clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Brad Rock: Here are the real golden moments in the Utah Jazz's 40-year history

SALT LAKE CITY — A recently released video commemorating 40 years in Utah is sure to stir every Jazz fan’s heart. Frank Layden delivers a growly voiceover, accompanied by scenes of players past and present.

“These trophies are your trophies,” Layden says. “These jerseys are your jerseys. These records are your records.”

The team-produced video includes touchstone moments such as John Stockton’s buzzer-beater against Houston and Donovan Mitchell’s put-back.

“This,” Layden says, “is your history.”

Well, not all of it.

With the season beginning Wednesday in Sacramento, forthwith is a compilation of Jazz history even the historians left out.

Alias. When Deron Williams and Robert Whaley were rookies, they got into a bar fight with Nuggets fans in Park City. Upon being questioned by police, the Jazz players identified themselves as Torrey Ellis and Bobby Williams.

That’s lame. If you’re going to make up names, at least come up with something original like, for instance, The Captain and Tennille.

The town of Utah. That’s what the Mailman, Karl Malone, called Salt Lake the day he was drafted. As Deseret News columnist Lee Benson wrote, “One day on the job, and he’s already delivering — to the wrong address.”

The good news is Malone had no trouble finding home for the next 18 seasons.

Parade shade. Shortly after the 1985 draft, Malone flew to Salt Lake as fans lined the streets, awaiting the Pioneer Day Parade.

The Mailman thought the celebration was for him.

If parade organizers have a sense of history, they’ll invite him to be Grand Marshal of the 2020 parade, commemorating 35 years since he was drafted.

This time, why not make it about him?

Larrupin’ Larry. It wasn’t pro wrestling, but it had that feel.

During a playoff game against Denver, several Nuggets fans moved close to the court to harass the Jazz as the team exited the halftime locker room. What they didn’t know is they were sitting in Larry H. Miller’s personal seats.

The next morning, newspapers nationwide featured a photo of Miller throttling one of the Denver fans.

It wasn’t necessarily the precursor to cage fighting, but it should have been.

Tag’s teeth. In the midst of a heated game, Greg Ostertag’s false front teeth went clattering onto the court. For a moment, everyone stared. Entertaining as it was, fans had to wonder.

If it’s gap-toothed smiles they wanted, why not attend a Utah Grizzlies game?

Waterworld. An epic 1996 pairing between Utah and San Antonio was shaping up. But a leak in the Delta Center roof was discovered during warmups, causing the game to be postponed.

Jerry Sloan wanted to play, regardless, saying he had competed on far worse courts. Spurs coach Bob Hill pointed out every court Sloan played on was worse than that.


But what kept them from moving the game to the cultural hall of the Salt Lake 14th Ward?

Officer O.P. Olden Polynice was twice charged with impersonating an officer, after reportedly pulling over motorists and flashing a badge.

It’s no wonder drivers were suspicious. He couldn’t patrol the paint, let alone the streets.

Retirement remorse. Tom Chambers had words with Sloan during a morning shootaround and called it a career. But by the time the game rolled around, he had reversed course.

Just wondering, does a six-hour retirement affect a player’s pension?

Luther Lately. Jazz rookie Luther Wright missed the plane on his first road trip, drawing a fine. Upon arriving around midnight at the team hotel, Wright said, “I need Jesus to help me.”

Or maybe a wristwatch would have done the trick.

A forever break. Shortly after the Jazz signed Chad Gallagher to a 10-day contract, Sloan scheduled an optional practice. The expectation was that players who logged the most minutes would take the time off, while the subs worked out.

Legend has it Gallagher instead went apartment hunting.

Whatever the case, he never played another game in the league.

Here’s hoping he at least found a nice studio walk-up with free utilities.

Cash on hand. After a locker room exchange with Adrian Dantley, Layden sent his star home and fined him 30 pieces of silver (dimes) for being a “Judas.”

Dantley went on to a Hall of Fame career and had his number retired at Vivint Arena.

You might say he got his money back, with interest.

Whopper of a tale. During a grinding 1985 playoff game with Houston, Layden inserted Billy “The Whopper” Paultz into the lineup with instructions to attach himself to Hakeem Olajuwon.

Annoyed by the tactic, Olajuwon sucker-punched Paultz. Officials missed the call, but the play ignited the Jazz, who went on to win the game and series.

Has anyone thought of trying this on Kevin Durant?

Swing town. A party gone haywire resulted in a voided contract for Bart Kofoed, and a month on the injured list for Bobby Hansen.

Witnesses said just as guests were leaving, Kofoed unloaded on Hansen, breaking his cheekbone with a punch.

So maybe ringing in the New Year with a kiss wasn’t in the cards.

The crying game. Distressed over a lack of playing time, Andrei Kirilenko wept in front of reporters after a playoff practice.

Sloan admitted benching A.K. was an “uncomfortable” situation.

“I’m not happy with it,” he said, “but I don’t know how to handle it. I’m not equipped.”

He was mostly equipped to take names and kick pants.

One for the road. Masha Kirilenko took generosity to a new level when she said because NBA players are so attractive to women, she would allow husband Andrei one extramarital fling per season, penalty-free.

AK said he never acted on her offer. Which, in a weird way, probably made him all the more attractive to women.

A Bear affair. A Cleveland fan got into a shoving match with the Jazz mascot during a game. As the unruly fan was being escorted out by security, he broke free and charged Bear, who delivered a shoulder block that knocked the fan to the floor.

Carlos Boozer could only dream of being so physical.

B-Russ stuff. The worst decision in Jazz history belongs to Bryon Russell, who once told Michael Jordan before a game he was going to shut him down. Thereafter Jordan abused Russell every time they played.

MJ particularly burned Russell with his Game 6 jumper in the 1998 NBA Finals. The feud actually made Jordan look small when he brought it up at his Hall of Fame induction. But it also exposed B-Russ as someone who talked a better game than he played.

The Jazz’s 40-year commemoration might have had a lot more to celebrate, if only B-Russ had kept his game plan to himself.