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1998 NBA Finals

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The 1998 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1997-1998 National Basketball Association season. The Chicago Bulls of the Eastern Conference played against the Utah Jazz of the Western Conference, with the Jazz holding home-court advantage. The series was played under a best-of-seven format, so the first team to collect four victories secured the series and thus the title.

Considered one of the best NBA Finals matchups in recent history, this was a repeat of the previous year's Finals, which the Bulls won 4-2. This series pitted four of the greatest players in NBA history against each other; Legendary guard Michael Jordan and the versatile swingman Scottie Pippen of the Bulls faced off against "The Mailman", forward Karl Malone and point guard great John Stockton of the Jazz.

The Bulls won the series 4 games to 2 to give the Bulls their third consecutive NBA title, and their sixth in eight seasons. Michael Jordan was voted the Most Valuable Player of the series. He also had won the award the last five times the Bulls won the Finals: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997. Michael Jordan did not play during the 1994 season and returned from retirement to play the final 27 games (17 regular season and 10 playoff) of the Bulls' 1995 season. As a result, this would be his sixth NBA championship and sixth Finals MVP award in six full basketball seasons, an unprecedented feat.

Television: NBC (Bob Costas, Isiah Thomas, and Doug Collins announcing)

Series summary

Legend: OT denotes a game decided in overtime

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1 June 3 Utah 88-85 (OT) Chicago
Game 2 June 5 Utah 88-93 Chicago
Game 3 June 7 Chicago 96-54 Utah
Game 4 June 10 Chicago 86-82 Utah
Game 5 June 12 Chicago 81-83 Utah
Game 6 June 14 Utah 86-87 Chicago

Bulls win series 4-2

Game 1 & 2

Unlike the 97 finals, the Jazz entered this series as equals. They had won both regular season match-ups, and many analysts predicted a hard fought seven game series. Predictions of a Jazz championship were strengthened with their game one victory in overtime in Utah. True to form, the Bulls would tie the series in game 2, finally securing their first victory against Utah all season.

Game 3, 4 and 5

The finals would move to Chicago with control of the series at stake in Game 3. Though anticipation was high, no one could have expected a blow-out of the proportions seen in Game 3. With a 96-54 triumph over Utah, the Jazz would manage to set an embarrassing record with the lowest points scored in Finals history, while everyone on the Bulls scored. The Jazz would pull themselves together in Game 4 in a better, desperate attempt to tie the series at 2-2.

The early Jazz series-lead seemed like a distant memory, a false indication of a tough series as they hit the floor for game 5 behind 3-1. Chicago fans prepared for the last game they would host with the Jordan led Bulls of the 90's. But any notions of a championship on the home floor would be snuffed out when Jordan uncharacteristically missed the game winning shot. With the series shifting back to Utah with a far more generous 3-2 Bulls advantage, the promise of another Chicago championship was not so certain.

Game 6

The Jazz had dedicated themselves all season to specifically winning a Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls. And the Chicago Bulls had never let a Finals series go to a game seven. As they arrived at the Delta Center for Game 6, things didn't look good for the Bulls. Scottie Pippen's back gave away, and he had to leave the game and perhaps be out for the entire series. Tensions ran high in the Delta Center when the Jazz discovered the problems of their own. They suffered a couple shot clock violations but television relplays showed that Howard Eisley got the ball out of his hands for a three-pointer before the shot clock reached to zero and the referees missed the call. In the 4th quarter, the Bulls closed the gap. Then with 41.3 seconds left, things got worse as John Stockton came up huge with a clutch 3-point shot to give Utah an 86-83 lead that blew the roof off the Delta Center. Down by three, the Bulls had one last chance to stay alive. Running perilously low on energy, it would be imperative for Chicago to win the series before the game went into overtime.

After Michael Jordan made a layup to cut the Jazz lead to one, the Bulls needed to stop the Jazz from scoring again. When John Stockton passed the ball to Karl Malone, Michael Jordan stole the ball away and dribbled to the front. Guarding him was Bryon Russell, one of the Jazz's best perimeter defenders. Jordan drove inside the 3-point line, then completed a quick cross-over, giving Russell a shove, which was ultimately not called by the referees, and wasn't because Jordan gets away with more than any player to ever play in the league. As Russell fell, Jordan jumped and made a 20-foot shot to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds left. With time winding down, Stockton's three-pointer hit the rim and bounced away, giving the Bulls their sixth NBA title in 8 years. The famous winning shot has been immortalized in many records. Jordan was afterwards named the Finals MVP.

Controversy

Game 6 of the finals was one of the most popular and controversial events in the history of the NBA for two reasons:

1) Michael Jordan played his last game as a Chicago Bull

2) Michael Jordan hit the game winning shot over Bryon Russell after a controversial move to get open.

The controversy concerning the final shot by Michael Jordan has been discussed at length, with fans from both sides seeing things differently.Template:Fact

Quotes from the Finals

"17 seconds from Game 7, or from Championship number 6,Jordan, open, Chicago with the lead. Time out Utah, 5.2 seconds left, Michael Jordan running on fumes with 45 points." - NBC's Bob Costas making the call of Michael Jordan's game-winning shot

If that's the last image of Michael Jordan...how magnificent is it!?--Bob Costas

"All that's missing for Utah is a blindfold and a cigarette"
-Costas, on Chicago's blowout of Utah in Game 3

"Malone...stripped by Michael, to the floor, stolen by MJ! Michael the steal! 16 seconds left, Bulls down 1. Michael against Russell, 12 seconds...11...10. Jordan, Jordan a drive, hangs...fires...SCORE! He scores! The Bulls lead 87-86 with five and two tenths left, and now they're one stop away. Oh my goodness. Oh, my goodness." - Neil Funk calling Jordan's steal and game-winner on the Bulls' radio network.

Trivia

  • The Bulls clinched their second three-peat in similar fashion to their first three-peat, having led both series 3-1, losing Game 5 in Chicago and winning Game 6 on the road to win the series. The first threepeat came against the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals.
  • The Bulls faced only their second Game 7 (Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana) in their championship run dating back to 1991. In the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bulls beat the New York Knicks in Game 7 at Chicago Stadium.
  • Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan have appeared on all six Bulls championship teams.
  • World Championship Wrestling was quick to capitalize on the mainstream media interest in the Finals, by featuring a match involving both Rodman and Malone. NBC play-by-play announcer Bob Costas, in particular, was a vocal critic of their involvement. At the 1998 Bash at the Beach, Rodman teamed with Hulk Hogan to defeat Malone and Diamond Dallas Page. It was the second appearance at the event for Rodman, having drawn controversy, an NBA fine, and the ire of Jackson the previous year for skipping practice for his involvement in professional wrestling then.

External links

The following sites are all from the NBA official site:

The following links are to other sites on the Internet:


Preceded by
1997 NBA Finals
NBA Finals
1998
Succeeded by
1999 NBA Finals

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