Jazz Fans For Giving New Orleans Its Team Back
- Jazz Fans Against the New Orleans Pelicans
- Utah Jazz Owners
- United States of America
In 1974, the Jazz franchise began in New Orleans as the 18th team to enter the NBA. The team's first major move was to trade for star player Pete Maravich (who had played collegiately at LSU) from the Atlanta Hawks for two first-round draft picks, three second-round picks, and one third-round pick over the next three years.
Although he was considered one of the most entertaining players in the league and won the scoring championship in 1977 with 31.1 points per game, the Jazz's best record while in New Orleans was 39–43 in the 1977–78 season. Maravich struggled with knee injuries from that season onward.
Venue issues were a continual problem for the team while in New Orleans. In the Jazz's first season, they played in the Loyola University Fieldhouse, where the basketball court was raised so high that the players' association made the team put a net around the court so that players wouldn't fall off of the court and into the stands. Later, they played games in the Louisiana Superdome, but things were no better due to high demand for the stadium, onerous lease terms and Maravich's constant knee problems. They also faced the prospect of spending a whole month on the road each year due to Mardi Gras festivities. Years later, founding owner Sam Battisone claimed that there was no contingency plan in case the Jazz ever made the playoffs. However, the Superdome's manager at the time, Bill Curl, said that the stadium's management always submitted a list of potential playoff dates to the Jazz management, but these letters were never answered.
After what turned out to be their final season in New Orleans, they were dealt a further humiliation when the Los Angeles Lakers selected Magic Johnson with the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The pick would have been the Jazz's had they not traded it to acquire Gail Goodrich two years earlier. Also, the Jazz had given up the rights to Moses Malone in order to regain one of the three first-round picks used for the Goodrich trade.
Moving to Utah
Despite being barely competitive, the Jazz drew crowds during their first five years. However, by 1979 the franchise was sinking financially. Barry Mendelson, the team's executive vice president for most of the early years, said one factor in the financial trouble was an 11 percent amusement tax, highest in the nation at the time. The team also couldn't attract much local corporate support—an important factor even in those days—or local investors.
Battisone concluded that the franchise could not be viable in New Orleans and decided to move elsewhere. After scouting several new homes, he decided to move to Salt Lake City, even though it was a smaller market. However, Salt Lake City had proven it could support a pro basketball team when it played host to the American Basketball Association's Utah Stars from 1970 to 1976. The Stars had been extremely popular in the city and had even won an ABA title in their first season after moving from Los Angeles. However, their finances inexplicably collapsed in their last two seasons, and they were shut down by the league 16 games into the 1975-76 season after missing payroll. Although Salt Lake City was not known for its jazz culture, the team decided to keep the name, as well as the team's original colors of green, purple and gold (the colors of Mardi Gras).
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans owner Tom Benson had indicated early in his ownership that he wished to change the team's name to something more local, with his preference being a return of the name "Jazz" to the city. However, Utah indicated they had no interest in returning the name due to over 25 years of history associated with it, including two finals appearances. On December 4, 2012, it was reported that the Hornets will be changing their name to the New Orleans Pelicans beginning with the 2013-2014 season, after Louisiana's state bird, the Brown Pelican. These reports were officially confirmed on January 24, 2013, when the Hornets officially announced said name change and unveiled accompanying logos and a blue, gold and red color scheme.
We, the undersigned Utah Jazz fans, call on Utah Jazz ownership to save the fanbase of the New Orleans Hornets -- soon to be the New Orleans Pelicans -- from having their state bird, the Brown Pelican, as the mascot for their professional basketball franchise when, at your discretion, the Jazz could return home.
We are loyal fans of the Utah Jazz and will remain loyal fans of the Utah (new mascot) too. Jazz music is not part of our cultural DNA as it is in New Orleans. Please see the comments below for new mascot suggestions.
The Jazz Fans For Giving New Orleans Its Team Back petition to Utah Jazz Owners was written by Jazz Fans Against the New Orleans Pelicans and is in the category Sports at GoPetition.