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.