The Great Team That Couldn't Go All The Way
Malone was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1985. There he joined Stockton, who had been drafted a year before. The two were a powerful combination. Malone, a hard-driving power forward, was often in a position to score, and Stockton was usually poised to feed him the ball at just the right moment. Malone became the team's leading scorer during his sophomore season, and when Stockton became the team's starting point guard in 1987 he wasted no time breaking the NBA's record for greatest number of assists in a single season. When assistant coach Jerry Sloan was promoted to the head coaching position in 1988, the final piece of this long-lived combination fell into place.
Despite the numerous records broken by Malone and Stockton, the Jazz have never been able to win an NBA championship, despite having made the playoffs every single year. After having been eliminated in the first or second round for many years, the Jazz made its first-ever trip to the Western Conference Finals in 1992. There they were eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. The Jazz returned to the Western Conference Finals in 1995, only to be defeated by the Houston Rockets in five games. It took Seattle seven games to beat them in the Western Conference finals in 1996. The next year the Jazz finally made it the whole way to the NBA finals, where they played well but still lost to the Chicago Bulls. They returned to the NBA finals and faced the bulls again in 1998, but again they were defeated. Other notable post-seasons include 1988, when the Jazz forced the eventual NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, to go a full seven games to eliminate them in the second round.