Sorry, New Orleans, there is some Jazz in Utah

My first reaction to hearing the new New Orleans owner’s comments about getting the Jazz name back to its original city was laughter.

What a way to play up to the home crowd. (The Jazz just have to hope the Saints owner doesn’t put a bounty up for naming rights.)

Jazz fans on Twitter were mostly annoyed by Tom Benson’s suggestion that his hope might possibly come to fruition. (Click here for a Jazz Extra “It is, and will be, the Utah Jazz, not New Orleans” with reaction from fans and Coach Corbin.)

People in these parts — or those who’ve appreciated the team’s hoops history since coming to Salt Lake City — have grown quite fond of the unlikely pairing of Utah and Jazz. Is it an oxymoron? Sure. But it’s our oxymoron, so back off.

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A rowdy fan section in New Orleans always chants “There ain’t no Jazz in Utah!” every time the SLC squad visits, and it’s humorous. But they’re wrong. Sure, the Beehive State might not be a hot spot for the musical jazz, but there certainly has been plenty of Jazz in Utah since the Big Easy let its NBA team skedaddle out of town.

Mulling over possible nicknames for Utah’s NBA team can be humorous — and a lot of people like to start the joke with the name Saints. Seeing as the Jazz have been as entrenched in the Beehive State culture over the past 33 years as jazz has been in New Orleans, I think it’s a non-issue.

They’re not the Utah Pioneers. Not the Salt Lake Seagulls. Not the Great Salt Lakers. Not even the Stormin’ Mormons as some have humorously suggested.

They’re the Utah Jazz.

For good.

And I don’t think there’s a thing Tom Benson or David Stern or Harry Connick Jr. could offer them to change that.

Having written that, here is a rather poignant plea from an NBA fan in New Orleans, whose sincere and touching email is worth sharing:

Hey Jody,

I was just 13 when the Jazz left New Orleans. My heart was broken. I still remember the regular starting line-up of the New Orleans Jazz. My father would take me to about 15 to 20 games a year. I, as a Hornets fan, would love having the Jazz name back for my hometown. Jazz and New Orleans goes together.

Jazz was started in New Orleans as a musical phenomenon. Jazz is New Orleans. The music was life for the poor Creole, Black musicians of the day. This type of Black music was first created within the Black Creole community of New Orleans. The founder of this type of music was Charles “Buddy” Bolden ( September 6, 1877- November 4, 1931), son of former slaves. He pioneered the beginnings of Jazz music. He and other original Jazz musicians from New Orleans were inspired by the music from the Black churches of New Orleans.

Jazz maybe just a nickname to y’all folks in Utah. But for New Orleans, Jazz is New Orleans. It is the very essence of our city. It is the city’s history. I think of the poor Black pioneers who started it all over 100 years ago. Many died poor and broke. Considered second class citizens. Much of what they created stolen from them. Their music and lyrics copywrited in someone else’s name.

Most of the pioneers of Jazz were barely if at all compensated for their work. The originators of Jazz music are not forgotten and are celebrated each day in our city. When the NBA first came to New Orleans in 1974, the new team had to be called JAZZ.

I think y’all should read this book by Donald Marquis, “In Search of Buddy Bolden. First Man Of Jazz.” This book gives you a perspective of music in New Orleans and the legacy of Jazz.

I know the Lakers situation and Minneanapolis and other teams. It is what it is. Maybe they should change their name. Our city is unique. If y’all studied Jazz, the venacular, the dress, you may decide it would be approapriate to release the name back to the city of New Orleans.

It’s not a name just for Tom Benson. It’s not a team nickname for us. It’s a Name. Jazz represents everyone in New Orleans, either directly or indirectly.

The Utah Jazz has a good winning history in Salt Lake City. But it’s only in the game of basketball. I for one would not mind you guys changing the NBA teams nickname to the Utah or Salt Lake City Saints. Or any other name that is relevant to Salt Lake City, Utah. If you guys can have a chance to correct this, please give us the Name back.

Paul Guillion

Categories: General

About the Author

Jody Genessy

Jody Genessy is the Utah Jazz beat writer for the Deseret News. To answer some of your questions: 1) Yes, he travels everywhere the Jazz do. 2) No, he doesn't fly on the team charter. 3) No, he can't sneak you into the game, let you take notes for him or get you tickets (sorry, Mom). 4) Yes, he realizes that other people out there have to work for a living so he's a lucky dude. 5) Yes, he usually answers questions in the third person.


  1. Mo

    Pioneers is a good nick among others…Isn’t that was Salt Lake was founded by? I think it would be great for the 2013 NBA season to kick off with the New Orleans Jazz, The Charlotte Hornets, and the Utah “Insert Original Name Here”…

  2. T

    The only way I would be fine with a name change is if it went to the ABA team that was here. The Utah Stars. If not, leave it. The Jazz are Utah. Period!

    • aaron

      Why exactly are the Jazz Utah, period? I understand the attachment because it’s been a lot of time, but it seems superficial after reading that letter from Paul ^.

  3. Mac

    Why would we give “Jazz” back to New Orleans? It’s only a matter of years until their team is gone, and Seattle Jazz makes even less sense…

    • Alex Parisi

      Whenever a team does finds itself in Seattle, they will be the Seattle Super Sonics. The point is team names should remain with the cultures they represent.

  4. Kevin Polson

    That letter isn’t all that touching. If they wanted the “Jazz”so bad, they should have done anything necessary to keep em. Kinda like what we’ve done here in Utah.

  5. Jeremy

    Utah Jazz…..we’re stayin with our name! Period! We aren’t giving it back! They are a part of our culture now.

  6. Jeremy Cating

    I love the fact that the joker who wrote this article had the audacity to say “but there certainly has been plenty of Jazz in Utah since the Big Easy let its NBA team skedaddle out of town.” We LET them skedaddle? LET THEM?! What a crock! The only reason the Jazz left Louisiana was because the new owner was a Utah native and didn’t want to run his new play thing (the team) from outside his home state. As a native Louisianian I ask Utah to just remove yourself emotionally for a second. There is not 1 free thinking person who will side with you on this issue. We New Orlenians want to cling to that name because it means something to us. You folks want to cling to it because it’s “your oxymoron”. Your state, city & culture could be so much better represented by making a change. I hope your team management feels the same way.

    • Dave

      @Jeremy Cating… you stated that “The only reason the Jazz left Louisiana was because the new owner was a Utah native and didn’t want to run his new play thing (the team) from outside his home state.”

      I hadn’t realized that Sam Battistone was a Utah Native. Where did that information come from? Unless you are referring to Larry Miller, then you might have a few dates mixed up.

      The Jazz moved to Utah in 1979. Larry Miller purchased half of the team in 1985, and the rest in 1989.

      And you need to let go of the name. It will only make your city look terrible. You lost the team, and the name came with it. That is just how it rolls. You have had a team there a couple of times now, and still, not enough people go to the games to make it profitable.

      Now you make the case to try and swipe the name away from Utah? Now? 33 years they have been here, and you think you come off sounding awesome by trying to insult the entire state? Really? Come on! First, Jazz is music, and believe it or not, it can be played anywhere, not just in nola. Second, this is basketball, and maybe you really want the name because you don’t like the one you have. Get over it.

      Pick a new name. I am sure that nola is known for more than just Jazz.

      Here are some suggestions…

      New Orleans Yearly Lottery Team

      You know, I could make this really bad, so I will stop there.

      Good luck dude.

  7. Ed

    Utah Hornets (Beehive State)
    New Orleans Jazz (Cultural music)
    Seattle Grizzlies (Northwest bears)
    Memphis Kings (What else, Home of the King…Elvis!)

  8. Rhyan W

    What a joke. Utah invokes images of “Jazz” about as much as Nome, Alaska invokes images of palm trees and bikinis.