New Orleans Jazz. Duh.

Pistol Pete Maravich and the New Orleans Jazz

I usually confess my dumb blonde moments long before others have the chance to in an attempt to save face, but last week in New Orleans I did it again letting my “true” blonde shine.

Looking up at a t-shirt for sale I yelled out, “I love that shirt! Too bad it’s not sports related.” The shirt had the Jazz logo on it and said New Orleans, making me believe it was a play on the town of Jazz, but I couldn’t quite figure out how NBA licensing had allowed such a shirt to be made and sold. I was with my friend Joe from National Football Post and unknowingly he responded, “How is an old school NBA New Orleans Jazz t-shirt not sports related?”

As the “highly coveted sportswriter” I’ve become over the years, even I had no idea the Jazz (currently Utah Jazz) originated from New Orleans. Just as soon as the realization hit me, I wanted to belt out a big fat Homer Simpson style DUH.

My earliest recollections of the Jazz were from the eighties and nineties when Karl Malone and John Stockton ruled the purple jerseys in The Mormon State. And how dumb do I feel because for a team to be named The Jazz, of-freaking-course they started in New Orleans, the city synonymous with Jazz music. Duh again blondie. That’s like saying you’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy for years and never realized the show was named after Meredith Grey, the main character (and narrator). Those are just the kinds of things people should know. As a caveat, the team only lasted in New Orleans five years, all before my time, so I should be granted some level of acceptance. So for the other “dumb blondes” out there, I did some research on the origin of the team and some random facts you can throw around at dinner parties. Or bars. You can thank me later.

My "new vintage" New Orleans T-shirt with Joe Fortenbaugh

  • In 1974 New Orleans officially became the 18th team of the NBA (the expansion franchise cost $6.15 million). As with many sports teams, a contest was held to name the expansion team. Over 6,500 names were submitted and eight semi-finalists were selected (that really told the story of the city): Jazz, Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. Steve Brown, a 27-year old self-proclaimed “Jazz freak” was the winner who ended up naming the team.
  • The name Jazz was selected due to its definition “collective improvisation.”
  • 1974 was not the first time a professional basketball team had called New Orleans home. From 1967-70, there was an ABA team called the Buccaneers.
  • The Jazz only won six of their first 50 games in their first season in NOLA and finished with the worst record in NBA (23-59).
  • The team only stayed in New Orleans, the city synonymous with Jazz & Mardi Gras for five short years (1974-79) before being shipped off to Utah. While it’s not unusual for new cities to change the team name (i.e. Seattle SuperSonics now being the OKC Thunder), Utah decided to keep the name and embrace all the qualities the team had become known for.
  • The Jazz (both cities) have retired five uniform numbers: #1 Frank Layden, #7 Pete Maravich, #14 Jeff Hornacek, #35 Darrell Griffith and #53 Mark Eaton
  • After the Jazz headed to Utah, the city of New Orleans would occasionally host Atlanta Hawks games, but the real desire to get basketball back into their city came from the Final Four. The Superdome hosted the 1982 Final Four, the same Final Four where Michael Jordan, a then freshman, nailed the game winning shot as North Carolina won the Championship. New Orleans also hosted the Final Four in 1987 and again in 1993. It wasn’t again until 2002 that New Orleans could once again called itself an NBA home when the Hornets moved from Charlotte into a brand new arena. (Again, there was debate about a name change or trying to bring the name Jazz back to its city of origin, but the name remained as the New Orleans Hornets.)
  • Worst season record for the Jazz franchise came in 1974-75: 23-59 (.280) – New Orleans
  • Best season record for the Jazz franchise came in 1996-97: 64-18 (.780) – Utah

Marketing Guide For The Jazz Logo

As a former brain at an ad agency, I find the progression of the logo and team colors particularly interesting.

1974-79  New Orleans Jazz | Colors: Purple, Green, Gold (these started as the main colors as they represented Mardi Gras)

1979-96 Utah Jazz | Colors: Purple, Green, Gold

1996-04 Utah Jazz | Colors: Purple, Teal, Light Blue, Copper, Black

2004-10 Utah Jazz | Colors: Navy, Powder Blue, Purple, Silver

2010-Present Utah Jazz | Navy, Dark Yellow, Dark Green, Gray

Want more random facts and followings? Follow The Blonde Side on Twitter @jaymelamm