SALT LAKE CITY — Though it was in a humorous tone, the Utah Jazz nickname was put on another public trial this week.
Actor John Cleese, who’s actually a big fan of Utah’s NBA team, was apparently surprised by the mascot of a Japanese soccer team and jokingly brought the Jazz into the discussion on Twitter.
"I have always believed that the Utah Jazz was the silliest name for a sports team, though Memphis Grizzlies isn't bad Now 'Kashima Antlers' has appeared," Cleese wrote. "It's a close call... Can anyone confirm there's an ice hockey team called the Central African Republic Waste Paper Baskets?”
Sorry to break it to the comedian and actor, whose fame rose from appearing in movies such as Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda, Harry Potter, and Shrek, but a quick Google search revealed no such team. One can buy African baskets at the Pottery Barn, however.
Jazz fans — mostly of the basketball variety — were quick to jump into the light-hearted conversation.
“There’s a lot of Jazz in Utah!”
“Are you aware the Jazz used to be in New Orleans? A lot of the weird names were not weird originally. The Lakers is weird too, but they used to be from Minnesota.”
“I have tickets to the Utah Jazz in January. Want to come with?”
“Utah Jazz is what you call a marching band playing slightly off-tempo.”
OK, maybe that last one wasn’t someone being helpful or sticking up for the Jazz. Neither was the tweeter who wrote, “They should be band.” (Pun intended, of course.)
One Utah Jazz fan let the famous British actor know that jazz music in Utah is “pretty much better than anywhere else” in the world. He (@GoGoGoGaryUnicorn) jokingly added, “There’s even a trumpeter on top of the temple downtown. So. Love you.”
One person admitted to being surprised the Jazz played basketball. “I thought it was a dance team growing up.”
Not surprisingly, the Twitter thread is full of responses about other, um, interesting sports mascots.
- New Orleans Baby Cakes
- Nippon Ham Fighters
- Rocket City Trash Pandas
- Chattanooga Central Purple Pounders
- Toronto Lawnmowers
- Montgomery Biscuits
- Real Salt Lake
- UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
- L.A. Lakers
- Albuquerque Isotopes (thanks to the Simpsons)
- Macon Whoopie (a former hockey team in Georgia)
Interestingly, Kashima translates into "deer island," so the Antlers nickname is more fitting than Cleese realizes.
In 2017, Cleese told the Deseret News that he got hooked on the Utah Jazz during the Stockton and Malone era in the 1997 NBA Finals.
“My daughter was living in America, so we started watching the finals and, of course, it was much more fun if I pretended that I was a fan of the Jazz, and by the end, I was," Cleese said. "I used to watch them during the 10 years I was in Santa Barbara. I used to watch them almost every night, but I’ve never been to Salt Lake."
Ahead of his "Holy Grail" show in Salt Lake City — his first visit — Cleese also admitted to hoping that Jerry Sloan would be in the audience.
“I always thought he was a wonderful looking man," Cleese told the Deseret News. "I always wanted to look like Jerry Sloan."
WARRIORS MEET WAT
The Golden State Warriors had a special guest at their shootaround before Wednesday's game against Utah — a 108-103 Jazz victory. University of Utah legend Wat Misaka visited the Warriors, who got a chance to meet a sports pioneer.
Misaka was the first player of Asian descent to be drafted into professional basketball. The 95-year-old was selected by the New York Knicks in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
The 5-foot-7 Wisaka, an Ogden native who turned 95 years old today (Dec. 21), led the Utes to an NCAA national championship in 1944.
Wisaka spoke of the "spirit and fight" of the little guy after meeting the Warriors. He enjoyed meeting Steph Curry and spoke of the sharpshooter's "confidence but not overconfidence."1 comment on this story
"It looks like he knows what he's doing and what he's trying to do," Misaka told the Warriors' social media team. He’s confident that he can pull it off. It's just great to watch him play."
- Women’s basketball Northern Colorado at BYU, noon; Utah vs. Hawaii, 3:30 p.m.
- Potato Bowl: BYU vs. Western Michigan, 2 p.m.
- Men’s basketball: NAU at Utah, 7 p.m.; SUU at USC, 9 p.m.
- NBA: Jazz at Trail Blazers, 8 p.m.
- Hockey: Grizzlies at Steelheads, 7 p.m.
- Men’s basketball: Delaware State at Weber State, 2 p.m.; Sam Houston State at Utah Valley, 2 p.m.; BYU at San Diego State, 5 p.m.
- NBA: Thunder at Jazz, 7 p.m.
- Hockey: Grizzlies at Steelheads, 7 p.m.