The Utah Jazz have never won a championship in the NBA, but have always fielded a good team and made the playoffs. They have survived by drafting well, making smart trades and bottom of the barrel free agent pick-ups. Free agents, the good ones anyways, never seem to choose the Jazz and want to move to Salt Lake City. Home grown players that become stars always seem to leave. The issue is very plain and clear but most times not discussed.
Dominique Wilkins was drafted by the Jazz in 1982 and didn’t want to play in Utah, forcing a trade even before he suited up. Andrei Kirilenko, who had a love-hate relationship with the team, made it known for years that he wanted out. Deron Williams forced long time coach Jerry Sloan out, and then he requested to be traded. Only Jeff Malone, who wasn’t at top of too many NBA teams lists, signed with the team during the Karl Malone-John Stockton era.
The only other free agents that have signed with the team willingly at the so-called peak of their careers were Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Okur would have major injury issues, and Boozer left for more money with the Chicago Bullls.
It’s clear that the franchise has issues with attracting big name players.
The reason is simple: Salt Lake City, Utah. I am not going to give statistical numbers, but I am going to use common sense. The most common type of NBA player is African American, young, single and looking to live the whole NBA lifestyle. Utah is the most religiously homogenous state in the entire nation. A majority of the inhabitants are affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, and are practicing Mormons. Most are not African Americans. All forms of gambling are outlawed.
The idea that the state is a dry one is false, but there are no private liquor stores. The population itself is very conservative.
All these reasons tend to make the city and the franchise undesirable for young NBA ballplayers. It’s sad that this is the case, but it is what it is.
If the franchise doesn’t want to make the effort to change attitudes, then it will always be like it is now. I am sure the league has noticed this. I am sure the other teams have noticed this as well, and have used this as a recruiting tool luring players away from the Jazz. It will continue to happen unless something is changed, but I have a feeling that the city or the state doesn’t want anything to change.
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