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The Moment Five Jazz Players Launched Into Stardom

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz and Larry Nance Jr. #24 of the Cleveland Cavaliers compete in the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Staples Center on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch their first manned mission upon the Crew Dragon vessel today. The launch is an important step for the United States as it hopes to become the first privately-owned spacecraft to travel to the International Space Station. The historic event also signifies progress for the commercial spaceflight industry. In honor of the launch, let’s examine the moment five Utah Jazz players launched their own careers onto the national basketball scene.

Donovan Mitchell

The Jazz acquired Donovan Mitchell on draft night in 2017. And, after a bumpy start, the guard began to show flashes of his future stardom.

Mitchell’s official launch into stardom with the Jazz was spread over two events during his rookie season. First, the guard showed his flair for fantastic finishes at the 2018 NBA Dunk Contest.

Mitchell honored dunk contest legend Vince Carter with a reverse 360 windmill dunk. However, it was the guard’s use of comedian Kevin Hart that helped capture the moment Mitchell launched into fame beyond the Jazz uniform.

The future All-Star solidified meteoric rise during the 2008 playoffs.

Matched up with the higher-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, Mitchell put on a show in the Jazz first-round series victory. The guard averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists and launched the Jazz past the Thunder in six games.

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert has a series of career moments with the Jazz that launched the center into national prominence. However, Gobert truly burst onto the scene as a dominant force during the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Gobert’s French National Team was facing the highly touted Spain in the tournament’s quarterfinal round. Without proven NBA veterans Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, French was a resounding underdog. However, Gobert’s defensive brilliance lead the upset against the NBA laden Spanish team.

The Jazz center would finish with five points, 13 rebounds, and a block in the shocking finish. Gobert’s French National Team would eventually take home the bronze medal in the tournament.

Mike Conley

Mike Conley has yet to have his true launch moment with the Jazz. However, the guard has been a longtime fixture in the basketball scene dating back to his time at Ohio State.

Conley teamed with prep sensation Greg Oden at Ohio State and helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game. Despite coming up short against the Florida Gators, Conley was a household name by the end of the NCAA Tournament.

After an underwhelming freshman season, Conley went on a tear in six tournament games including the championship. The guard averaged 16 points, five rebounds, and 4.8 assists helping to carry Ohio State to the Final Four.

Though Conley’s Buckeyes fell short of the championship, the guard parlayed his tournament run into becoming the fourth pick of the NBA draft three months later.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic had been a household name in Europe before venturing to the NBA. However, the Croatian didn’t have his launch moment in the NBA until he found his way to the Indiana Pacers before joining the Jazz.

Bogdanovic truly broke out during the 2018 playoffs when the Pacers faced off against the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers.

The forward scored 30 points and hit a series of clutch shots in a game three victory over the Cavaliers to burst onto the scene. Bogdanovic finished the game with 30 points, including seven made three-pointers while erasing a 17-point halftime deficit.

The Cavaliers would win the series in seven games, but not before the future Jazz forward made his launch into NBA stardom.

Joe Ingles

Perhaps no player on the Jazz roster has had a more surprising launch into an NBA career than Joe Ingles. The small forward went from being the final cut of the 2014 Los Angeles Clippers to one of the most crucial players on the Jazz roster.

While Ingles had experienced success playing in both Australia and Europe, he was an afterthought among most NBA teams. The Jazz picked Ingles up off waivers in 2014 where he quickly became a key rotational piece.

However, Ingles’ true launch onto the national scene came during the aforementioned Jazz and Thunder series in 2018. Matched up against star forward Paul George, Ingles frustrated the self-proclaimed “Playoff P” into a forgettable playoff performance. Ingles averaged 14.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists during the series.

In the series-deciding game six, Ingles held George to just five points on 2-16 shooting that saw the Jazz advance to the second round.

Jazz Launch Into Space

The Jazz hold the rare honor of being one of the few NBA teams to be recognized at zero gravity.

George Pantalos is the professor of cardiovascular, thoracic surgery and bioengineering at the University of Louisville. Dr. Pantalos called Utah home during the ’90s, including the Jazz back to back runs to the NBA Finals.

The doctor has worked on developing an artificial heart that would work in space during several zero-gravity trips aboard NASA flights.

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