Utah Jazz owners move team ownership to a trust, keeping franchise in Salt Lake City

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/uth/" data-ylk="slk:Utah Jazz">Utah Jazz</a> fans trade fours. (Getty Images)
Utah Jazz fans trade fours. (Getty Images)

The hilarious incongruity of a team moving from one of America’s jazz capitals to another city less noted for its jazz scene, while still retaining the name Jazz, is one of pro sports’ great go-to jokes. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the Utah Jazz themselves are an enviable sports staple, though. A wildly successful franchise that has played out of Salt Lake City for 37 years, more than half the time the NBA has existed.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Basketball contest now | Free NBA Yahoo Cup entry]

The Miller family-owned team lost its patriarch in 2009 when lead owner Larry Miller passed away, but the team has been steadily moored by his widow Gail and their son Greg. Despite the league’s growth, however, the Jazz remain a small-market team. Big in NBA stature, but low in national appeal at times, even during the best of times.

On Monday, though, the Millers committed to their attempts to re-ignite the best of times in Salt Lake City. They’ve moved ownership of the team into a legacy trust, making it so the Miller family inheritors would not profit from a move of the team, and ensuring that the Jazz will stick in Utah for a long, long time. From Aaron Falk at the Salt Lake Tribune:

With tears in her eyes and holding a game ball she has kept since she and her husband first purchased the team, Miller said, “We view the legacy trust literally and figuratively as passing the ball and all it stands for to future generations of our family members, fans and employees.”

[Newsletter: Get 5 great stories from the Yahoo Sports blogs in your inbox every morning!]

From Monday’s press conference, via Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk:

“As a family, we have always considered the Utah Jazz a community asset and it has been our privilege to serve as stewards of this team for more than 30 years,” [Gail] Miller said. “There have been many opportunities to sell and move the franchise, but from the day Larry and I purchased the Jazz, our goal was to keep the team in Utah. The Legacy Trust will help to ensure this commitment is kept for generations to come.” […]

“As a family and company, we have always been committed to doing things the right way and working to achieve our mission of enriching lives and giving back,” said Miller. “This trust and our new corporate structure will continue this important legacy in perpetuity and represents our commitment and deep love for the State of Utah.”

The Jazz moved to Utah from New Orleans, considered by some to be the birthplace of jazz, in 1979. The team plays out of a small market, dwarfed by nearly a dozen other non-NBA markets in terms of available local viewers, but the franchise has thrived. Between 1983 and 2012, the team made the postseason in all but four campaigns, making the NBA Finals in both 1997 and 1998.

[Follow Ball Don’t Lie on social media: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr]

The current crew sits at 29-16, heading into a home matchup with the rested Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, looking to move one step closer to the franchise’s first playoff trip in a half-decade with a No. 2 defense and a pair of potential 2016-17 NBA All-Stars in center Rudy Gobert and swingman Gordon Hayward.

The Jazz have rarely been a fixture of the NBA’s relocation rumor mill, especially since Larry Miller bought the club in 1986.

Prior to the ascension of San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, former head coach Jerry Sloan was pro sports’ longest-tenured head man, running the show from 1989 through 2011. Six different NBA teams have relocated, alongside five or six times as many legitimate relocation threats, to go with the addition of five other expansion clubs to the league’s coffers during the at-this-point legendary run of the Utah Jazz.

In 2016, the club was valued 20th out of 30 NBA teams by Forbes at $875 million, up some $25 million from one year earlier. That number’s sure to go up again soon.

– – – – – – –

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next