When the Jazz broke into the NBA, the team was one of the least successful teams in the league. The team began in New Orleans but left for Salt Lake City in 1979. It took 10 years for the team to make the playoffs for the first time. Around that time, the Jazz were led by one of the greatest duos ever in league history. From the late 80s to 2003, one player made the Jazz a consistent playoff contender, while the team was just a handful of games from winning a championship in 1997 and 1998.
Michael Jordan doomed the team’s chances both times as Utah awaits their first championship in franchise history. Altogether, the Jazz own 11 Division titles and have made the playoffs all but 8 times since 1984. One day, the team will hang a championship banner, but when looking at the team’s most successful run, one coach and one player stand above the rest.
These are the Utah Jazz’s franchise awards.
GOAT Of The Franchise - Karl Malone
John Stockton deserves a special shoutout. Stockton owns the NBA record for career assists. The only way a player will defeat Stockton’s franchise record is if they also triumph the NBA record. With that said, Stockton sent many of his passes to Malone, who finished his career as one of the greatest finishers of all time. We will highlight Malone’s offensive accomplishments later as he owns a collective Hall of Fame resume.
Malone played for the Jazz from 1985 to 2003. During that time, he was the 1997 and 1999 MVPs. He also made 14 All-Star appearances, which included 11 straight seasons from 1988 to 1998. Had there been an All-Star Game in 1999, canceled due to the lockout, he would have made it 15 consecutive years. Malone was also an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection, three-time All-Defensive First Team member, and made the 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.
Rookie Of The Franchise - Karl Malone
There is only one rookie in team history that has won Rookie of the Year. During the 1980-81 season, Griffith averaged 20.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.3 steals to land the award for top rookie. Meanwhile, Griffith would eventually become a teammate of Malone. During the 1985-86 season, Malone would complete his rookie season with 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals.
The difference is that Malone placed third in the ROY voting. Malone lost out to Xavier McDaniel and eventual winner Patrick Ewing. As for Griffith, he beat out Kelvin Ramsey and Larry Smith. The difference between the two is that Griffith was a part of a 28-54 team that finished 11th. The team was one-dimensional and relied on the rookie. As for Malone, that team was 43-40 and was fifth in the conference with a playoff appearance.
Offensive Player Of The Franchise - Karl Malone
Malone wasn’t just a special offensive player. He was one of the best offensive players ever. When Malone retired, he was in second place in all-time points. After 2004, Malone was the closest player to reaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which is a pretty legendary feat to accomplish. It took until last year for someone to pass Malone as LeBron James pushed Malone to third in 2022.
Malone owns the record for the most 2,000-point seasons with 12. Similar to Stockton, the only way that Malone’s franchise record for points with the team gets beat will require that player to score the third-most points of all time. What doesn’t get talked about enough is that Malone made more baskets than he attempted. Malone finished his career with a field-goal percentage of 51.6%.
Defensive Player Of The Franchise - Mark Eaton
While Rudy Gobert should be considered, the definition of defense has changed in the last few decades. Gobert won three Defensive Player of the Year Awards with the team. He is a standout defensive player, but if you compare his tenure to that of Eaton, there is a difference between the two players. For starters, Eaton owns an NBA record for total blocks (456) and blocks per game (5.56) in a season, which was accomplished in 1984-85.
Let’s take a look at defensive rebounds, total rebounds, and blocks. Gobert finished his career with 5,096 defensive rebounds, while Eaton finished with 5,082 defensive rebounds. Gobert owns 7,119 total rebounds, and Eaton owns 6,939. The biggest difference is that Eaton owns 3,064 career blocks, which is a franchise record, while Gobert left the Jazz with 1,357 all-time blocks, which ranks third. Eaton also owns a considerable lead on defensive win shares (48.0) compared to Gobert (37.9).
Coach Of The Franchise - Jerry Sloan
Many remember Sloan as the all-time great coach for the Jazz, but there was a time when he was all about the Bulls. He remains a top-10 player in franchise history and was their coach for three seasons. With that said, he was fired after the 1981-82 season and was not a head coach again until the Jazz gave him a chance in 1988. From there, Sloan embarked on a legendary coaching career that saw him miss the playoffs just three times from his hire date to 2010.
Sloan easily owns the record for most coaching victories. In 23 years, Sloan compiled a 1,127-682 record with 19 playoff appearances. The franchise owns just two NBA Finals appearances and Sloan was the coach for both. In the playoffs, Sloan led the Jazz to the second round 11 times and the Conference Finals seven times. Sloan passed away on May 22, 2020, at the age of 78 and remains deeply missed.
Fan Favorite - Karl Malone
It’s been almost 20 years since Malone last played for the Jazz. It’s still one of the most popular jerseys that you can still see worn at games. It’s like Bulls fans wearing a Jordan jersey, or fans in Cleveland wearing LeBron James. Malone was iconic when he played in Utah. He won an MVP Award over the greatest player ever to do it while both were in their prime. Without Malone, the Jazz would be waiting on making the NBA Finals still.
There are some candidates like Stockton, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell sticking out. However, Malone is on his island. He is the team’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, and win shares. Malone was a competitor. He didn’t back down from a challenge and remains one of the most respected players from the 80s and 90s.