With a Utah Jazz rebrand in the works, here’s a look at the team’s search for identity

Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Rumors that had been circulating the Utah Jazz for several weeks now about a possible shake-up were confirmed by owner Ryan Smith earlier this week.

Utah’s NBA team will have a new look, likely next season.

The rumors weren’t completely unfounded, the team has implemented several changes and dropped quite a few hints that a possible rebrand may be in the works. Much of the team’s marketing materials, including emails, social media posts, and broadcast elements leaning heavily on a triad of colors: black, white, and yellow.

Even the Jazz note statue in front of Vivint Arena has been rewrapped from its original blue, green, and yellow to an all-black appearance.

According to Smith, who explained the pending move at Wednesday’s Silicon Slopes convention, black and white are not going to be the only two colors, saying the future look will “have a good base.”

Branding a team with a name that doesn’t seem to fit or have any rhyme or reason behind it, such as the Jazz, has been a major obstacle since the team moved from New Orleans, where there is plenty of jazz music, to Utah, which had no history of any footprint in the musical genre, in 1979.

Over the years, the Jazz have experimented with several different looks, creating what could be a disjointed and confusing color palate.

Smith told a story directed at part-owner Dwyane Wade, who was seated next to him at the convention to illustrate the lack of strong branding.

“I’ll never forget when you called me and you were like, ‘Hey, my mom wants to know what the Jazz colors are, and we can’t figure it out,’” Smith said towards Wade. “I think in this state we think we know, but outside?”

The search for a lasting and memorable identity has been a long one for the Utah Jazz.

Here’s a look at where the team came from and where they are now:

Straight out of New Orleans

When the original ownership group was awarded an NBA franchise in 1974, a contest was held to decide the name of the new team in New Orleans. According to the Jazz’s website, more than 6,500 names were submitted with the best of the bunch being the Jazz, Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights.

Jazz was selected in large part because its dictionary definition, “collective improvisation” was considered to also be an apt description of basketball itself.

Despite having a slick name that fit the game and the city the team played, as well as colors that matched the Mardi Gras festivities that New Orleans was famous for, the team had significant financial issues and relocated to Salt Lake City just before the 1979 season.

Reportedly, due to the truncated move in the middle of the offseason, there wasn’t enough time to go through the name change process, so the team played its first year in Utah with a name that seemed a bit out of place.

It was never changed. The only adjustment made in the logo was the replacement of “New Orleans” with “Utah” above the ZZs in Jazz. That swap wasn’t reflected on the uniforms until 1984, according to SportsLogos.net. That same year that the state’s name was added, the team moved from a green road uniform to a purple one with yellow numbering.

Mountain Time

At the start of the 1996-97 season, the Jazz unveiled a new look that they helped would distinguish them as distinctly Utahn. The J-note logo was scrapped, and in its place was a circular-shaped primary logo with a medley of colors and gradients. A purple basketball topped with purple, snowcapped mountains served as the background to a swooping Jazz wordmark, which carried a half sky-blue, half-purple filling. This was all set with a copper border containing the word “Utah.”

While this dramatically different look may be one of the best-remembered Jazz brandings, due to the fact that the team reached the NBA Finals twice in the uniforms, the team’s star players, John Stockton and Karl Malone, reportedly didn’t care for them. However, they have seen become a retro favorite due to their extremely 90s look. After much demand from both players and fans, the purple mountain uniforms, along with the accompanying court, returned to action as an alternate in the 2019-20 season.

During that same era, the Jazz gave one of their future colors a try for the first time, with a black, copper, and purple alternate.

During one retro night for a Jazz home game in 2004, the team’s Mardi Gras colors returned, with owner Larry H. Miller memorably taking the floor in pregame, dressed in full uniform.

Feeling Blue

A few years into the new millennium, the Jazz were ready to turn the page on the glory days of Stockton and Malone and introduce a new look for the 2004-05 season.

Copper was stripped from the color scheme, which was simplified to varying shades of blue, white, and muted purple. The uniforms were also much simpler than the bold and loud look of the Finals-bound teams, with a plain arching “Utah” on the navy road jersey, and “Jazz” in a similar font on the white home kit.

A couple of years into the rebranding, the Jazz rolled out a sky blue alternate with a variation of the swooping Jazz font from the previous uniforms. The look of this era, which included players like Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, and Deron Williams, was considered quite boring by fans, who clamored for a revival of the J-note logo.

Their calls were soon answered.

Return of the Note

The unimaginative uniforms of the mid-2000s were tossed out before the 2010-11 season, bringing back a bit of the look and feel of the Jazz teams that had first played in Utah. While purple wasn’t retained as a primary color for the first time ever, green and gold completed navy blue in the revival of the J-note logo back onto the uniforms.

On the court, the team wore white and navy with a green alternate with a simple block numbering and thick, contrasting stripes on the side.

A streamlined look

Before the 2016-17 season, the Jazz made a few subtle tweaks to their branding to make it have a bit more of a modern look. The basketball mountain logo was finally retired for good, after a 20-year run that included three different colorings.

The numbers and stripes were also modified with slices measuring 66-degrees to reflect the angle of the stem forming the note on the J-note logo. A green alternate that simply stated “Utah” in capital letters was also rolled out, in addition to a soccer-style styled jersey with horizontal stripes that was used for just one year, before Nike took over the NBA’s uniform contract from Adidas.

The Nike Era

When the Swoosh made its way to NBA uniforms, they did so with big plans. Nike wanted to do away with the idea of home and away uniforms and instead provide teams with several different options, including a Classic Edition uniform that would primarily serve as a throwback look, and a City Edition uniform that would be a unique reflection of the city or area each team plays in.

In the Nike era, the Jazz have introduced several new looks, including gold, forest, and kelly green jerseys with no wordmark, just a J-note with the player’s number underneath. They’ve also brought back a few old favorites, including the purple and gold from the mid-80s and the purple mountain uniforms from the Stockton and Malone-led Finals teams.

None of the Jazz’s uniforms, however, have made quite as much noise as the two City Edition looks they’ve donned on a corresponding floor. The first ones, with a yellow, orange, and red gradient that was a huge departure from Jazz teams of the past, made an especially large splash. The subsequent City uniforms, dubbed the “Dark Mode” jerseys, have been a continuation of a new imagining of what a team that represents Utah could look like.

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