October 17th, 1974, the New Orleans Jazz made played their debut game in the NBA. The New Orleans Jazz was the newest expansion team in the National Basketball League. The leagues newest team was facing off against the New York Knicks. Although the New York Knicks were an established NBA team and were expected to win; although they had lost a lot of their dominant players from the previous couple of years. The New Orleans Jazz on the other hand had arguably one of the best players in the history of basketball, Pistol Pete Maravich.
Although the Jazz had other MVP’s, they were all out with injuries. The Jazz went on to lose. The 18th team in the NBA and the newest team did not win their first game until November 10th when they beat the Portland Trailblazers by 1 point.
The Jazz was not the first professional basketball team in New Orleans, as the City previously had an American Basketball League team. The Jazz however got off to a very rocky start in New Orleans and it would remain like that until the team was eventually forced to leave.
The first season the Jazz had to play home games at the Loyola University Fieldhouse. The basketball court had to be raised so high that the NBA forced the team to place nets around the edge of the court to keep players from falling off the court and inuring themselves.
After the first season the Jazz got a place to call home, but the lease was extremely high. The Jazz also had to contend with Mardi Gras festivals which would force them to play on the road for up to a month at a time each year.
Many people think the Jazz is the only professional basketball team to ever be there; however Utah was also home to the ABA Utah Stars from 1970-1976. The Jazz got off to a lower attendance number than they had in New Orleans but this was due mainly to poor marketing of the team.
Although the team was not perfect, the curse of New Orleans was finally behind them. So many negative things happened to the Jazz in New Orleans. In 1977 The New Orleans made a trade to get Gail Goodrich. Part of the trade including giving up their rights to Moses Malone as well as some first round draft picks. Their last year in New Orleans the Jazz had to watch painfully as the Los Angeles Lakes got to take their first round draft pick because of the trade 2 years prior. The Lakes selected Magic Johnson. If the Jazz had not opted to trade for Gail Goodrich then they would have ended up with Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson would have then been playing the first year in New Orleans and then the rest of his career in Utah. Magic Johnson also may not have contracted HIV and would have been able to play a longer career. The entire future history of the NBA and Magic Johnson was altered for the worst when the Gail Goodrich trade took place 2 years prior.
The Jazz also struggled financially when they moved to Utah. The Owner Sam Battistone was once again at moving the Jazz to a new City so he could try and make a profit. Larry Miller purchased a 50% stake in the Jazz for 8 million. This allowed the Jazz to remain financially viable. Larry Miller was then able to make the Jazz very successful in Utah both on the court and financially. A lot of the success is often attributed to the combination of Karl Malone and John Stockton. The Utah fans loved to watch these 2 players and would show up in droves to fight for tickets. The funny thing though is the Utah fans that were at the draft selection booed loudly when the Jazz selected John Stockton, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions the Jazz ever made.
Today the Utah Jazz have a huge fan base and are very profitable. The Jazz have truly made Utah their home.