Best players: John Stockton/Karl Malone
You can't separate the two. By the time these two wore the jerseys that featured a mountain backdrop rather than the J-note, Stockton and Malone were perennial all-stars. They led the Jazz to two NBA final appearances in their new duds during highlight moments of their Hall-of-Fame careers. Stockton, of course, is the league's all-time leader in assists and steals. Malone is a two-time MVP and the second-leading scorer in NBA history.
Sloan on Stockton/Malone: "I think their record speaks for itself. They came and gave it (their all) every day. Whether it be in practice, whatever we did, they wanted to be a part of what was going on and they were great leaders."
High note: Stockton hit the most famous shot in Jazz history, draining a 3-pointer in Utah's Game 6 win over the Houston Rockets in the 1997 Western Conference finals to send Utah to the NBA Finals for the first time. It was the fourth time the Jazz made it to the Western Conference finals, but the first time they got over the hump. What Jazz fan will ever forget the image of Stockton, Malone and Jeff Hornacek hugging at midcourt after Stockton's 3-pointer?
Sour note: An NBA title — or at least a Game 7 in the 1998 Finals — was within their grasp, but it was gone in a matter of seconds, thanks to a Michael Jordan strip, a Bryon Russell slip and a series-ending jumper by the greatest of all time, Jordan. The Jazz, trailing the Bulls 3-2 in the Finals, led Game 6 86-83 with 41.9 seconds left. But Jordan made a layup, stole the ball from Malone on the other end, and sank a wide open jumper over a flailing Russell with 5.2 seconds left to win it. The Jazz haven't been back to the Finals since then.
Utah Jazz 2004-10 Team Colors: Navy, Powder Blue, Purple, Silver
Best player: Deron Williams
The Jazz moved up to select Williams with the third overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft and it was one of the best moves in franchise history. Williams has improved in each season he's played, earning his first all-star berth last season. He became the first player in league history to score at least 20 points and dish at least 10 assists in five straight playoff games against the Nuggets last season. In a recent NBA.com survey of league general managers, Williams was voted the best point guard in the NBA.
Sloan on Williams: "He's a terrific young player. Hopefully he gradually gets better and better as we move forward. Most players do."
High note: An unexpected Game 7 win over Houston in the first round, and some luck in facing Golden State in the conference semifinals helped the Jazz return to the Western Conference finals in 2007. Carlos Boozer played his best game with Utah with 35 points and 14 rebounds in Game 7. against the Rockets and the Jazz had little trouble with the Warriors, a No. 8 seed, in the second round. The Jazz couldn't get past their nemesis Spurs in the Western Conference finals, but no one expected them to, either.
Sour note: If it previously hadn't been obvious that Stockton and Malone had left the building, it was in 2004-05 when the Jazz had a 26-56 record. It was their worst mark since the 1981-82 season. But there was a bright spot to the poor record, as it enabled the team to get Williams in the ensuing NBA draft.
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