Michael Jordan (right) shoots a jump shot to give the Bulls the win in his last NBA Finals game. (Photo from NBA.com)
1998 was a year of many memorable moments around the world. The largest airport (at the time) was finally completed in Hong Kong, the USA had a $70 billion budget surplus for the first time in thirty years, Bill Clinton claims he did not have sexual relations with that woman and Michael Jordan still played for the Chicago Bulls. At this point, the Bulls had won the previous two years looking to complete a second three-peat. After 1997, the championship pandemonium sparking Chicago was seemingly never-ending, until a few months later when negotiations between Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause began.
“I don’t care if you go 82-0 this year, you’re fucking gone,” the quote that finalized the beginning of the end of the dynasty Bulls. Krause and Jackson often butted heads throughout the Bulls run but Krause made it clear this is the last straw. This line is a shadow of what Krause really believes, that “players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations do.”
Fast forward through the season and the Bulls finish the season 62-20 as Michael Jordan nabs his fifth MVP. The Bulls sweep the New Jersey Nets with poise, ease through the Charlotte Hornets and squeak by the Indiana Pacers in seven games to play the Utah Jazz in the Finals for the second straight year. Meanwhile, the Jazz had just swept the Lakers, LA’s first run with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
While Marv Albert spent his suspension watching the NBA Finals from his home, Bob Costas called the 1998 NBA Finals for NBC, the most-watched NBA series of all-time. The Jazz had ten days to rest for game one, the Bulls only two, and the Jazz took game 1 in overtime. The Bulls bounced back and won three straight including a tense game 4 which came down to Dennis Rodman nailing clutch free throws. In game 5, the United Center crowd anticipated another championship at home against Utah, but Karl Malone had other plans. Malone scored 39 points, bringing in nine rebounds and dishing out five assists and forward reserve Antoine Carr scored 12 crucial points to give the Jazz an 83-81 victory to send it back to Utah for game 6.
Game 6. Delta Center. The game started off with a Scottie Pippen dunk, a play which re-aggravated his back injury and caused him to slow down throughout the game.
Fast forward to the second quarter, where the Jazz have a 28-24 lead, Antoine Carr tries to throw it to Shandon Anderson and the ball flies over his head leading to guard Howard Eisley to immediately shoot the ball as the shot clock expired. Eisley makes the three leading the crowd to go wild, but referee Dick Bavetta is quick to call the shot off. After looking at replays, the announcers agree that the referees missed the call, as the ball left Eisley’s hands when the buzzer sounded. The Jazz however, were still ahead by four points at halftime.
In the fourth quarter, Bulls guard Ron Harper makes a jumpshot to tie the game at 79, it was a similar situation to Eisley’s shot, the clock winding down and he has to throw it up and sees it go in. The plays look similar and when the crew at NBC showed the replay, the shot clock buzzer had sounded and the light was on before Harper let the shot off. It’s important to note the NBA did not have instant replay until 2002, the referees can call off any shot but they did not call off Harper’s like they did Eisley’s.
Let’s fast-forward to the end of the game, you know, one of the most significant sequences in NBA history.
Stockton hits a three to put the Jazz up 3 with around 40 seconds remaining. Jordan comes back and makes a layup to cut it back to one. When the Jazz come down the court to give it to the previous seasons MVP Karl Malone in the post. Malone is double-teamed by Rodman and Jordan when Michael swats the ball for the steal and jogs back towards the Bulls basket.
“17 seconds. 17 seconds from game 7, or from championship #6. Jordan…” Costas continued.
Jordan steadily dribbles with his right hand, the clock winds down…11…10…9…Jordan starts his move, loses his defender for an open look and nails at the top of the free throw circle to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead. Jordan holds his shooting pose to take in the moment with 5.2 seconds remaining and the Jazz call a timeout. Jordan fakes out Russell or..wait a minute…
Credit to SI/NBA Photos/Getty Images
He pushed off. But what did it matter if you were a Jordan fan? The Chicago Bulls had an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds remaining, his 45th point of the game. And there was still enough for the Jazz to force a game 7. The Jazz are known to have countless clutch moments, especially from John Stockton in the playoffs. We’ll let Bob Costas take it from here…Credit to YouTube user CatchTheTaste.
And so it was official. The Chicago Bulls have only won its championships in increments of three-peats. 1998 was often known as “The Last Dance” thanks to Krause’s successful commitment to get rid of Jackson and most of the Bulls core veterans to start fresh. In the previous video at around the 10:35 mark you can even hear Krause saying “we are gonna talk about what happens but this is a great occasion.” Here’s Bob Costas signing off on the 1998 Finals and why the Bulls dynasty is special. (Credit to YouTube user USYAY).
6 rings. 6 finals appearances in 8 years. Game 6 of the 1998 Finals was also the most watched basketball game of all-time. It scored a 22.3 on the Nielson ratings which means 35.89 million tuned in (at least those with a Nielson box) and that doesn’t account for the many people who had to save the game on VHS or those who watched with multiple people on one television set.
Michael Jordan (left) holding the Finals MVP trophy and Phil Jackson (right) with the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the championship rally in Grant Park, Chicago. (Photo credit Jeff Haynes/Getty Images)
Game 6 of the 1998 Finals is so well-known the game itself has its own Wikipedia page. The significance and historical impact of the Bulls 6th championship is a moment worthy enough to make it on our 100 Days of Hoops.