Thanks to the magic of television, the Jazz have been one of the premier teams in the league during the 147-day lockout.
While modern stars such as LeBron James have become faceless during the work stoppage, relegated to random charity exhibition games and promotional appearances, the NBA has lived through its storied past.
Some say the best way to live life is not to look back. But that's often all the lockout-out league has been able to do, as days have turned into months and a work stoppage that began July 1 pushes toward December.
Philadelphia should have played Atlanta on Thanksgiving; Chris Paul's Hornets were originally scheduled to take on Blake Griffin's Clippers. Not bad for Thanksgiving on TNT, considering Turkey Day is normally reserved for teams with gridiron-based names such as the Packers and Lions.
What did devoted roundball fans get instead on NBA TV? Larry Bird's 50 greatest moments; a documentary on the glory of Golden State's Run TMC during the 1990s; Gene Hackman and "Hoosiers"; and yet another Hardwood Classic: Game 5 of the 1990 Eastern Conference first-round playoffs, with Patrick Ewing's New York Knicks edging past the aging Celtics.
That old-school foursome followed the Jazz's own nostalgia trip Wednesday, when Stockton's historic buzzer-beater against Houston on May 29, 1997 was broadcast on KJZZ as part of the station's "Jazz Classics" programming.
"Some of these games we've actually had in the can in some form for quite a while," said Chris Baum, general manager of KJZZ. "So we're kind of bringing them back out and dusting them off and redoing them."
NBA arena concession workers and parking lot attendants have been left out in the cold during the lockout. Players have alternately taken their talents overseas and fumed on Twitter. Coaches have held closed-door meetings, while commissioner David Stern has warned of a nuclear winter. But TV station programmers have faced some of the stiffest challenges, filling up dead space and glossing over canceled games by showing longtime fans what the league looks like when its doors are open.
KJZZ's lockout-inspired work has included new interviews about old topics, with everyone from Sloan and Phil Johnson to Frank and Scott Layden weighing in on the past.
"[Sloan] is obviously a friend of the organization and a great guy," Baum said. "He's been more than willing to open his door to us. … He loves basketball and he has a fun time looking back on these things because of some great memories."
Lockout television hasn't been all warm and fuzzy, though. Multiple primetime airings on NBA TV of 1980s furball flick "Teen Wolf" and "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" a Dr. J-driven, disco-themed disaster have at times left the channel looking vacant and unloved during the work stoppage.
But the station has also balanced new programming with original lockout coverage. The Tuesday debut of "Open Court" saw former stars such as Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal open up about the game that made their names, while the channel has become the go-to source for press conferences after failed collective bargaining sessions.
"The league as well as Turner, we all embrace the need to have balanced coverage. … The talent that we have on air really has a command of the issues and wants to tell that story full-scope," said Christina Miller, GM of NBA Digital.
Baum said his staff has enjoyed the opportunity to rebroadcast legendary Jazz contests. But he's uncertain how much longer KJZZ will be able to shine a light on Utah's past, adding the NBA won't allow airings of games featuring any modern players.
"As you look back in time, how many games are there that you'd consider real classics? How long can you play this out?" Baum said.
For now, though, the NBA's doors remain locked. And Stockton to Malone is brought back to life through the magic of TV, while Sloan sometimes still coaches the Jazz.
"We knew it was something we wanted to do," Baum said. "The lockout just provided great timing, because we're all missing the Jazz games at least a little bit I know I am as a fan."
Remaining Jazz classics
Broadcast date • Matchup, significance
Nov. 30 • Bulls vs. Jazz, Game 4, 1997 NBA Finals
Dec. 7 • Bucks vs. Jazz, Karl Malone scores career-high 61
Dec. 14 • Nuggets vs. Jazz, John Stockton becomes NBA's all-time assist leader
Dec. 21 • Various, great finishes from 1980s and 1990s
Dec. 28 • Jazz at Rockets, Game 5, 1985 Western Conference first-round playoffs
Note: All broadcast on KJZZ