In 1986, the Utah Jazz Traded 2-Time NBA Scoring Leader Adrian Dantley, and They Couldn’t Have Been Happier

In 1986, Adrian Dantley, a future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and two-time NBA scoring leader, was sent packing by the Utah Jazz. His new team, the Detroit Pistons, was his fifth squad since he came into the league in 1976.

No matter where he played, Dantley put up the numbers. In seven seasons with the Jazz, he averaged 29.6 points and 6.2 rebounds as a 6-foot-5 guard. The Jazz traded him for lesser value, acquiring Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson, but couldn’t have been happier setting him free.

How good was Adrian Dantley?

Adrian Dantley of the Utah Jazz dribbles the ball against the New Jersey Nets during an NBA game circa 1980 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

Dantley played 15 years in the NBA and was one of the league’s most prolific scorers. At 6-5, he was one of the best post-up guards in the NBA and averaged better than 30 points in four straight seasons.

In 1976, the Buffalo Braves drafted Dantley out of Notre Dame with the sixth overall pick. He played one season with the Braves, averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 36.6 minutes. The Braves dealt him to the Indiana Pacers, where he played 23 games before they traded him midseason to the Los Angeles Lakers.

He spent two seasons in LA before they shipped him to the Jazz in exchange for Spencer Haywood. In Utah, Dantley finally seemed to have found a home.

In his first season with the Jazz, he made the first of his six All-Star appearances after putting up 28.0 points and 7.6 rebounds. The following season, he led the NBA in scoring at 30.7 points. For the next three years, he averaged better than 30 points, including the 1983-84 season when he led the league again at 30.6.

Dantley finished his career with stints with the Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, and Milwaukee Bucks. His career scoring average is 24.3 points. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Jazz were ecstatic to trade Dantley to the Pistons

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Things got ugly between Dantley and the Jazz after winning his second scoring title. According to The Washington Post, Utah coach/GM Frank Layden accused the star of “trying to hold the team hostage” as he held out in a contract dispute. They tried to trade him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Julius Erving, but the deal fell through.

Dantley also irked Layden after Dantley sided with Karl Malone, then a rookie, during a locker room altercation. Shortly after, Layden suspended Dantley for a game. Dantley then held his own press conference to give his side of the story. That didn’t sit well with Layden.

The Jazz finally traded Dantley for Tripucka and Benson. Jazz president Dave Checketts was all smiles when the deal took place.

”The biggest benefit to us in the Adrian Dantley trade was addition by subtraction,” Checketts said, per The Chicago Tribune. “We knew we had to get rid of him, and we were never so happy to get rid of a guy in the history of the franchise.”

There was a point when Dantley thought he’d call Utah his forever NBA home, but then he came to realize that wouldn’t be the case.

“There was a time when I thought I’d stay, looking at the bottom line, business and production, but then you look at personalities, and I knew it would probably happen,” Dantley said per The Post after the trade.

“The things I did, the holdout, having the press conference, were just to protect my rights. It’s good to be out of the situation, but like I always said, the coach never affected my production.”