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1998 NBA Finals
1998 NBA Finals logo.png
Team Coach Wins
Chicago Bulls Phil Jackson 4
Utah Jazz Jerry Sloan 2
Dates: June 3–14
MVP: Michael Jordan
(Chicago Bulls)
Eastern Finals: Bulls defeated Pacers, 4–3
Western Finals: Jazz defeated Lakers, 4–0

The 1998 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1998 Playoffs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the conclusion of the 1997–98 NBA season.

The defending two-time NBA champion and Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls played against the Western Conference champion Utah Jazz, with the Jazz holding home-court advantage for the first 2 games in Salt Lake City. In a repeat of the previous year's Finals, the Bulls won the series 4 games to 2 for their third consecutive NBA title and their sixth in eight seasons.

Michael Jordan was voted the NBA Finals MVP of the series (he also had won the award the last five times the Bulls won the Finals: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1997). This would be his sixth NBA championship and sixth Finals MVP award in six full basketball seasons. This would be his final season of winning the NBA championship and Finals MVP.

The 1998 Finals garnered the highest Nielsen TV ratings in NBA history at 18.7, and even surpassed the Nielsen ratings for the 1998 World Series, marking the first time the NBA had a higher rating in its championship round than of Major League Baseball's championship round.

Until 2012, this was the most recent final played entirely outside of either Texas or California. Until 2014, it was the last consecutive Finals rematch between two teams. Until 2015, it the last Finals not to the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat and the last until then not to include either Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Dwyane Wade. Until 2021, this was the last NBA Finals without a team from either Texas, California, or Florida.

1998 NBA Playoffs

Utah Jazz (Western Conference Champion) Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference Champion)
62–20 (.756)

1st Midwest, 1st West, 1st Overall

Regular season 62–20 (.756)

1st Central, 1st East, 2nd Overall

Defeated the (8) Houston Rockets, 3–2 First Round Defeated the (8) New Jersey Nets, 3–0
Defeated the (5) San Antonio Spurs, 4–1 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (4) Charlotte Hornets, 4–1
Defeated the (3) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–0 Conference Finals Defeated the (3) Indiana Pacers, 4–3

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.

Quotes from the Finals

"Jordan with 43. Malone is doubled. They swat at him and steal it! Here comes Chicago. 17 seconds. 17 seconds, from Game 7, or from championship #6. Jordan, open, CHICAGO WITH THE LEAD! Timeout 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.

"That may have been, who knows what will unfold over the next several months, but that may have been the last shot Michael Jordan will ever take in the NBA."

—NBC's Bob Costas adding on his call of Michael Jordan's game-winning shot as replays were showing the shot.

"Hornacek screens across. Malone to the post. Malone...stripped by Michael, to the floor, stolen by MJ! Michael the steal! 16 seconds left, Bulls down one...Michael against Russell, 12 seconds...11...10. Jordan, Jordan, a drive, hangs...fires...SCORES! 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.

"All that's missing for Utah is a blindfold and a cigarette."

—NBC's Bob Costas, on Chicago's blowout win in Game 3.

Aftermath

As of the 2020–21 season, this series remains the last Finals appearances for both the Bulls and Jazz. After the season, the Bulls dynasty that had headlined and popularized the NBA throughout the 1990s broke up. Without its key personnel, the Bulls were a total shell of their former selves, missing the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 1999 season, winning just 13 of 50 games and finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls would not make the postseason again until 2005, win a playoff series until 2007, and earn the Eastern Conference top seed until 2011.

Phil Jackson declined an offer from the team president to coach another season. He would come back as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999, winning five NBA titles in two separate stints with the team before retiring in 2011. This would give Jackson 11 NBA Titles, the most for a coach in the history of the four major American sports leagues. Ron Harper followed Jackson to the Lakers and won championships during his final two seasons, in 2000 and 2001.

In January 1999, Michael Jordan announced his retirement for the second time; he would come out of retirement for the second and final time in 2001 with the Washington Wizards and played two seasons with the team. However, neither season ended with a playoff appearance. Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets during the offseason and played his last season (2003–04) with the Bulls. Dennis Rodman, released by the Bulls in the offseason, signed with the Lakers mid-season, playing only 23 games before being released. In January 1999, the Bulls re-signed Steve Kerr and traded him to the San Antonio Spurs, where he would win two more championships in 1999 and 2003, his last year in the NBA. Kerr would go on to win three championships as head coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Luc Longley also retired in 2001.

The Jazz would continue to make the postseason until 2003, John Stockton's last season, and next made the Western Conference Finals in 2007 but lost in five games to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. The following three seasons, the Jazz made the postseason but each time were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan resigned in February 2011.

Antoine Carr and Chris Morris became free agents after the Finals, signed with other teams, and retired by 2000. Jeff Hornacek retired in 2000 after two more seasons with Utah. After five more seasons with the Jazz, Karl Malone spent his final season of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, hoping to win an NBA championship that had long alluded him in his career, only for him and the Lakers to lose in the 2004 NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, and thus Malone retired after the season without a NBA championship.

The 2005–06 postseason saw the retirement or departure from the NBA of these former members of the 1998 Finals teams: Howard Eisley, Greg Ostertag, Shandon Anderson, Bryon Russell, and Toni Kukoč. Eisley remained with the Jazz the next two seasons and ended his career with the Denver Nuggets. In July 2006, the Nuggets traded Eisley to the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls later waived Eisley before the 2006–07 season. Ostertag retired in 2006 after having played all but one season since the 1998 Finals with the Jazz; he played for the Sacramento Kings in 2004-05. In his second season with the team and final season of his career, Anderson won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. Like Eisley, Russell played his final NBA season with the Denver Nuggets in 2005–06; Russell played three years afterward with teams in the American Basketball Association and International Basketball League.

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 three-peat 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
1998
Succeeded by
1999
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