Retro Jazz: Billy Paultz Takes One For the Team

July 20th, 2012 | by Spencer Hall

Editor’s Note: Retro Jazz is a project with KSL Sports to post classic Jazz footage from their archives. Special thanks to KSL’s Jeremiah Jensen for his great work finding, editing, and sharing these clips.

The 1985 Playoffs were special for a lot of reasons. The previous season featured the team’s first trip the postseason and set the tone for the next two decades with a dramatic first-round win against the Denver Nuggets. In 1984-85 the team didn’t match their Midwest Division title of the year before, but Mark Eaton had a monster season on his way to earning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Larry Miller became a 50% owner of the team a week before the playoffs started. It was John Stockton’s rookie year, and the roster featured both a BYU guy (Fred Roberts) and a Utah guy (future commentator Pace Mannion).

Things didn’t look good for the Jazz in the deciding Game 5 in Houston after Eaton had to leave the game before halftime with a hurt knee. The Twin Towers of Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson took advantage and pushed the Rockets to a nine-point lead in the third quarter. Jazz coach Frank Layden was forced to counter with Rich Kelley and much-travelled Billy Paultz. And that’s when things got interesting.

The Whopper got under Olajuwon’s skin with his physical play, leading to one of the most famous punches in NBA history:

After the fact, the good people working at KSL Sports at the time somehow made the great decision to air a musical montage Billy Paultz highlight reel set to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.”

In his book, Olajuwon described the situation thusly:

“He wasn’t part of their offense, all he was out there to do was get in my way,” Olajuwon wrote. “And he did. It was very irritating. He shadowed me, hung real close, and wouldn’t give me any room to move. When I tried to get some space he would flop, fall back like I’d hit him with a brick, and the referee would call a foul on me.

“I don’t like flopping; it is not real basketball,” he continued. “For some reason, that night the referees were letting him get away with it. He would flop, I’d get a foul. Flop, foul. They called me where he hit the ground and I hadn’t even touched him. He was a pest. I couldn’t even shrug him off because once I moved so much as an elbow Paultz would go crashing to the floor and the referee would whistle me again.

“I said, ‘Well, if you’re going to flop I might as well hit you for real.’ Ralph Sampson got a rebound and as soon as Paultz came over to cover me and flop, I hit him. I gave him a real good shot.”

Amazingly, Olajuwon was allowed to remain in the game after the punch. He was fined later, but can you imagine the response in today’s NBA? David Stern would be apoplectic.

The Deseret News write-up for the game takes a fantastic tangent, with a quote by Paultz in response to the takedown of Houston’s “Twin Towers,” leading to a mention of a ninja movie filmed in Salt Lake. I can’t make this stuff up:

“Me and Kelley, we’re the American Towers,” said Paultz. “That’s where we live in Salt Lake City.”

The two reserve postmen — Paultz has been in the pros for 15 years and Kelley for 10 — reside during the basketball season in condominiums in the downtown American Towers.

The condominium project’s only known previous national publicity came two years ago when a lengthy karate fight scene was filmed on the building’s roof in a forgettable film called “Revenge of the the Ninja.”

Kelley and Paultz easily became the Towers’ most famous tenants by their work Sunday, which was aired on CBS.

Thankfully the internet exists and you can now watch this clip from Revenge of the Ninja:

Warning: There’s a semi-gruesome kill scene at the end of this clip, so don’t watch it if you don’t like 80s ninja violence on the top of SLC buildings.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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  1. Question about the last clip:

    Is it just me or was that blonde chick going up the building wearing a blue bathrobe or was that the style in the eighties. The kill scene was not so gruesome, even by eighties standards. And one more thing: the good guy lost his sword early in the the fight, how did he get a sword to kill the bad guy in the end? Another things, where do those ninjas keepb their stuff? I did not see any pockets.

  2. Matthew says:

    I remember this game clearly since I watched it nearly a dozen times. As I recall, I couldn’t watch it live because we had to go to church so we put our new VCR to the test. I never liked the Whopper much — he seemed like an out-of-shape joke of a player with his barrel chest and regrettable running form — but he really took one for the team that day.

    We had season tickets that year and I loved that team. They were an odd collection of spare parts outside the Golden Griff and A.D., but I thought they played with a can-do, never-quit attitude all season. My favorite player was backup center Jeff Wilkins because he visited my downtown Salt Lake junior high school a couple years before, giving some sage advice and offering some funny jokes. But he wasn’t getting it done in this particular playoff game and the Whopper came in to save the season.

    For years afterward in NerfHoop games and battles at the local ward gym, my brothers and I would intentionally stick our eye sockets in an offensive player’s elbow to simulate the Whopper’s heroics. We’d rub our face in their arms for a bit and then flail to the ground at the post player’s slightest movement. The Whopper Defense was rarely successful but always good for a chuckle or two.

  3. Jake Devereaux says:

    amazing post dude haha

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