The 90’s Utah Jazz are a lot like the 90’s Cleveland Indians: they had stacked rosters, great regular season success, but had the unfortunate coincidence of running into the decade’s dynasty-in-progress (Bulls and Yankees, respectively). When I think of the Jazz of the 90’s, of course it’s Stockton, Malone, and Jeff Hornacek. But then I think of one of my all-time favorite NBA big men, Greg Ostertag.
The Jazz drafted Ostertag to fill the shoes of all-star Mark Eaton, who retired after the 1993 season. Ostertag went to Kansas, and was one of the most dominant forces in the Big 12 Conference (Then known as the Big 8).
While I’m talking about that, is the Big 12 even a conference anymore? I don’t know anything about this new NCAA conference crap, so we’ll leave that for another time. If someone wants to leave a comment describing the changes to the conferences in two or three sentences, that’d be great. Otherwise it’s not really a big deal. The point is, Ostertag was sick in college.
Ostertag’s first few seasons in the NBA were also pretty good, and he emerged as the team’s starting center in 1997, when he went toe-to-toe with some of the best centers in the game. This caused the Jazz to give Ostertag a six year, $39 million deal, and it was all downhill from there. Ostertag was known for his unwillingness to remain in good physical shape (Karl Malone called him a “Fat fuck” when he showed up overweight for training camp in 1997) and the huge contract only seemed to make things worse. Ostertag couldn’t always play his full starting minutes because of how out-of-shape he was. He played a season for the Kings toward the end of his career, but returned to the Jazz for his final season in 2005.
He was also dunked on. Frequently and violently.
Greg Ostertag was arguably the worst contract ever given to a member of the Utah Jazz. He scored 4.6 points per game for his career, but he was more heralded as a shot-blocker, and given his playing time, he was one of the most efficient shot-blockers of his day. Ostertag is one of my personal favorite Obscure Athletes, I hope he’s also one of yours!