What Makes Someone Choose to Be a Jazz Fan?

August 3rd, 2013 | by Laura Thompson

I’ve been wondering this week, during the doldrums of summer in between the start of free agency and training camp, what makes a fan a fan? And what makes a Jazz fan a Jazz fan? We each have a bunch of reasons why we root for a team, so I thought I’d try and break down what’s far from an all-inclusive list. We’ve got a list here for some causes of Jazzitis, and some side effects.

Causes:

1. They’re the local team.

This is probably the most logical, most practical reason for many Jazz fans. You live in Utah, you have lived in Utah, you’ve got family in Utah, etc. It’s the team you grew up with, the games your parents took you to when you were three years old and got you one of those mini jerseys. With no other major sporting team in town (until RSL in the last decade), the Jazz have been what it’s all about for decades. It’s in your blood. Maybe you grew up playing Junior Jazz and you remember when one of the players came to your tiny town and you’ve been hooked ever since. Maybe your family got hooked when they played at the Salt Palace and tickets were cheap and easy to come by, especially in the mid-80’s.

2. Stockton and Malone.

Perhaps you came to love the Jazz during the Stockton-to-Malone years. Two superstars who stayed in Utah for their entire careers (I block out Malone in gold-and-purple; it never happened), who played hard every night, who played both ends of the floor, and who racked up the stats and accolades while doing whatever they could to help the team win. The Stockton-to-Malone pick and roll was a thing of beauty, and Stockton’s perfect passes and Malone’s post moves were the constants in the Jazz offense. You can still remember The Shot that sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals. And you still feel like Jordan pushed off on Bryon Russell.

3. Substance over style.

For years, the Jazz have eschewed style over substance, emphasizing team play over individual play. Jerry Sloan wouldn’t put up with it when Karl Malone wanted to wear a different shoe color than his teammates. It’s about the team. Superstars have their importance in this league and that’s recognized, but isolation play after isolation play has never been accepted as the norm. The flex offense, when instituted fully, created opportunities for every player who made hard cuts and set good screens. In a league that’s so often focused on one or two players on each team, the team emphasis in Utah is incredibly refreshing and plays well among the fans.

4. Consistent Management and Involved Ownership.

In a league where ownership of small-market teams can change once or twice a decade, and where management changes even more than that, the Jazz are a refreshing example that consistency can be a good thing. Some may argue that management has not taken enough risks and, while there may be some validity to that, with Dennis Lindsey in town, there may be some more risk-taking. This is evidenced by the draft and the handling of the Jazz’s own free agents this offseason. This coming season is a risk. A very calculated one, and with a consistent management team and involved ownership, we’ll see if it pays off in the next few years. But management with a specific plan in place is a lot easier to get behind.

Side Effects:

1. You hate the Lakers. And you especially hate when the Lakers come into town because you see more gold-and-purple jerseys than Stockton jerseys at the Delta Center, and that’s just never okay.

2. Yes, that was a correct reference in the point above: you still have the hardest time calling the Delta Center anything but the Delta Center. The current name of the Delta Center is too long and awkward, so it’s just easier to call it the Delta Center. Everyone knows what you mean, anyway.

3. You buy a car from a Stockton or a Malone dealership. Because why not? Or maybe you went to Karl Malone’s dealership for his birthday to celebrate.

4. You root for Jazz men who gave their all in Utah but who ended up on other teams: Memo, AK, Millsap, Jefferson, etc.

5. You’re still bitter about how some things went down with some players, so you boo—whether internally or externally—other players: Derek Fisher, Deron Williams, etc.

6.. You name your son Stockton. (you’re awesome, David J. Smith)

So, what makes you a Jazz fan? And what are some of the side effects?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

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24 Comments

  1. @ssebazzalm says:

    Wow Ize, excelent read, and i read it, not knowing it was you who wrote it….

    I’m one from the minority ! In the MJ era, an outsider who became a rabid Jazz fan !!!

  2. Jon says:

    Withdrawals from Hot Rod’s eloquent poetry, “With a gentle push and a mild arch the cowhide globe hits home.”………. Or the famously slurred, single word “StocktontoMalone” ……….

    “Hammer dunk”

    Miss him to this day.

  3. I’ve got to give the Jazz credit from maintaining a winning tradition despite not being able to draw big name free agents and being in a small sports market with limited media exposure. The Stokton?Malone years were great although I do believe that they were a little overrated, especially John Stockton. The Only reason Stockton is the all tie leader in assist is because most if not all of his passed went to Karl Malone–who ironically finished his career as second all time leader in points scored behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

    He probably would not have started for most NBA team had it not been for Jerry Sloan rather simply pick and roll plays that made Stockton look so good for all of those years. I mean, Jerry Sloan had the ability to make even the most mediocre of points guards look like elite level facilitators. Look at what Sloan did with no names such as Howard Eisely, Jacques Vaughn, and even Carlos Arroyo. Even Deron Williams does not even look like a fraction of his former self when he played under Sloan in Utah.

    Hence that is why I would never put Stockton among the greatest point guards in the league—because his image was manufactured by both Sloan and Malone and I doubt he would have been able even start for any other NBA team, let accomplish such feats in his career.

    • LarryMillersGhost says:

      What a foolish thing to say. I feel dumb even responding because that is clearly what you want. Either way go to hell.

    • WC says:

      What an idiotic comment by JT’s Hoop Blog. You obviously did not watch Stockton play the game. You are right to say he was in the perfect situation with Malone in Jerry Sloan’s pick and roll based offense, but to say he wouldn’t have started for most NBA teams is ludicrous. His impact on the game was far greater than just dishing to Malone. He has possession of all time steals record by almost 600 steals! That record is untouchable. He was a ten time all-star who stayed loyal to the team that drafted him. Any franchise would kill for a point guard like Stockton. He was an underrated offensive player because he was always looking to pass first. His shot was a very pure stroke, he just never took shots unless he was wide open or in the groove. When D-Will was in the Jazz offense he too was looking to pass first and let his teammates get in the flow. D-Will’s numbers have dropped because he has to force his offensive game in Brooklyn. So JT, you not only have bad grammar and spelling, you have absolutely no useful insight on the game of basketball. All your run-on sentences with illegitimate points barely merits a response. Pull your head out.

      • Justin says:

        Hey now let’s give JT’s Hoops Blog some credit he obviously has some insight all of Stockton’s peers and the Hall of Fame and the Olympic teams and the creators of ESPN’s top 50 players and Gonzaga and reality itself lack. – I fell in love with the Jazz listening to them on the radio while driving through Utah from Montana to California when I was about 6. I decided their name was cooler than whomever they were playing and they won the game and I stuck with them since I was that wee boy. When they added Jerry, Karl, John, Jeff, and then Byron and etc… that definitely sealed it. And props to Karl the folks at a lodge he used to frequent in Montana had nothing but love and respect for the man he is. Not every celeb who visits up there leaves the same impression especially amongst backwoods hunters…

        • Laura says:

          See, it’s stories like these that I find fascinating. Six years old, listening on the radio, and then hooked. Very cool!

    • corro says:

      I am assuming Stockton being the all-time steals leader is a product of Malone and Sloan on the floor? Maybe we should give those to Malone instead.

    • Laura says:

      I’ve got to say I strongly disagree with all of the above.

      Though, by this logic, couldn’t you also say Malone is vastly overrated because he had Stockton passing to him all the time? Or overrated because Sloan expertly designed plays for Malone’s post presence?

      Yeah, I just don’t agree with the post above. But I am intrigued by something: a while back I saw a chart showing to which players all of Jason Kidd’s assists went. Does anyone else remember seeing that? Is there a similar one for Stockton? Would be interesting.

  4. Roy Smith says:

    As a kid I grew up playing junior Jazz basketball with my older brother, and had several meet and greets with some of the players. I have autographed pictures with Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Malone, Thurl Bailey, Jeff Wilkins, Adrian Dantley, and Mark Eaton. There are some great memories of walking out of the Salt Palace after a win, only to be welcomed by heavy winter storms and walking to the car for what seemed like an eternity in deep snow. Those were magical times.

  5. Drew Wannamaker says:

    I am a Jazz fan from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The reason I am a fan is basically because of Stockton/Malone. I will always support Utah through thick and thin. I wear my Jazz gear proudly and see the Jazz whenever they play the Raptors. It’s so hard to find Jazz gear in Canada and the only place I have gotten gear wa son trips to Detroit. The NBA store in NYC was a complete joke saying they carry every team. Apparently Utah isn’t a team or isn’t worthy of a jersey. Enough ranting. I enjoy being a Jazz fan!

    • Laura says:

      Drew, how’d you get hooked on Stockton/Malone all the way in Canada? I’m intrigued!

    • @ssebazzalm says:

      If it’s hard in Canada just imagine how tough is to get it in freaking Uruguay !! hahaha BUT i have my gear, and proudly weare it too, even thoug it’s a N°24 Lopez, i have a Dwill 8 in marine blue (Thanks to a freaking cool friend from some random and glorious board, that Laura knows some thing or 2 ;-) ), but i have a harder time wearing that one too proudly this days haha, I need to get my Gordon one, i’ll search for a way to get it, they probably send it if i get it through NBA STore

      • @ssebazzalm says:

        The Lopez one i got it from an ex-girlfriends uncle who lived in Spain, and knowing my irrational passion for this team they didn’t even know probably, they were asked to get me one, since they didn’t know the players, they brougth me the Lopez one insteed of the AK47 one =(… but well… i had my first original Jazz jersey couldn’t be dissapointed either way

  6. eaton53 says:

    Interesting reasons… but I’m None Of The Above.

    I live in Illinois, it’s the mid ’70’s, my dad likes the Celtics (yuk) and no one cares about the Bulls.
    So along comes this expansion team. And I like Pete Maravich.
    I had a homemade Otto Moore jersey too. Magic markers are awesome.

    Back in those days they were NEVER on TV.
    I believe in their entire existence the New Orleans Jazz were on national TV once… at Dr. J’s Sixers. Needless to say they got creamed.

    But then a buddy of mine got this newfangled thing called Cable. They were on TV twice a year now vs. the Bulls. Very excite.
    I learned that the Louisiana Superdome is a very large venue for basketball when only a few thousand people show up to watch.
    The rest of the time Sporting News did actually cover them. I had a subscription.

    When they moved to Utah it didn’t matter.
    They could’ve moved to Timbuktu.

    I have actually seen the Jazz play in person twice, in 1998.
    And I’m still waiting for that other New Orleans Jazz fan to show up on the Interwebs.
    I think they’re all still in witness protection.

  7. Steve (hawaiianjazzfan) says:

    I grew up and went to elementary school in Utah. My parents used to watch the games most nights, they were decent fans but were pretty casual. What made me so passionate is my best friend in elementary school. He was the biggest bandwagon fan ever and it drove me nuts. He started as a Laker fan, then became a Bulls fan, then a Rockets fan, and then “rediscovered” his passion for the Bulls, (now he is an OKC fan, although he lives there now, so I’ll give him a semi-pass). I used to root so hard for the Jazz and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t partially because I was tired of my friend’s team winning. I remember in elementary school I used to cry when the Jazz lost in the playoffs because… well… they lost… and also because I didn’t want to see my friend at school the next day.

    What sealed my love for the Jazz until the day I die, was “the shot.” It was one of the happiest moments ever. Long story short, growing up was a little tough. My family and I went through a lot of trials around that time, but I’ll always remember that day. It was like a week before I turned 11, and after the shot had gone in we were jumping up and down, screaming, and everyone was happy. We didn’t have any worries about anything. We had heard on the news that some fans were going to be at the airport to greet the team when they had arrived. My mom and dad surprisingly (it was a school night) said we were all going to go to the airport to greet our team. My little brother and I were stoked. There were sooo many fans there cheering and waiting for the team to arrive. They finally arrived and it was awesome. I was standing in line and was high-fiving players as they drove past us. An experience I’ll always cherish… I was so happy I wasn’t even that tired the next day at school.

  8. SUU T-bird says:

    My mom was a single mother and we were living at the home of my grandparents in Cedar City. I used to watch the Jazz games with a small nerf ball and I would use the small window of our front door as the basket. I remember thinking how cool it would be to actually go to a Jazz game in person, but at the time it seemed so unrealistic.

    A few years later, I was still playing with my nerf ball, but had upgraded the door window to a basketball hoop over the door. My mom had remarried a great guy who had a share of season tickets in the lower bowl!!! I remember I got to pick one game to go to and picked the Denver Nuggets game February 1, 1995. Wouldn’t you know it, John Stockton broke the all-time assist record that night! I still have that certificate they passed out, framed, next to my Karl Malone signed Jazz hat.

    I was hooked. Now I follow the Jazz from Arizona and wear my gear proudly. Go JAZZ!

  9. Oddbergur says:

    Im from Rykjavík, Iceland. When the NBA was getting big world wide I needed a team to follow. And then I saw an all star game, I think it was the 1989 game, on tape. The Jazz had three players there, Stockton, Malone and Eaton. They talked about Eaton during the game, his background story and I was hooked. He became my favorite player and the Jazz my favorite team. I used to go out every week to buy a magazine, dont remember the name, but it had the boxscores for the previous week. It was the only chance to get more news than just the score from the games.

  10. How nice to read this post and to hear how others got to be a fan of the Jazz, thanks!

    Although I’m from the Netherlands and basketball isn’t really big over here I became a Jazz fan when my Dutch coach took me some b-ball camps at the Westcoast and also to a b-ball camp at the University Of Utah. I had such a great time! My big dream was playing college basketball overseas but I got injured and had to stop playing basketball.

    I went on in a completely different direction, I’m a musician now. Two weeks ago I played a Celebrity Game of 3×3 (my band is only famous in Holland lol) and guess who was there, fellow Dutchman Fransisco Elson. It was really nice to talk to him and get some insight into the Jazz.

    I’m so glad that nowadays there is this thing called “International League Pass” so I won’t have to miss another Jazz game (I watch them all ofcourse!) And it’s really great that via the internet I can read all these great articles here on SLC Hoops or SLC Dunk, Utahjazz360 etc!

    Btw, I was a shooter so my favourite player was Hornacek ofcourse! That’s why #14 is still my lucky number! Go Jazz!!

  11. Laura Thompson says:

    Loving all these responses, everyone! Thanks so much for sharing your stories!

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