Comparatively speaking, the Utah Jazz have not had much representation for All-Star Saturday events (and the occasional All-Star Friday) events. In a short series, we will take a in-depth look back on the franchise’s history in the events surrounding the All-Star Weekend.
First, the 3-point shootout. The history here is brief, as only four different players have participated for a grand total of six appearances.
1990 – Bobby Hansen: Surprisingly, despite Darrell Griffith’s skills as a long-ball shooter, the fiesty and defensive-minded Bobby Hansen was the first-ever Jazz participant in the 3-point shootout. Hansen was by no means a prolific shooter, actually posting a rather pedestrian 35.1 percent that season. It was a torrid start (32-71, 45.1 percent) that earned him his selection1 Among his competition was three-time winner Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan and a pair of future winners in Craig Hodges and Mark Price.
Hansen did well, tying for third in the first round (15). That enabled him to move to the second round, where he finished last of that quartet. Hodges went on to win the first of three consecutive shootouts. Two seasons later, Hansen joined Jordan and Hodges in Chicago. He was part of that fourth quarter lineup that helped the Bulls overcome a 15-point deficit in game six to win their second championship.
1992 – John Stockton: It took a few years for John Stockton to emerge as a 3-point shooting threat. He made just 11 total treys in his first three seasons. It was not until his sixth season where he started to implement the 3-pointer more regularly in his offensive repertoire. In 1992, his shot blossomed, as he connected on 56 of 119 through February (46 games), a stellar 47.1 percent mark. Already an All-Star, the NBA invited the pass-first point guard to do some extra shooting for a change. He went against great shooters in Hodges and Drazen Petrovic, as well as former teammates Jim Les2 and Dell Curry. A certain Jeff Hornacek also made his 3-point shootout debut then.
Stockton did not fare too well. With his somewhat unorthodox release–as most know, he would cock the ball slightly to the right–he had a difficult time getting all the shots off in time. Stockton tallied just 11 points, which tied him for fifth. He did finish ahead of Hornacek, who had just 7 points3.
1997 – John Stockton: The Jazz had quite a drought in this contest, and rightfully so. For many years, Utah lacked much of a perimeter game outside Stockton. The acquisition of Hornacek and the emergence of Bryon Russell really added to the Jazz’s elite offense during those Finals years. After beginning the season 41-82, Stockton earned a second chance to participate. The field that year was not as strong, though guys like Glen Rice and Dale Ellis were there.
Stockton improved just slightly, hitting 13 in the first round–good for fifth. Steve Kerr went on the win. Fortunately for Stockton, his in-game trifectas were much more reliable. His pull-up 3-pointers, often in two-for-one situations were beautiful. Stockton also knew when the Jazz needed a timely 3-pointer. Like, say, perhaps this one:
1998 – Jeff Hornacek: In many ways, Hornacek’s arrival was the key that helped Utah get over the hump to the NBA Finals. His shooting opened things up dramatically. He eclipsed the 40 percent barrier six of his seven seasons in a Jazz uniform, finishing second in the league in 3-point percentage twice. Who can forget the night where Hornacek drained all eight of his 3-point attempts? He had young fans everywhere practicing his trick shots, attempting to imitate his form and wiping their cheek at the free throw line.
It was fitting that he received the invitation to participate in 1998. He shot no worse that 42 percent in any month that season, including three months over 50 percent4. He was pitted against deadly shooters like Ellis, Reggie Miller and Hubert Davis.
Hornacek confidently scored 17 in the first round and 15 in the second round, finished second in each. In the finals, he had no problem besting Davis, 16-10. It was exciting for Hornacek to win the contest– another highlight in a very memorable season for the Jazz. Many felt that the stars were aligned for a championship. Sigh.
2000 – Jeff Hornacek: Due to the heinous 1998-99 NBA lockout, All-Star Weekend was cancelled. Hornacek had to wait a year before he was given the chance to defend his title. The NBA changed the format in 2000, going with just two rounds instead of three. Hornacek’s competition included some okay shooters named Dirk Nowitzki and Ray Allen.
Nowitzki looked particularly strong, getting the highest score in the first round. Hornacek finished with 17, right behind him. In a less-than-stellar finals, the Jazz guard only tallied 13. Shockingly, Nowitzki and Allen only had 11 and 10 apiece. Hornacek’s score of 13 is the lowest total for a 3-point shootout winner.
Hornacek went on to retire that season. He went out on a high note, shooting a career-best 47.8 percent during that swan song season. He will always be one of the Jazz’s most beloved players, with his deadly shooting being one of the many reasons.
2001 – Bryon Russell: Russell’s story is a great one. As the 45th pick in the 1993 draft, he not only made the Jazz roster as a rookie, but became a starter. His role then diminished over the course of two seasons, to the point that there were rumors of Utah almost cutting him. Then came the 1996 Playoffs. Due to injuries, he was pressed into duty and made the most of his opportunity. From that point on, he was a vital cog for the Jazz.
He worked hard on his outside shot, which was iffy at best out of college. In his fourth season, he set the then-franchise record for made 3-pointers with 108. His ability to feed off the attention Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek helped him fit in perfectly. After four seasons, his solid marksmanship finally earned an opportunity in the shootout. In 2001, he shot a robust 41.3 percent. That year’s group was a strong one, with Nowitzki and Allen back, along with Peja Stojakovic, Rashard Lewis, Allan Houston and Steve Nash.
Russell really struggled, finishing last with just 10 points. He never made it back to the contest. His game also declined the following two seasons, as did his shooting prowess.
Who is next?
That’s it. Just those four players. It has now been 14 years since the Jazz have any representation in this contest. That is quite the drought. There were some players who may have warranted consideration–Kyle Korver being the one that comes most readily to mind. It would certainly have been interesting to see Mehmet Okur have a go at it as a sweet-shooting center.
Who might be the next? Frankly, it may not be anyone on the current roster. Gordon Hayward might have the best chance, as his touch has returned to him this season. Given his All-Star worthy numbers, too, he has the league’s attention as one of the nice up-and-coming players. As he continues to progress, he may have the opportunity. Trey Burke makes big shots, but the percentages are not there right now. And Steve Novak has seen better days.
Up next: the Rising Stars Challenge (or the different variations thereof)