On March 7, 1974, New Orleans became the 18th
member of the NBA as a nine-man group headed by
Fred Rosenfeld and Sam Battistone paid $6.15 million
for the expansion franchise. Then on May 3, 1974, Pete
Maravich was acquired by trade from Atlanta, becoming
the first player in franchise history.
That spring, a contest was held to name the expansion
team. Of the more than 6,500 names submitted, eight
semi-finalists emerged: Jazz, Dukes, Crescents, Pilots,
Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights.
After much deliberation, team officials announced that
the new team name would be the New Orleans Jazz on
June 7, 1974.
Three contestants had entered the Jazz name with the
same postmark date, so team officials had Miss New
Orleans 1974, Kay Johnson, choose a winner out of a
hopper. That winner was Steve Brown, a 27-year-old
broker and transplant New Yorker.
Brown, a self-proclaimed Jazz freak who had once
played in a league with Julius Irving, said, I grew up on
Knickerbocker basketball, but this is my team now." He
received two Jazz season tickets and a trip to the 1975
NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix.
As the undisputed "jazz capital of the world", the city
embraced the new name. And, for the second time, Jazz
had been born in New Orleans. To convey a distinct
Mardi Gras theme, purple gold, and green colors were
used and the logo featured the 'J' as an eighth note. The
team colors were actually selected prior to the name.
"Jazz is one of those things for which New Orleans is
nationally famous and locally proud," then-owner Fred
Rosenfeld said. "It is a great art form which belongs to
New Orleans and its rich history."
"As with the tradition of Mardi Gras, the three original
team colors were emblematic of the following: purple for
justice, green for faith, gold for power."
The Jazz remained in New Orleans for five years (1974-
79) before ownership decided to move the team to Salt
Lake City following the 1978-79 season. Despite no
history of Jazz music in Utah, the name was kept.
Although many at the time had reservations about Utah's
ability to successfully support an NBA team, Utah Jazz
fans became some of the most loyal fans in the league.
To this day, saxophones, Cajun food, and Mardi Gras
beads may be hard to come by in Salt Lake City, but Jazz
is definitely still in the air.
QUICK JAZZ FACTS:
- The Jazz name was selected because of its definition in the dictionary: "collective improvisation."
- The source of the word "jazz" is not clear, but the word is often regarded as being of African or Creole origin.