Anatomy of a Favorite Play

June 9th, 2013 | by Laura Thompson

What are some of your favorite Jazz plays over the years? Do you have a Top 5? A Top 10?

My guess is you’ve got at least a few on the tip of your tongue (or fingertips, unless you’re talking to the computer screen right now…). I was trying to figure out if I could pick a Top Five Favorite Jazz plays; I’m stuck on four and might need some of your favorites to jog my memory to get to #5. Once I started sorting my favorites, I tried to put some thought and analysis into the WHY.

What makes a play great? The degree of difficulty of the play, the degree of effort, the other players involved, the significance of that play in the game (momentum, taking a lead, etc.), the significance of that game, the history-making potential, the defensive stops, the defense-to-offense plays, intentional or unintentional humor, unexpected reactions, etc.

Here’s my list:

1. The Shot

Is this the Numero Uno favorite for most Jazz fans out there? It’s called The Shot by many Jazz fans, and for good reason. The Shot was a history-making shot for the Jazz, sending them to the NBA Finals for the first time ever. It was a game-winning shot at the buzzer, so another check there. I consider Bill Walton’s “Uh oh” one of the fantastic moments of unintentional humor. The degree of difficulty on that shot is incredibly high; we’ve seen more star players miss clutch shots than make them, especially given that it was a three-point shot from feet behind the arc with so little time on the clock. As far as unexpected responses, Stockton usually remained stoic from tipoff to the final horn sounding, but seeing that amount of passion from him after the game was pretty remarkable. Seeing Bryon Russell jumping and bounding to Stockton as fast as he could was pretty great, too. Seeing Malone, Stockton, and Hornacek celebrate was something that may have brought a tear to my eye. The Shot endeared Stockton, even more, to Jazz fans forever.

2. The Pass

The shortest guy on the court got the rebound, took one dribble and, with one hand, whipped the ball to the other end of the court, just over the outstretched fingertips of Michael Jordan—A+ for degree of difficulty. Stockton’s pogo-stick-like jumping after his pass was pretty memorable, too, because he so rarely let his emotions show on the court. The fact that Stock threw the ball to Malone—the best big man at running the floor—made it that much better. The Mailman’s great hands made the finish on this one possible. I remember two snippets of interviews after the game: one with Michael Jordan and one with John Stockton. Michael Jordan said he thought he was going to be able to grab the pass, but Stockton had thrown it so perfectly that it just beyond where he could reach. Stockton’s interview was him saying something along the lines of “It was one of those ‘No, no, no . . . Yes!’” sort of plays (not to be confused with Scott Stevens’ great post yesterday).

The play was hugely significant in the game, putting the Jazz up 74-73 in the game, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and helped them win Game 4 to even the series 2-2.

3. The Block(s)

Gordon Hayward is becoming one of the kings of the chase-down block. This one, in particular, is awesome because he blocks the Celtics not just once, but twice (!), and then gets the fast break started on the other end, with Enes getting an and-one. Degree of difficulty? Top-notch. Degree of effort? Off the charts. Unintentional humor? Yes. Check out the look on Hayward’s face as he realizes he’s going back for block #2. Hayward made such a great defensive stop; I wish you could quantify how much you helped the team by not only keeping two points from being scored, but keeping the crowd out of it, and making sure the other team didn’t start a run. (Conversely, I wish you could quantify how much it helps the team when you make significant plays like this on your home floor and you get the crowd involved—any stats-minded folks know if there’s any way to figure that out?)

4. The Block and the Dunk

Because of its recency, this one is fresh in Jazz fans’ minds. During a preseason game against the Clippers, Jeremy Evans got the block on Ronnie Turiaf, took it the length of the floor, got HIGH above the rim for the dunk, and then beat all of his teammates back on D to deflect the Clippers’ pass. Degree of difficulty? Check. Degree of effort? Super check. Check out where Evans was when Turiaf caught the ball: he was under the basket (note: he was also a little off-balance when Turiaf got the ball, too). From there, Evans took two huge steps to get to Turiaf and, and Michael Smith pointed out in the broadcast, could have blocked the shot with his elbow because he got up so much air. Evans blocked the ball past the half-court line, took one dribble, took a couple of huge steps, and got a foot or two above the rim when he slammed it down.

What else was remarkable about this? All this was during a preseason game. What surprised me even more? I was at the game, and the crowd gave some serious props to Evans. Not bad for an opposing player in a preseason game!

5. Open to Suggestions.

Hayward’s chase-down block of CP3? One of Memo’s game-winners, perhaps the one against San Antonio in San Antonio? Another Stockton play? A Malone one? What are your favorites?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

Laura was a Jazz fan since diapers, even growing up in California. Her favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach--though possibly not in that order.
Laura Thompson


  1. J says:

    How about Sundiata Gaines buzzer beater at home against the Heat? Or possibly the trilogy of 3 pointers by Milsap that will go down in Jazz history as the Miracle in Miami?

    • Laura Thompson says:

      J, those are two great ones! Man, how to even pick between the two? The Gaines 3 was just so dang fun and on national TV, but the Miami one was just . . . miraculous. Who knew Millsap had that range? Who knew he could be that clutch? Both of those plays had such unexpected elements to them. Awesome.

      Roy, you’re absolutely right. Plus, Karl’s elbows were epic.

      Clint, great catch on Malone’s screen, and great insight on the rest of it. Skill, effort, awareness. All so key for those great plays–you nailed it. It seems like the Jazz have gone away from being a team that set good screens; I think when they can get back to that, it’ll be a very good thing, especially with Kanter and Favors.

      Anthony, not sure how I missed that Burks block, but that is pretty sweet–thanks!

      Willie, I had completely forgotten about that play but it’s INCREDIBLE! Man, AK’s passing. I miss it. I don’t miss other things, but I do miss that.

      Great suggestions, folks!

  2. Roy says:

    I don’t know if this counts, but Karl Malone’s (unintentional?) elbow to Isaiah Thomas will always live on in my memory.

  3. Morgan D says:

    The coast to coast finish by Deron Williams against the Cavaliers with about five seconds left in the game.

  4. Casey says:

    I second the Sundiata Gaines buzzer beater and Millsap’s miracle in Miami shots. Those were amazing.

  5. Clint Johnson says:

    Watch Malone’s screen to set Stockton free for The Shot. It would probably be called as moving screen now, but man, that’s the basketball equivalent of a pancake block in football. And I have never seen a better basketball pass than John hitting Karl streaking down the court in the Finals, never, regardless of situation and stakes.

    It’s interesting that both your top two (which will be many, many Jazz fans’ top two as well) involved the same basic formula: John Stockton’s skill, Karl Malone’s effort, and the awareness of both. Favors and Kanter, if you guys want to establish your place in the greatest plays of Jazz lore, pay attention and learn to set killer screens and run the floor like a madman.

  6. Anthony says:

    Gotta love the Alec Burks chase down block on Rubio, the shot by Sundiata Gaines, and the Derrick Favors and one duck that helped us beat the Warriors

  7. Willie McCoy says:

    I’d like to nominate the Earl Watson AK Ronnie Price behind the back behind the back:

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