Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Jazz never came to Utah. Let’s say there was never any Salt Palace, Delta Center or Energy Solutions Arena. For almost every other major sport, that’s what the state of Utah deals with.
For baseball and football, fan bases are divided. It’s perfectly normal to cheer for the Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks, or some other baseball team with less proximity. Or in football, fans pull for the 49ers, Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, etc.
But what if the Jazz didn’t exist? Who would you cheer for? If you’re anything like me, it might come down to which teams disgust you the least. If you really had to “replace” the Jazz, you should look at it more than just current success. Do you want to purchase AND wear their jerseys? As a fan, you should also be able to attend games every so often. All things to factor into your decision.
If you have ties to another city from past experience or family members, I’m ruling you out of this experiment. I’m basing these nominations purely on geographic proximity.
Choosing a backup team like this is dangerous research. It’s like one of those unwritten agreements that if two people are still single by age 40, they’ll just bite the bullet and get married. Let’s hope the Millers never lose their good sense and this drastic hypothetical never becomes reality. With that being said, the nominees are:
(Ordered based on distance from SLC)
Denver—390 miles from Salt Lake:
One of the more reasonable choices in my opinion. Gone are the “Thuggets” of recent years with Melo, K-Mart, Birdman, and JR Smith, as well as the ugly uniforms. They went through some interesting logo choices before embracing the current throwback style with the mountains and Denver skyline, one of my favorite jerseys in the NBA. Their current roster isn’t terrible either. Gallinari is bothersome to me, but seems like the type of player you could enjoy if he’s on your squad. And how could you not like Faried? He’s like a more talented Millsap. Overall, not an organization with a winning pedigree. But if you’re basing your decision purely on proximity, Denver is clearly the winner.
Phoenix—508 miles from Salt Lake:
Another team I don’t hate. Though Steve Nash was a major reason for watching them in past years, now coach Jeff Hornacek might be reason enough to return to watching the Suns. Orange and purple are an, ahem, interesting combination, but one that is at least distinguishable from other organizations. They may be in for a few rough years in the near future, so anyone still cheering for them can definitely be labeled a true fan. I see a lot of similarities between this organization and the Jazz. No championships is one of them.
Portland—628 miles from Salt Lake:
As far as city, name, logo, uniforms and color scheme, I think they might be one of my favorites in the NBA. But the Blazers leave a dirty taste in my mouth for some reason. Maybe it was the way they tried to poach Millsap years ago, or even worse how they successfully pried Wesley Matthews away. The problem lies with their upper management, which makes the situation even worse; players come and go much quicker than the brass. Their new roster is exciting, though, largely due to Damian Lillard, a guy with local Utah ties. It’s been a long time (1977) but they do have at least one title.
Los Angeles (Lakers)—589 miles from Salt Lake:
Don’t. Just don’t.
Los Angeles (Clippers)—589 miles from Salt Lake:
This one might be the most difficult. The Clippers are the new hot item of the NBA. But how solid is their fan base? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. LA will always be Laker country. Living in LA, I can’t even tell you how many people “claim” to be long-time Clipper fans. They still feel like a cursed organization to me. When the Jazz come to town, I make sure to check for Clipper tickets LONG before I check for Laker tickets. I think it’s safe to say that this team lives and dies with Chris Paul. Blake Griffin is electrifying, but this organization wouldn’t be at close to the same level without CP3. I’ll accept them as my adopted, red-headed-step-child of a hometown team for now, though. Nothing more. I would encourage you to do the same. So buy your jerseys if you must, but don’t bank your trust in them.
I can only think of one other team that uses a generic area (New England) instead of an actual city or state. But I guess it’s properly hiding the fact that their current stadium is in Oakland until their new stadium is built in San Francisco. The future seems bright for this organization. They’ve got young talent, a young coach, and aside from the Jazz, there’s not a logo/uniform combination that I love more in all of sports. If Steph Curry can stay healthy, watch out. Both of their championships happened before the entire current Jazz roster was even born (1956, 1975).
Sacramento—529 miles from Salt Lake:
This is another tough one to pick. At this point, it seems like the organization is staying in Sacramento, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that changed next week. Jimmer is on their roster, so that counts for something. I hate their logo, name, mascot and pretty much everything about them. Maybe I’m biased from the old playoff days against them, but they don’t seem like a fun organization to cheer for. And for the sake of this game, you get to pick any team, choose wisely. That’s all I’m saying.
(Honorable Mention: Oklahoma City Thunder, Seattle Supersonics)
I have a feeling a lot of people might have said OKC, which is exactly why I left them off this list. They’re good right now because of KD and that’s the only reason anybody outside of Oklahoma likes them. No one wants to cheer for Oklahoma City. Or a team named the Thunder. If any Seattle fans are reading this, I’m terribly sorry: you are living this nightmare we are lightheartedly joking about. Maybe you’ll get your team back one day. For what it’s worth, I would have chosen the Supersonics as my #1 Jazz replacement had they been around.
So who do I choose? Well, first, I give up basketball. Life without the Jazz doesn’t seem worth living. But after that, here are my choices:
Argue amongst yourselves.