Posted by: Fan on November 30th, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
As Jazz fans careen into the future with little sure knowledge of what the Jazz might become, here is a little glimpse into the past and who helped mold the Jazz into what they are today. Just a couple of clarifications to begin with. This list does not contain current NBA players and the criteria does not necessarily include basketball skills or contribution to the winning percentage of the team. It is a list of the top ten bigger than life personalities that have occupied the Jazz universe since it’s inception, in the view this 30+ year Jazz fan.
Utah Jazz player 1982-1994, truly a larger than life person. Mark was a gentle giant whose defense allowed the Jazz to ascend to the top of NBA teams. He seemed almost unflappable, a steadying influence on the players around him. A favorite and oft repeated story about Mark was how he went from a auto mechanic who preferred water polo to basketball to twice being named the NBA Defensive player of the year. Selected 72nd by the Jazz in the 1982 draft, Frank Layden defended his choice by quoting Red Auerbach “you can’t coach height”. Mark played his entire NBA career with the Jazz and is one of the few Jazz players who has remained in Salt Lake City after his retirement. He is currently co-owner of a couple of restaurants, a motivational speaker and a part-time sports announcer and broadcaster.
#9 Jazz Bear
Jazz Bear, a permanent fixture at every Jazz home game since 1993, his true identity is known only to a select few. He was inducted in the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006. Almost every Jazz fan can tell you of some magnificent trick or feat of skill the Jazz Bear pulled off when they attended a game. A favorite of young and old alike, he is more recognizable than many of the players, and certainly has had a longer contract than most. And off the court he tirelessly is involved in charity work as well as public appearances to promote the Jazz. Whether he is jumping through hoops of fire, racing his motorcycle on the court, sliding down the stairs from the top of the lower bowl or spraying silly string on everyone within reach, the Jazz Bear is a fascinating personality.
#8 Greg Ostertag
Utah Jazz Player 1995-2003, 2005, As a Jazz fan you might love Greg Ostertag (probably not), hate Greg Ostertag (more likely) or be completely mystified by him ( most likely). But you certainly know who he is. If there was a controversy in Jazzland during the years he was here, he was often at the center of it. It might be his ongoing less than amicable relationship with Jerry Sloan, his slap-fest with Shaquille O’Neil, his Fred Flinstone tattoo, or his seeming lack of passion for the game of basketball. But even with all those flaws, he was often the starting center on the two Jazz teams that went to the NBA Finals and he was the first NBA player to play after donating a kidney (to his sister).
7. Pete Maravich
New Orleans and Utah Jazz Player 1974-1980. Pistol Pete was the first true superstar basketball players to play for the Jazz. He was all show backed by great talents. He was what the struggling New Orleans Jazz needed in it’s infancy as they traded two established players and four draft picks for him in 1974. The owners knew they needed someone to generate excitement for pro basketball in New Orleans and he did that for sure. For a more detailed look at the personality and fan interest Pete Maravich brought to the Jazz see this article from Jazz Homecourt Magazine by Sam Gladsper published in 1997: http://www.nba.com/jazz/archives/pete_maravich_ultimate_showman.html
# 6 John Stockton
Utah Jazz Player 1984-2003. John Stockton is one of the best if not the best basketball player in Jazz history. However when he was playing and even now his personality remains an enigma to fans. While there were great stories of how funny he was and what a great prankster he was among his teammates, that never came across in interviews and his dealings with the media and fans. He was a very private person and guarded his private life and his family’s with great devotion. This is an article from the Deseret News in 2009 by Doug Robinson that explains it wellhttp://www.deseretnews.com/article/705328795/John-Stockton-did-his-own-thing-2-and-pulled-it-off.html There is not a Jazz fan that does not love John Stockton, but I doubt many of us know him or his personality.
5. Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan (tie)
Utah Jazz coaches 1981-2011 (combined) The Jazz have been in existence for 37 years (1974-2011) and these two men have been their on court generals for 30 of those 37 years. Yet they could not have more different personalities. Frank was an outgoing extrovert who never lacked for a funny story or great quote, a good coach who appreciated the game of basketball not just as an athletic competition but also for it’s entertainment value. One of my favorite quotes was “Frank Layden , Utah Jazz president, on a former player: “I told him, ‘Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?’ He said, ‘Coach, I
don’t know and I don’t care.’” On the other side, Jerry was a hard-working blue-collar no nonsense man. A great coach who saw basketball as a job that demanded devotion, practice and respect. But it took both of them to cement the love of Utah Jazz basketball among the fans. Frank in the first years to reel the fans in and Jerry in the next two decades to maintain a winning, hard-working team.
3. Hot Rod Hundley
Jazz Announcer 1974-2009. The voice of the Utah Jazz for 35 years. Hot Rod is the longest tenured employee of the Jazz, starting with them in New Orleans in 1974 and not leaving til health and the long walk up the stairs to where the radio announcers were moved caused him to retire. His unique voice, oft repeated phraes and knowledge and love for basketball in general and Jazz Basketball specifically made him a fan favorite. Even now while watching the game most fans can hear him say “a leapin leaner, the cowhide globe hits home, Stockton to Malone and my favorite You Gotta Love it Baby”. A great article from the DeseretNews can be found at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705300462/Pedal-to-the-metal-Hot-Rod.html A story from this article I had not heard involved a discussion about banning beer ads from the Delta Center to which Hot Rod commented “that will certainly keep me from drinking beer”, a very funny comment considering his reputation.
2. Karl Malone
Utah Jazz Player 1985-2003. Yes this picture is huge, but huge might be the best description of Karl Malone’s personality. If John Stockton was hard to read, Karl Malone was an open book. As a fan you always knew what Karl Malone thought about an issue because he would tell you. From several highly visible disagreements with management that always ended up in smiles and tears all around, professional wrestling, numerous business adventures, dabling in movies and exercise videos, Karl Malone was always in the news involving the Utah Jazz. But he brought his game every game, he worked hard to impove himself every off-season and he, with Stockton, brought the Jazz to their glory days. Karl Malone was out-spoken, often politically incorrect and sometimes did a complete 360 to the other side of an issue, he was always true to himself, his team and what he believed.
1. Larry Miller
Utah Jazz Owner 1985-2009. Larry Miller is the reason the Utah Jazz are the Utah Jazz and not the Minnesota Jazz or the Oklahoma City Jazz or whatever city could have bought them away from Utah. With an outgoing salesman-type personality, a great business sense, and a seemingly stronger than possible will, he built a dynasty in Utah that included the Utah Jazz. Not afraid to show his emotions he was a hands on owner who had a locker in the locker room and rarely missed a home game. Larry was also not afraid to take risks to accomplish his goals. He was ambitious, driven, competitive and above all loyal, all personality qualities he transferred to the team. For a greater understanding of Larry Miller, his personality and the impact he had on the Utah Jazz, you can read Driven: An Autobiography. Larry wrote it in conjunction with Doug Robinson, published shortly after his death in 200
While all these men and many others influenced the Utah Jazz, Larry Miller had the top personality that caused the Utah Jazz to become what they are today.
Please let me know your deletions from and additions to this list.
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