Quality basketball and passionate fans are as synonymous with Salt Lake City as good skiing, green JELL-O and weak alcohol.
Since relocating to Utah from New Orleans, the Jazz franchise has had a plethora of All-Stars pass through their ranks. True to Jazz form, most if not all of Utah's best players have historically been underrated, overlooked or flat-out ignored.
How many NBA fans who aren't Jazz fanatics even know who Adrian Dantley is? How many think "Dr. Dunkenstein" is a character from the movie Semi-Pro?
If I had my way, all the greatest players to ever don the music note would receive the accolades they deserve. If we were to put together a 12-man roster of the greatest Jazz players of all time, the team fielded would be surprisingly competitive against any other "all-time greats" team.
Whoever set this video of Darrell Griffith to "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder is a genius. The funky beat and effortlessness of the song beautifully describe Griffith's game too.
Griffith played for Utah from 1980-91 and was a prolific scorer until his final years. He utilized his impressive handles, spin moves and grace to either blow by defenders and throw down a dunk years ahead of its time or put up a reliable floater.
Griffith's career averages of 16.2 points per game as well as his rebounding and assist numbers don't tell the whole story of how good Griffith was, as his production and efficiency fell off a cliff toward the end of his career.
Describing Maravich's game is a task for which words don't seem sufficient. Who can you even compare him to? Ricky Rubio on steroids? Ricky Rubio on steroids with Jamal Crawford's ability to get to the rim? It still doesn't seem to do "the Pistol" justice.
Just do me a favor. Watch this highlight video. I'll wait.
Insane, right? Isn't your mind blown?
Though Maravich's career field goal percentage of 44 percent isn't exceptional, Maravich was prone to hot streaks and could score in myriad ways.
Consider Maravich's 68-point explosion against the Knicks in February 1977. Maravich had a handful of layups but scored the bulk of his points on jump shots, most of which didn't even touch the rim going down. He also put in an insane backward layup where he never appeared to look at the rim and hit a sky hook.
Sadly, Maravich's time playing for Jazz was done primarily in New Orleans. Maravich only logged 17 games for the Utah in the 1979-80 season before being placed on waivers and acquired by the Boston Celtics. Were it not for his short time with the Jazz, Maravich's ranking would be much higher.
Though he's no longer thought of fondly by Jazz fans, Carlos Boozer was one of the most dominant low-post scorers and rebounders to pass through Utah, giving the Jazz six productive years.
Boozer was a double-double machine for the Jazz. He had a knack for pulling down seemingly every loose board, as well as combining a reliable jump shot with a versatile low-post arsenal.
Boozer's time in Utah was marred by injury. He missed a whopping 134 games due to injury in his six seasons there. Combine his injury woes with his expertise in the matador style of defense, and it may be a surprise to some Boozer cracks the list.
The simple answer is a dearth of other obvious choices.
It may be a small sample size, but the Jazz have had great luck with Turkish big men.
Before Enes Kanter was entertaining fans with slick post moves and outfits from the Katt Williams Big & Tall Collection, Mehmet Okur was (and unlike Boozer, still is) beloved by Jazz fans for his ability to stretch the floor and his affable, if somewhat subdued, attitude.
Okur was the first Jazz post player who was also a legitimate threat from the three-point line. (For the record, I'm not counting the occasional Greg Foster answered prayer.) Okur could hover around the arc and draw his defender away from Boozer and out of the paint, which would either give his teammate a one-on-one opportunity to score, or leave Memo wide open for three.
Okur managed to make one All-Star team during his time with Utah. A player of his ilk may not be automatically thought of when considering all-time Jazz greats, but Utah's bad luck with centers lands Okur on this team as the backup.
When you're a former Jazz player returning to Energy Solutions Arena and playing for the opposing team, it speaks volumes if the notoriously mean Jazz fans cheer you.
"AK47" was one of the most well-rounded players the Jazz have ever had. He utilized his athleticism and quick reaction time to be Utah's best defender nearly every year he was there. Kirilenko was also an excellent passer and possessed a high basketball IQ.
Most impressive of all AK's achievements are his "5x5" games in which he recorded at least five of every statistic recorded.
For no reason at all, here's a photo of Kirilenko's World of Warcraft-themed tattoo.
Just call him "The Other Malone."
Though he may not be thought of in the same vein as his namesake, Jeff Malone was a key part of Utah's success during the heyday of the Stockton/Malone era in the early '90s.
Malone was a scoring specialist, and an efficient one at that, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field during his four-year stint with the Jazz and averaged about 18 points per game.
Ironically, Malone was dealt to Philadelphia in exchange for the starting shooting guard on the Utah Jazz all-time greatest team.
There is no player that brings up a wider variety of emotions for Jazz fans than former point guard Deron Williams.
For those with short-term memory loss, Williams appeared to be the cornerstone of the post-Stockton-and-Malone era for the Jazz. However, Williams' surly attitude and alleged insubordination grated on then-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan to the point where Sloan felt he'd lost control of the team and resigned.
Shortly thereafter, Williams was traded to the Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks. Sadly, Williams' ugly exodus from Utah will overshadow his stellar play.
It took less than half his rookie season for Williams to start for the Jazz at point guard, a key area of need for them after Stockton retired. Williams took a page out of Stockton's playbook and routinely racked up double-digit assist games. In comparison to Stockton, Williams bartered 3-4 assists per-game for a more potent scoring punch.
Though Williams' production has tailed off since departing Utah, his production while a Jazz man would certainly justify him starting at point guard on the all-time great team, if he wasn't preceded by a legend.
Most would think "tall" when they look at Mark Eaton.
Jazz fans think "consistency" and "dominant defense."
Eaton played for the Jazz and only the Jazz during his 11-year NBA career. Eaton used all of his 7'4" frame to wreak havoc on opposing players attempting to score.
Though limited offensively, Eaton's dominant interior defense made up for the fact that he never averaged double-digit points per game in any one season.
Eaton's accomplishments are impressive. He boasts two Defensive Player of the Year awards (1985, 1989,) three All-Defensive First Team selections, two All-Defensive Second Team Selections, one All-Star selection and a slew of blocks records.
Perhaps Eaton's most impressive accomplishment was in the 1984-85 season when he averaged a mind-boggling 5.6 blocks per game.
You can have your Reggie Miller's and your Steve Kerr's. Give me Jeff Hornacek any day.
Hornacek was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jeff Malone. Hornacek went from playing an unnatural position at point guard in Philly to going back to his natural spot at shooting guard in Utah, where he flourished.
Hornacek was the perfect compliment to John Stockton and Karl Malone. If the opposing defense over-committed to stopping the virtually unstoppable Stockton/Malone pick and roll, Hornacek would punish them by scorching the nets.
Hornacek never shot worse than 48 percent from the field during his time in Utah, and was routinely lethal from long-range. He was never known to possess dazzling athleticism or be a defensive stalwart, but his dead-eye shooting was a key reason Utah made two consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
We finally have arrived at arguably the most underrated Utah Jazz player of all time.
Perhaps it was the acrimonious departure of Adrian Dantley from the Jazz that is to blame, or perhaps it was simply the passage of time. In either case, Dantley is still criminally underrated.
Dantley could be considered the best pure scorer Utah has ever had, and one of the best scorers of his era. He averaged over 30 points-per-game in five of his seven seasons with the Jazz and never averaged less than 26 points-per-game. Perhaps more impressive than Dantley's high per-game average is his gawdy field-goal percentage.
Dantley's worst shooting percentage in Utah was in the 1984-85 season, when he only managed to shoot 53 percent. A high-volume scorer shooting such a phenomenal percentage was rare in that era, and is virtually unheard of today. Even that impressive a shooting percentage for a swingman is exceedingly rare.
Remember when I said there was a dearth of power forwards to choose from for this team?
Karl Malone was a pillar of consistency and hard work for the Utah Jazz and for the entire NBA. While a member of the Jazz, Malone missed an almost-unfathomable eight total games. That's eight games in 17 years.
As impressive as his iron-man quality was the consistency of Malone's production. Save for his rookie year, Malone averaged at least 20 points-per-game every season he was with Utah. His career averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds are astounding even before considering Malone's longevity. This rare combination of production and a long career landed Malone in second place on the all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
For those Blake Griffin fans out there, you have Malone to thank for blazing the path of power forwards who combine world-class athleticism with brute force.
Malone was always a physical specimen perpetually worthy of the cover of Muscle & Fitness. His rare combination of strength and soft shooting and passing touch set Malone apart from his contemporaries.
John Stockton was the pinnacle of Utah Jazz basketball. He is the embodiment of what a Utah Jazz player, and frankly what an NBA player, should be.
Fiercely competitive, unselfish, insanely smart and hard-working, Stockton quietly ran the always-competitive Jazz and watched teammates such as Karl Malone rack up huge point totals while he remained content amassing even gaudier assist numbers.
Stockton's assist records are easily among the most underrated in all of sports.
He is one of two players in NBA history who averaged double-digit assists for their career, and holds the all-time assist record by an enormous margin.
John racked up 15,806 assists in his 19 NBA seasons despite not starting full-time until his fourth season. Jason Kidd is in second place with 12,040 career assists. To put in perspective how impressive Stockton's record is, consider this: Kidd would have to maintain his current career average of 8.8 assists per game and play six more seasons to catch Stockton.
Here's another comparison to put Stockton's assists dominance in perspective. For someone to have the same proportional lead over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record as Stockton has over Kidd, the player would have to score 24 percent more points than Abdul-Jabbar's career total of 38,387. That total would be a whopping 47,600 points.
Unfathomable, isn't it? Yet Stockton's gigantic lead in the all-time assists category is rarely if ever mentioned.
Knowing John's personality, that's probably the way he prefers it.