminating in two NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998, where they lost both times to the Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan.
New Orleans – Salt Lake City
1974 – Present / National Basketball Association
1979 – Present / Utah Jazz
1974 – 1979 / New Orleans Jazz
Jazz – The team originated in New Orleans in 1974 as the Jazz and club officials decided to keep the name after relocating to Salt Lake City in 1979.
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
2009 – Present / Greg and Gail Miller
1986 – 2009 / Larry Miller
1985 – 1986 / Sam Battistone and Larry Miller
1974 – 1985 / Sam Battistone
Who is the greatest Utah Jazz?
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
1993 – Present / Jazz Bear
*Blue is this team’s history