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Jazz History


Sports Encyclopedia: Utah Jazz – year-by-year details plus other basic facts (division titles, retired numbers, awards, best/worst seasons, and more)

Utah Jazz History: Basic Facts, Record holders, logos, uniforms, Draft results, All-time players list, Players’ numbers, and more interesting historical facts.

Wikipedia: Utah Jazz – Basic history, important eras, other facts (records held, franchise leaders, coaches, roster, etc.)

Forbes: Most Valuable NBA Teams – #16 Utah Jazz

New Orleans Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz was founded in 1974 by owner Sam Battistone. After 5 losing seasons in a row, the team was moved to Salt Lake City, UT

Utah Jazz 1979

The Jazz was moved to Salt Lake City in 1979 where Utah had previously supported the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1970-1975. One of the biggest reasons for the move was financial. The team had a terrible arena lease, and had lost $5 million in 5 seasons (approx. $14.9 million in 2008 dollars – CPI Calculator). The owner was also rumored to be unhappy in New Orleans and his wife was from Utah. Despite Utah not being known for its Jazz music, as New Orleans was, the name was kept to save costs, probably as well as uncertainty as to whether the team would succeed in Utah and remain there.

During the 1979-1980 season, the Utah Jazz finished with a lowly 24-58 record in the Midwest division. The team hired Frank Layden as General Manager and he quickly signed Forward Adrian Dantley from the Los Angeles Lakers, who finished third in the league with 28 PPG.


The Utah Jazz selected Darrell Griffith with the 2nd pick in the draft, and he went on to win Rookie of the Year averaging 20.6 PPG. Dantley won the League Scoring title averaging 30.7 PPG. However, the team still finished with only a 28-54 record.


GM Frank Layden took over as Head Coach, yet the team still struggled, finishing in last place with a 25-57 record in a season that included an 18-game losing streak, with Dantley being the lone bright spot, averaging 30.3 PPG.


With the 3rd pick in the NBA Draft, the Jazz selected Dominique Wilkins, who expressed no interest in playing in Utah and he was traded away to the Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams, and cash before ever playing a game. Adrian Dantly injured his wrist early in the season, which left the team to struggle again to a 30-52 record.


The Jazz finally make the playoffs for the first time in Franchise history, winning the Midwest Division with a 45-37 record. Adrian Dantley led the team again and won the League scoring title again with 30.6 PPG. Mark Eaton helped by leading the league in blocked shots, Rickey Green led the league in steals, and Darrell Griffith led the league in 3-point shooting. In the first round, the Jazz won the last 2 games to beat the Denver Nuggets in a best of 5. But in the 2nd round, they were unable to get past the Phoenix Suns, losing in 6 games.


With the 16th pick in the NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected John Stockton from Gonzaga. The Jazz finished with a 41-41 record to barely make it to the Playoffs where they would upset the Rockets in 5 games, but lost to the Nuggets in the 2nd round in 5 games.

On April 11, 1985 Larry H. Miller purchased a 50% in the Utah Jazz for only $9.5 million (approx. $19.1 million in 2008 dollars).


This year, with the 13th pick in the NBA Draft, they selected Karl Malone out of Louisiana Tech. Together with Stockton, they become possibly the greatest duo in NBA History. However, Adrian Dantley was still the star of this team, averaging 29.8 PPG and the Jazz made the playoffs for the 3rd time with a 42-40 record. But they were beaten by the Dallas Mavericks in 4 games.

On June 16, 1986 Larry H. Miller bought out the remaining 50% from Sam Battistone for only $17.3 million ($33.6 million in 2008 dollars). **According to Forbes, the Utah Jazz franchise was worth $342 million in 2007.


The Jazz decided to ship Adrian Dantley to the Detroit Pistons for Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson, giving the team to Malone who averaged 21.7 PPG in his second year. In the first round of the playoffs, they won the first 2 games against the Golden State Warriors, but lost the next 3 to be bounced out.


John Stockton led the league in assists for the first time in his career, setting a single season record with 1,128 assists. The Jazz finished with a 47-35 record and beat the Portland Trailblazers in 4 games in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, they faced the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, where the Jazz took them all the way to 7 games before losing.


Coach Frank Layden stepped down to become Club President, leaving the team to his assistant – Jerry Sloan. That year, the Utah Jazz won the division title with a 51-31 record, with Karl Malone finishing 2nd in the league in scoring with 29.1 PPG. In the first round of the playoffs though, the Jazz were swept in 3 games by the Golden State Warriors.


Karl Malone finished 2nd in scoring again with 31 PPG and John Stockton led the league in assists for the 3rd year in a row as the Jazz finished with a 55-27 record, good for 2nd place. Unfortunately though, they suffered another disappointing playoff exit by losing to the Phoenix Suns in 5 games.


With a 54-28 record, the Jazz fell just one game short of another Division Title, and beat the Suns in 4 games in the first round of the Playoffs, but lost to the Trailblazers in 5 games. Stockton led the league in assists for the 4th year in a row.


With 8 straight playoff appearances, 2 rising stars, and a growing fan base, the Utah Jazz were awarded a new state of the art arena known as the Delta Center in downtown Salt Lake City, moving out of the Salt Palace where they had previously played. John Stockton led the league in assists for the 5th straight season, and Karl Malone finished 2nd in scoring yet again as they led the Jazz to another Division Title with a 55-27 record. In the playoffs, they beat the Los Angeles Clippers in 5 games, and beat the Seattle Supersonics in 5 games to reach their first ever conference finals. The series with the Portland Trailblazers would go 7 games before the Jazz fell.

During the summer, Stockton and Malone would join the “Dream Team” in the Barcelona, Spain Olympics to win the Gold Medal.


Salt Lake City was the host for the season’s All-star game, and the city’s 2 home-town heroes stole the spotlight as they were voted the co-MVP’s as the Western Conference won in overtime.

The Jazz played much of the season without former defensive player of the year, Mark Eaton due to injury and they finished with a 47-35 record. Then in the playoffs, the Seattle Supersonics defeated the Jazz 3-2. Mark Eaton announced his retirement.


The jazz traded Jeff Malone for shooter Jeff Hornacek from the Philadelphia 76ers, which helped them to become one of the leagues hottest teams, as they finished the season 53-29, only 3rd best in the Midwest Division. In the playoffs, the defeated the San Antonio Spurs in 4 games, then jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Denver Nuggets before needing 7 games to finally close them out. In their second trip to the Western Conference Finals the were ousted by the Houston Rockets in 5 games.


This was a year of milestones for the Utah Jazz, as John Stockton passed Magic Johnson to become the NBA’s All-Time Assist Leader with 9,921. He also led the league in assists for a record-tying 8th straight season. In addition, Karl Malone and Tom Chambers topped the 20,000 points mark. The Jazz finished with a then franchise best 60-22 record. But the Jazz would be upset by the defending, and eventual repeating NBA Champs – the Houston Rockets in 5 games.


John Stockton has another record-breaking season in which he passes Maurice Cheeks as the NBA’s all-time Steals leader, as well as leading the league in assists for a record-breaking 9th consecutive season. Karl Malone moved into 9th place on the all-time scoring list. They finished with a 55-27 record and beat the Portland Trailblazers in 5 games, winning the 5th game at home 102-64. In the second round, the Jazz beat the San Antonio Spurs in 6 games. However, in the Western Conference Finals, they fell short of their first NBA Finals appearance again by losing to the Seattle Supersonics in 7 games after trailing 3-1, losing by only 4 points in that 7th game.


The Utah Jazz, keeping their name, upgraded to a new logo that reflected their Utah environment.

1979-1996 1996-2004

Old Utah Jazz Logo 1979-1996 Utah Jazz Logo 1996-2004

With a new look, the Jazz destroyed the rest of the Western Conference on their way to a franchise-best 64-18 record. Karl Malone received MVP honors. In the first round of the playoffs, the Jazz swept the Los Angeles Clippers in 3 games, then easily beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. In the Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, the Jazz took the first 2 games at home, then lost the next two in Houston with Eddie Johnson hitting a buzzer-beater to win game 4. The Jazz returned home and won game 5. Then in Houston for game 6, with the game tied and appearing to be headed to overtime, Bryon Russell inbounded the ball to John Stockton who ran up to the 3-point line and swished the game winner over Charles Barkley. The announcer yelled out “John Stockton sends the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals!” as the players jumped up and down ecstatically and hugged their coach Jerry Sloan in the excitement of finally overcoming their Finals jinx.

However, in the Finals, they would run into something even more difficult to conquer: Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls. They lost the first 2 games in Chicago, but tied the series at 2-2 by winning the first 2 home games. But in game 5 with a chance to take the series lead, Michael Jordan scored 38 points playing with the flu to upset the Jazz by 2: 90-88. Then back in Chicago, the Jazz couldn’t quite pull off the upset and lost game 6 by 4 points.


The Jazz started the season without John Stockton due to knee surgery and started out 11-7, but upon his return, took off for the League’s best record of 62-20.  They beat the Rockets in 5 games in the first round, and then beat the Spurs in 5 games on their way to the Conference Finals yet again.  Things were clicking for them as they swept the Lakers to return to the NBA Finals in a rematch with the Chicago Bulls, this time with home court advantage.  However, after winning game 1, they lost game 2 at home and the first 2 in Chicago to fall behind 3-1.  They were able to edge the Bulls in Chicago by 2 points to send the series back to Utah down 3-2.  With a late lead in game 6, Michael Jordan took over and after stealing the ball from Malone, he pushed Bryon Russell out of the way to hit the game and series winning shot in his last game as a Bull.  The final score was 87-86.


With a 4-month strike shortening the season, the Jazz still posted a league-best record of 37-13 while Karl Malone won his 2nd MVP award.  They received a scare from the Sacramento Kings by falling behind 2-1 before rallying to win by 1 point in game 4, and closing out at home in game 5.  But they fell to the Portland Trailblazers in the second round in 6 games.


The Jazz were now the oldest team in the NBA, but still won another Midwest Division title with a 55-27 record.  They beat the Sonics in a close 5 games, but fell yet again to the Trailblazers in the second round in 5 games.


Jeff Hornacek retired, and the Jazz traded away Howard Eisley in a trade that brought Donyell Marshall to the Jazz.  They also signed veteran free agents Danny Manning, John Starks, and former Jazz-man David Benoit.  And in the 2000 draft, they chose their first-ever high school player – 19 year old DeShawn Stevenson.  They finished strong again, with a 53-29 record – 2nd best.  John Stockton set the record for most games played with one team, and Karl Malone moved into 2nd place on the All-time Scoring list with 31,420 points.  In the first round of the playoffs, they jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Dallas Mavericks, but allowed them to come back and steal the series 3-2.


John Stockton topped 15,000 assists and 3,000 steals, and Karl Malone topped 34,000 career points.  But their ages began to catch up with them as they finished as the 8th seed with a 44-38 record.  In the playoffs, the Jazz fell to the Sacramento Kings in the first round in 4 games.


In the last season of the “Stockton to Malone” era, the Jazz posted a 47-35 record, which was only good enough for the 7th seed matching them up against the Kings again.  They lost in just 5 games.  However, both John Stockton and Karl Malone were given long standing ovations as they walked off the court at the Delta Center following a Game 4 loss. They would also be given a standing ovation by fans in Sacramento as Game 5 came to a close.  After the loss, John Stockton announced his retirement, ending his career with the all-time NBA records in assists with 15,806 and steals at 3,265. However the most amazing stat surrounding Stockton was his durability as he missed just 22 games in 20 seasons.  With the Jazz heading into rebuilding mode, and Karl Malone seeking an NBA Championship before his retirement, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.  Malone left Utah having scored 36,374 points, second to only Kareem Abdul Jabbar.


With Andrei Kirilenko the new leader of the team, they were able to fight all the way to the end of the season, falling just 1 game out of the 8th seed which went to the division-rival Denver Nuggets, and after 20 straight years of making the playoffs, their run came to an end.  They finished above .500 with a 42-40 record.  Kirilenko was selected to the All-star team.


In the off-season, the Jazz signed Power Forward Carlos Boozer away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Center Mehmet Okur from the NBA Champion Detroit Pistons, and the Jazz won 6 of their first 7 games – leading to optimism for a successful season.  However, Andrei Kirilenko suffered a knee injury and the Jazz struggled.  They traded disgruntled Point Guard Carlos Arroyo to the Detroit Pistons for Elden Campbell who was immediately waived.  The Jazz finished the season with a 26-56 record, their worst finish since the ’81-’82 season.

To mark the beginning of the new post-stockton-to-malone era the Jazz slightly changed their logos by adjusting the colors to “Utah” navy blue and “Jazz” ice blue:

Newest Utah Jazz Logo


The Utah Jazz traded away 3 draft picks to move up from the 6th spot to the 3rd spot in the NBA Draft so that they could draft the player they hoped would be the replacement for John Stockton, and their new franchise Point Guard Deron Williams from the University of Illinois.  Chris Paul was drafted 4th by the New Orleans Hornets, and the two, though great friends, have been compared ever since and will forever be linked.

Carlos Boozer missed 49 games due to injury, and the team struggled to find consistency, eventually finishing 41-41, just 3 games short of the playoffs.  Greg Ostertag retired, having spent 10 of his 11 seasons with the Jazz.


With the 14th pick in the NBA Draft, the Jazz selected promising Shooting Guard Ronnie Brewer from the University of Arkansas.  Then in the second round, selected Deron Williams’s former running mate from Illinois, Dee Brown, and Paul Millsap from Karl Malone’s alma mater, Louisiana Tech University.  Millsap had led the NCAA in rebounding in 3 consecutive years, but still fell to the late second round – and is now considered one of the best late second round “steals” in NBA history (Boozer and Okur were also both selected in the 2nd round).  Several players were traded away for veteran Point Guard Derek Fisher, as the Jazz were praised by many major sports websites for drafting well and making good off-season moves.

The Jazz’s arena’s naming rights had expired and the name was changed from The Delta Center, to The Energy Solutions Arena (ESA).  It was called The Delta Center from when it was built in 1991.

The young Jazz team finally molded well together, and had a very deep team.  Carlos Boozer was selected to the All-star team, but had to miss due to a leg injury, paving the way for clutch-shooting “money-man” Mehmet Okur to attend the All-star game.  Deron Williams emerged as one of the best Point Guards in the league in only his 2nd year averaging 9.3 assists per game, 2nd only to Steve Nash, while being “snubbed” from the All-star game.  Meanwhile, Paul Millsap, the 2nd round “steal” emerged as an excellent rookie bench contributor, providing valuable hustle minutes, rebounds, and points.  Andrei Kirilenko however, expressed dissatisfaction with his role on the team in a well-publicized, teary-eyed interview.

The Jazz rolled to a 51-31 record, winning their 7th Division Title, and good for the 4th seed, but without home-court advantage against the 5th seed Houston Rockets.  They lost the first two games in Houston, but held court winning their 2 home games, then lost game 5 in Houston, and took the series back to Houston for game 7 by winning game 6 at home.  The odds did not favor Utah as only 11 teams out of 202 have won a 7-game series after trailing 0-2.  But the young Jazz team was able to become the 12th team to achieve such a feat by winning 103-99.

In the second round, they faced the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors, fresh off the upset over the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks.  Games 1 & 2 were close, with Derek Fisher returning in the 3rd quarter of game 2 from New York where he was seeking treatment for his daughter to a standing ovation.  He instantly provided a spark as he scored crucial points in overtime to lead the Jazz to victory.  The Warriors were still confident, but the Jazz’s depth and size was too much for them, winning in 5 games, making it to their 6th Western Conference Finals appearance where they would face the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, a team whose veteran players and experience proved to be too much for the Jazz as they lost 4-1.


In the offseason, the Jazz received a Development League (D-League) team the Utah Flash in Orem, Utah which they share with the Boston Celtics.  The Jazz selected hot-shooter Morris Almond from Rice University with the 22nd pick in the Draft who went on to tie the D-League record by scoring 51 points in a game, which he later broke by scoring 53 points in a game.  In the second round, the Jazz traded their selection to the 76ers for their selection, the 7’1″ Ukrainian Center Kyrylo Fesenko.  Both draftees spent the majority of their time gaining experience on the Utah Flash because of the Jazz’s depth.  The Jazz also agreed to release Derek Fisher to seek better medical care for his daughter; he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

During the season, the Jazz struggled to a 16-16 record in which they were in 9th place in the west, when they sent disgruntled Gordan Giricek to the 76ers for shooter Kyle Korver (reminiscent of the Jeff Hornacek trade?).  The Jazz soon became the hottest team in the league after the trade, rolling to a 54-28 record, at one point tying a franchise record with 19 straight home wins.  They finished with a 37-4 Home record, but struggled mightily on the road and against teams with losing records.  Deron Williams was incredible once again, averaging 18.8 PPG and 10.5 APG. as he was “snubbed” from the All-star game for the 2nd straight year.  They won the Northwest Division for the 8th time and deja vu occurred when they entered the playoffs as the 4th seed, but faced the Houston Rockets who had home-court advantage again.  This time though, the Rockets were decimated by injuries (Yao Ming), and the Jazz won both games in Houston, suffered a rare home loss in game 3, won game 4, lost game 5 in Houston, and easily beat them at home in game 6.  In the second round however, they faced the #1 seed, and very solid Los Angeles Lakers.  The Jazz lost games 1 & 2 in L.A. by building huge first half deficits that they could come back from, but not enough to pull out a win.  They then won 2 close games at home in Salt Lake City, but returned home for game 6 down 3-2.  In game 6, they built another huge hole, being down by as much as 19 in the second half.  They were able to miraculously fight back to have 2 chances to send the game to overtime, but attempts by their most clutch shooters, Okur and Williams didn’t go in, ending the Jazz’s season.


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