The Forgotten Temple of Salt Lake City: Delta Center
Located kitty corner from stop 18 (Gateway Center/ Clark Planetarium), is perhaps one of the most storied venues in all of 1990’s sports. The corner of 400 west and South Temple is the home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and Hall of fame icons such as Pistol Pete Maravich, Karl Malone and John Stockton. It has played host to what ESPN has called two of the top 5 greatest NBA Finals series of all time, but most recognizably it is where the great Michael Jordan became a legend and cemented his place in sports history forever. This temple of sport Located in Salt Lake City, Utah is now officially labeled as VIvint Smart Home Arena, but will forever be known as, The Delta Center.
Delta Center Origins
After spending much of the 1980’s trying to establish themselves, the Utah Jazz sought a true place to call home after splitting time between both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Located in the heart of Salt Lake City, the Delta Center took shape in 1991 at the helm of the late great Larry H. Miller for a price tag of $93 million. The Delta Center housed some of the most exciting basketball games the World has ever seen including the ’97 & ‘98 NBA Finals, the 1993 NBA All-star Game, and was the venue of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. At the turn of the century, the Delta Center was a host site for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Due to sponsorship limitations by the Olympic committee, the arena was renamed the “Salt Lake Ice Center” while it was the hub for the Olympic Figure Skating events and Olympic Speed Skating. The end of an era would come in 2006 when Delta Airlines decided to part ways with the arena, despite the near by airport being the western hub for Delta Airlines. The Utah Jazz would now call home “Energy Solutions Arena”. Facing high political scrutiny from the public, Energy Solutions did not renew their contract in 2015 and 2016 would bring in yet another new face, Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Stockton To Malone
The greatest sports duo of the 90’s was that of Karl Malone and John Stockton. Often overshadowed by the greatness bestowed upon them by the likes of Michael Jordan, this duo racked up an impressive rap sheet during their time at The Delta Center. Nicknamed “The Mail Man”, Karl was a two-time NBA MVP, a 14-time NBA All-Star, a Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and is 2nd only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the list of the NBA’s All-Time Points Leaders. Karl may have put on some impressive performances at The Delta Center, but he did none of the above alone. John Stockton was a 10-time NBA All-Star, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and is the NBA’s All-Time Assists Leader. These two plus Utah Jazz legend Pete Maravich, are the only three Utah Jazz players to be named tothe NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list.
Arch Nemesis Of The Utah Jazz
Believe it or not, it wasn’t a home town hero that put the Utah Jazz or Salt Lake City Sports on the map, it was Michael Jordan who made Salt Lake and The Delta Center the mecca of 90’s NBA Culture. In 1997 and 1998, Jordan would shock the world with the performances he put on during the NBA Playoffs, but two games would define his entire career and they both took place in none other than, Salt Lake City. Game 5 better known as “The Flu Game” took place during the 1997 NBA Finals. Sick as a dog, Jordan forced himself on to the court to put on a performance that silenced even the most critical of skeptics. MJ shot nearly 50% from the floor and scored 38 points to put a dark cloud over any chance the Utah Jazz may have had of winning The Finals that year. In 1998, a nearly identical situation brought the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls to Game 6. With the shot clock off and The Bulls down 85-86, Jordan found himself getting a steal that would grant him one more opportunity to win his 6th NBA Championship without going to game 7. As Jordan brought the ball down the court, the patrons of Salt Lake City had no idea that they were about to witness Sports History, or better known as The Last Shot. Jordan hit a game winning 2-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in the game to eliminate the Utah Jazz in their hometown of Salt Lake City. This would be the last time the Utah Jazz would make an appearance in the NBA Finals to date.
During your US Bus Tour of Salt Lake City, make sure to make time to visit The Delta Center (Vivint Smart Home Arena), the forgotten temple of Salt Lake City.