NBA Name Origins | Why Are They Called the Utah Jazz?

(Last Updated On: December 20, 2018)

Why Are They Called the Utah Jazz?
Utah is known for a lot of things. It is a state filled with natural beauty, and it is home to many National Parks, making Utah a major tourist destination for outdoor recreation. It is also a center of transportation, education, and information technology, so clearly Utah has a lot to offer.

Utah is not known, however, for its Jazz music. It is a bit odd then, that the NBA team in the state is the Utah Jazz. Why are they called the Utah Jazz?

Why Are They Called the Utah Jazz?

In 1974, the city of New Orleans was granted an NBA expansion team, and that year, a contest was held to name the team. Fans submitted more than 6,500 potential names, but only eight semi-finalists emerged: Blues, Cajuns, Crescents, Deltas, Dukes, Jazz, Knights, and Pilots.

All the different names were considered, but ultimately it was announced that the team would be called the New Orleans Jazz on June 7, 1974. The “Jazz” name won out over the rest because team officials liked its dictionary definition: collective improvisation.

New Orleans is often dubbed “The Jazz Capital of the World,” so the city was quick to embrace the team and the name. The Jazz logo was created using purple, gold, and green colors to convey a Mardi Gras theme.

Moving to Utah

Unfortunately for the Jazz, their stay in New Orleans would not last long. Despite having lots of fan support, the team struggled to be competitive. During the 1978-79 season, they posted the NBA’s worst record. The team was sinking financially, and ownership decided that the franchise could not be viable in New Orleans and decided to move it.

After exploring several options, Salt Lake City was ultimately selected as the new home for the Jazz. Team officials noted that the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) had been extremely popular in the city, despite it being considered a smaller market.

Salt Lake City is certainly not known for its jazz music, but the franchise decided to keep the name. This was largely due to the fact that there was not enough time before the start of the 1979-80 season to receive league approval for a new name. So the team became the Utah Jazz, and even kept the purple, gold, and green Mardi Gras-themed colors.

The Utah Jazz Today

Initially, some had concerns about Salt Lake City’s ability to support an NBA team. Though the team got off to a rocky start, the franchise would begin to turn around in the 1980s, especially once both John Stockton and Karl Malone were drafted.

The Stockton/Malone era would usher in a wave of success for the Utah Jazz, and the team would become a perennial playoff contender. Today, Utah Jazz fans are known as some of the most loyal in the NBA.

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About the Author:

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.