Best Season Openers In Jazz History

Dec 23, 2020, 2:37 PM | Updated: 2:38 pm
John Stockton against the Denver Nuggets (Photo By: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)...
John Stockton against the Denver Nuggets (Photo By: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
(Photo By: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz 2020-21 season gets underway tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers. While every season is unique, the COVID-19 pandemic promises to make this one of the most remembered season openers in Jazz history.

However, the Jazz matchup with the Trail Blazers is far from the only significant season opener in team history. In fact, the Jazz and Portland have had a series of memorable and important opening night games throughout their histories

With that in mind, we look at the most significant season openers spanning the Jazz 41-year history.

Utah Jazz Season Openers

1979 – Utah Jazz 85 – 101 Portland Trail Blazers

The only loss to make the list, this game is significant as it was the first season opener in Utah Jazz history. The team had moved from New Orleans to Utah during the 1979 offseason after struggling to find footing in The Big Easy.

Like this year’s opener, the Jazz began the season on the road, though fans will be hoping for a different outcome.

The Jazz lost their opening night game as representatives of Utah 101-85, but showed some glimmer of hope for what the franchise could become.

Forward Adrian Dantley led the Jazz in scoring with 26 points, but the debuting franchise was outdone by the Trail Blazers Tom Owens who had 29 points in the opener.

1980 Utah Jazz 96 – 86 Portland Trail Blazers

Once again the Trail Blazers and Jazz found themselves facing off in an opening night matchup.

This game marked the first victory in a season opener for the Jazz who took down Portland 96-86.

Darrell Griffth, the future Rookie of the Year, scored 26 points in his career opener, becoming the first and only Jazz rookie to score at least 20 points on opening night.

Fun fact, former Jazzman Ronnie Brewer’s father Ron Brewer led the Trail Blazers in scoring with 26 points in the loss.

1989 Utah Jazz 122 – 113 Denver Nuggets

In perhaps the best opening night performances in Jazz history, Hall of Famer Karl Malone scored 40 points, matching the franchise high in a season opener (Dantley) while grabbing 16 rebounds and handing out five assists.

Meanwhile, fellow Hall of Famer John Stockton set an NBA opening night record dishing out 19 assists to go along with 23 points in the Jazz 122-103 victory.

Sixth man Thurl Bailey scored 23 points of his own as the Jazz opened the season with a bang behind two magnificent season-opening performances.

2003 – Utah Jazz 99-92 Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers once again find themselves on the Jazz list of historic season openers. In the first Jazz opener that featured neither Stockton nor Malone in more than 19 years, the Jazz stunned the significantly more talented Portland roster 99-92.

The Jazz were picked by some experts to have the worst record in NBA history but quickly demolished those prognostications thanks to their underdog attitude and the breakout play of Andrei Kirilenko.

Carlos Arroyo led the Jazz with 18 points, while Kirilenko and Raja Bell added 16 points each for the team, assuring fans of a bright future after losing two superstars in one offseason.

2005 Utah Jazz 93-82 Dallas Mavericks

While the 2003 season opener was exciting, the 2005 opener marked a new era for the Jazz. Lottery pick Deron Williams made his Jazz debut scoring 18 points while helping the team knock off the Dallas Mavericks 93-82.

Even though he wasn’t starting, it was apparent the Jazz had a budding star in Williams whose fourth-quarter play helped limit the Mavericks to just 15 points in the comeback victory.

2017 – Utah Jazz 106-96 Denver Nuggets

Though his rookie debut numbers didn’t match those of Williams, the debut of Donovan Mitchell is an important date in team history.

Rodney Hood was scheduled to start the game but last-minute gastric distress pushed Mitchell into the starting lineup.

The future All-Star scored 11 points in his NBA debut, while the Jazz were led by Rudy Gobert who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the 106-96 victory.

The Jazz and the Trail Blazers will tip-off tonight at 8 pm MT at Moda Center. The game will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.


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Best Season Openers In Jazz History