Michael Jordan had an idea that the 1997-98 season would be his final year with the Chicago Bulls, so he was adamant about giving it his all every day and doing everything in his power to win his sixth championship.
However, since he already had five titles and knew Jerry Krause would break up the team after the season, Jordan got complacent during his final year in Chicago for about three weeks. Fortunately, His Airness snapped out of his funk after a chat with Phil Jackson.
Michael Jordan on 1997-98 season: I stopped working out for about 3 1/2 weeks
In April 1998, Jordan sat down with Rick Telander of ESPN for a wide-ranging interview. The Bulls superstar admitted that complacency set in for him since he had accomplished so much already.
“Now it’s easy for complacency to set in,” Jordan said. “It’s human nature. It happened to me. I stopped working out for about 3 1/2 weeks this season. I got used to sleeping in, taking shortcuts. And it affected me on the court. Human nature. You don’t even know you’ve done anything until you see signs in your game. I told Phil Jackson one morning, ‘I’ve been taking short cuts, yet I’m expecting the same results. It can’t happen that way.’ So I went back to working out, doing the things necessary. And I feel better physically, and I feel good about me as a person. I’m getting up at eight every day instead of nine. I’m not getting soft.”
Jordan had an incredible résumé before the 1997-98 season. He was a four-time MVP, nine-time scoring champion, one-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time champion, and five-time Finals MVP. No one would have blamed him for showing complacency on the basketball court since he was mentally and physically exhausted from dominating the ’90s.
However, Jordan wasn’t built to be overly content, which is why he had an incredible final season with the Bulls despite his minor setback.
Michael Jordan won 10th scoring title and fifth MVP in 1997-98
Not only did Jordan play in all 82 games in 1997-98, but he also won his 10th scoring title, fifth MVP, and third All-Star Game MVP. Black Jesus averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 46.5% from the field and 78.4% from the free-throw line.
Behind Jordan, the Bulls went 62-20 in 1997-98 and were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They defeated the New Jersey Nets in the first round, the Charlotte Hornets in the second round, and the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals to advance to their sixth NBA Finals.
Jordan and the Bulls needed seven games to get past the Pacers. They were drained heading into the Finals against the Utah Jazz and didn’t have home-court advantage. However, Superman wasn’t going to let anything stop him from winning his sixth Larry O’Brien trophy.
Bulls beat Jazz in six games
The Bulls lost Game 1 to the Jazz but won Games 2, 3, and 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. They had a chance to win championship No. 6 in Chicago in Game 5, but Utah won behind 39 points from Karl Malone.
June 14, 1998, is a date NBA fans will likely never forget. It was Jordan’s last game with the Bulls, and he put on a spectacular show, scoring 45 points in 43 minutes. The Hall of Famer scored four points and recorded one steal in the final 41.0 seconds of regulation with the Bulls trailing by three. MJ’s last shot in a Chicago uniform was a game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell.
Jordan finished his Bulls career with averages of 31.5 points. He went a perfect 6-0 in the Finals and is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating. Despite getting complacent for a short time in 1997-98, the UNC product still managed to finish his Bulls career on top, which was easier said than done.
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