Jordan's jumper gives Bulls their 6th title in 8 years
Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 12:42 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (CNN/SI) -- The last dance for the Chicago Bulls was a nifty new step known as the double-triple.
Led by the incomparable Michael Jordan -- who perhaps may have fittingly
ended his career with another game-winning shot -- basketball's
dysfunctional dynasty won its sixth championship in eight years with an
87-86 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
"It was the toughest route, toughest challenge in the six championships that
we've won," Jordan said. "In some people's eyes no one expected us to
fulfill this, and that was part of the challenge. In the five before that, everyone predicted us in some respects, and it was a hands-down situation. Here, it wasn't."
In an area where he is unmatched as a player, Jordan once again came
through in the clutch. With his team trailing by three points, Jordan scored on
a drive, made a crucial steal and then buried a 20-footer -- and perhaps all
arguments regarding his standing as the greatest player of all time -- with 5.2
The Bulls, among the most dominant teams in sports history, beat the Jazz in
the Finals for the second straight year and captured a third straight title for
the second time this decade. They won three in a row from 1991-93, with
Jordan retiring before the next season and returning 17 months later.
Moments after this win, the retirement questions began again.
"That's a gut feeling," Jordan said. "When I walked away the first time, it was
a feeling. It wasn't something someone told me. When I came back, it was a
Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson -- the only Bulls who have
been a part of all six titles -- all have contracts that expire July 1. For
different reasons, all three have indicated a desire to move on, with
ownership inexplicably planning to dismantle the greatest NBA powerhouse
since the Boston Celtics of the 1960s.
Jordan overcame fatigue as he scored 45 points and won his sixth Finals
Most Valuable Player award, reaffirming his status as the best player on the
planet. Although he seems to get better with age, the 35-year-old superstar
repeatedly has said he will retire if Pippen and Jackson do not return.
"It was a long road," Jordan said. "Somehow we made it."
Pippen's suffocating defense dominated the first four games until a back
injury slowed him. He scored eight gutty points between trips to the locker
room for treatment, picking his spots carefully. He has a long-running feud
with management and intends to test the free-agent market, where he could
remove his unofficial title of most underpaid superstar in the league.
"I was just going to try to gut it out," said Pippen, who was crying
afterwards. "I just didn't know how much I was going to be able to give."
Jackson moved past John Kundla of the pre-shot clock Minneapolis Lakers
with his sixth coaching championship. He also has feuded with management
and said last summer that this would be his final season as coach of the Bulls.
After the final buzzer, he had a long embrace with Jordan.
"How sweet it is!" Jackson said. "I don't know if anyone could write a
scenario like this."
In accepting the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and
general manager Jerry Krause refused to discuss the future.
"Winning six championships in eight years is unbelievable," said Reinsdorf.
"It's a tribute to a great coach and his staff, [and] great players."
"All I'm going to do is celebrate and have fun and we're going to talk later
on," Krause said.
The Jazz, who before the series began were thought to have a good chance
to overthrow Chicago's dynasty, became the first team since the Los
Angeles Lakers of 1983-84 to lose consecutive trips to the Finals.
Led by superstars Karl Malone and John Stockton, they pushed the Bulls to
six games last year and pushed hard again this year, but could not break
through. All but one game went down to the final minute -- where Jordan
usually takes over.
"I said to him that I hope he comes back," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
"He's the greatest player that's ever played."
Malone had 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Stockton scored
10 points, including a three-pointer with 41 seconds left that gave the Jazz an
86-83 lead. Forever linked as teammates, Stockton and Malone are now
1-2 on the all-time list with 147 and 137 career playoff games without a
"It's a lot of work to put in and end up like this," Stockton said.
"Karl and John are some gutty performers," Pippen admitted. "It was a great
series, even better than last year."
After Jordan's drive, Malone took a pass in the low post but had the ball
slapped away from him by Jordan, who came up court and used a jab step
move to free himself from Bryon Russell and make the go-ahead jumper.
Utah called timeout, and Stockton hit the front of the rim on a three-pointer.
The ball bounded away and the raucous Delta Center fell silent as the Bulls
celebrated on the court.
"Michael's the guy who comes through," Jackson said. "He's always the guy
who comes through. He's a winner."
The Bulls improved to 5-0 in Game Sixes in the Finals and won a title on the
road for the third time. Toni Kukoc -- one of the few players who definitely
will be back next season -- scored 15 points, picking up some of the
offensive slack for Pippen.
Jeff Hornacek scored 17 points for the Jazz, who lost three games in the
series by a combined 10 points. Utah set a record low for a six-game Finals
with 481 points, including just 54 in Game Four.
"Our defense has held us strong all series," Jordan said. "We wouldn't be in
this scenario without the defense."
Jordan shot 15-of-35 from the field and 12-of-15 from the line. He scored
16 points in the fourth quarter, including Chicago's final eight over the last
2:06, carrying the offense as Pippen hobbled up and down the court.
Malone's jumper gave the Jazz a 79-77 lead with 4:17 to play, but Ron
Harper tied it with a runner that appeared to come after the shot clock
expired. Russell's two free throws and a jumper by Malone gave Utah an
83-79 lead with 2:34 remaining.
Jordan took over, making two pairs of free throws around a missed
three-pointer to pull Chicago into an 83-83 tie with 59 seconds to go. The
Jazz helped by committing three turnovers in the last three minutes, finishing
"You can't afford to give them second chances," Sloan said. "With Michael
Jordan out there, he was going to make the plays, he was going to do that.
It's a bitter pill to swallow."
With what sounded like the entire state jammed into the Delta Center, the
Jazz could not ride the momentum of the crowd to a quick start. After a
drive by Stockton pulled Utah into an 8-8 tie, Chicago ran off nine straight
points, five by Jordan, to take a 17-8 lead with 4:58 left in the first quarter.
But Pippen headed to the locker room to stretch his troubled back, and the
Jazz came back. Hornacek made a layup and the teams traded technical foul
shots before Utah scored eight in a row, capped by Malone's jumper in the
lane for a 19-18 lead.
Starting quickly for the fourth straight game, Malone closed the period with a
tough runner in the lane and a three-point play around a jumper by Jordan,
giving the Jazz a 25-22 edge. Malone scored 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
The fourth illegal defense call against the Bulls gave Howard Eisley a
technical foul shot that opened the lead to 28-22. With Pippen out, Jordan
returned and took over the offense as he scored 15 of Chicago's final 19
points on the half, using spin moves, post-ups and a pair of three-pointers.
Malone and Antoine Carr dueled Jordan for a while as the forward duo
combined for 14 straight Utah points.
Jordan's turnaround jumper gave the Bulls a 45-45 tie with 1:40 left, but he
tired, missing his final four shots of the quarter and getting beat for a
back-door layup by Stockton. With four seconds left, Russell also got loose
for a layup, giving the Jazz a 49-45 halftime lead.
In the first half, Jordan scored 23 points and got some help from Kukoc,
who added 10, as the Bulls shot 58 percent. But the Jazz were even better,
making 61 percent as Malone scored 20 points and Hornacek contributed
"I just wanted to try and be a little bit more aggressive offensively,"
Hornacek said. "We got some opportunities. We were into the game pretty
Pippen took treatment that including electrical stimulation for nearly an hour
and started the second half. He missed a jumper and begged off his normal
ballhandling duties in the offense.
"I knew I was going to come back in the second half," Pippen said. "I just
didn't know how much I was going to be able to deal."
"We tried to get treatment with some ice to numb the pain," said Jackson.
"He got back in the second half and double-teamed on Karl. But he wasn't
as active as he usually is."
Both teams cooled off from the field but heated up otherwise. Malone and
Dennis Rodman, future wrestling foes, got tangled up after a rebound and
traded takedowns before Malone elbowed Rodman and got tripped for his
trouble. Malone's free throw gave the Jazz a 54-51 lead midway through the
Pippen made a jump hook between two missed layups tipped home by
Rodman, but returned to the locker room for treatment. The Jazz made just
two baskets in the first 10:51 of the period but stayed on top by sinking
7-of-10 free throws.
Hornacek's follow shot snapped a 60-60 tie and Eisley fed Carr for a dunk
and Adam Keefe for a layup as Utah opened its lead to 66-61 after three
quarters. Jordan outscored Malone 6-5 in the period.
Jordan opened the fourth quarter with four quick points and a three-pointer
by Kukoc pulled Chicago into a 70-70 tie. With Jordan on the bench,
Shandon Anderson's three-point play gave Utah a 73-70 advantage, but
Jordan quickly returned and his free throws and foul-line jumper gave the
Bulls their first lead since the second quarter.