Michael Jordan had a chance to win his final three championships at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. However, the Chicago Bulls lost Game 5 of the 1998 Finals against the Utah Jazz at home, and several of the players were upset since they had to fly back to Utah to play Game 6.
Not only were the Bulls not looking forward to flying to Salt Lake City, but they were also wary of playing in front of the Jazz crowd, which was raucous. Even though Jordan and Co. won Game 6 at the Delta Center to clinch their sixth championship, MJ paid homage to the Utah fans after the series.
Michael Jordan: To the Utah fans, you guys are a tough bunch to play in front of
While speaking to Ahmad Rashad after the Bulls’ Game 6 victory, Jordan talked about how tough it was to win two games in Utah. The Jazz fans could hear MJ speak and likely appreciated his comments.
“To the Utah fans, you guys are a tough bunch to play in front of,” Jordan said. “You guys came out with a lot of loyalty and respect for your team. You made it really tough for us. After losing Game 5 in Chicago, couple of us dreaded coming back to Utah ’cause we had to deal with the fans because of the energy that they bring to the game, but we had no choice. So we had to come in and play our best, and you guys made it a very competitive Finals, and it’s very worthy to win this, and I think of all the championships that we have won, this is the toughest.”
The Bulls won Games 2 and 6 of the ’98 Finals in Utah. The crowd was so noisy that Phil Jackson wore earplugs, but luckily for Chicago, the Zen Master had the best player in the world on his side.
Michael Jordan averaged 35.0 points in Utah during ’98 Finals
The Bulls played three games in Utah during the ’98 Finals. They went 2-1, with Jordan averaging 35.0 points. He scored 33 in Game 1, 27 in Game 2, and 45 in Game 6.
Chicago won Game 6 on a game-winning jumper by Jordan with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation. Superman admitted there were some negative thoughts in the Bulls’ locker room after Game 5, but he knew that to win championship No. 6, he and his teammates would have to dig deep and win it on the road in a hostile environment.
“We lost our opportunity to win it at home, and we came here. At first, as soon as the game ended in Chicago, there were some negative thoughts,” Jordan said, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “And as time went past, I think everybody realized that if we wanted a 6th title, we’d have to go to Utah to get it.”
Not only did Jordan go a perfect 6-0 in the Finals during his legendary career with the Bulls, but he also distributed his game-clinching wins evenly.
Bulls won three rings at home, three on the road
During the Jordan era, the Bulls won six titles in an eight-year span in the ’90s. Amazingly, they clinched three titles at home and three on the road.
Chicago won the 1992, 1996, and 1997 championships at home. Meanwhile, it won the 1991, 1993, and 1998 Finals on the road. Black Jesus, of course, won all six Finals MVPs. He averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 35 Finals games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Jazz.
Jordan didn’t let his family travel with him to Utah for Game 6 because he knew how confrontational the crowd would be. Fortunately for the Jordan family, they got to witness Michael put on a magical show in his final game with the Bulls and win his sixth title and sixth Finals MVP.