The New Orleans Jazz was founded by California restaurant owner Sam Battistone, whose chain of restaurants known as Sambo’s featured racist iconography in its establishments. Race too undoubtedly played a role in the demise of the Jazz, as it had in the dismantling of the Atlanta Hawks after its move from St. Louis, but such was not the team’s principal failing. Neither had race been the principal failing of the city’s American Basketball Association (ABA) predecessor, the Buccaneers. Ultimately, the Jazz was shaped by the histories of the Deep South’s first National Basketball Association team and its first ABA team. Racism and the foreignness of a “black sport” like professional basketball, then, combined with an overexuberant civic ideal that sought a place for New Orleans in the burgeoning Sunbelt by bringing in professional sports to bolster a reputation that the city was not ready to embrace.

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