Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan may be the cockiest and most confident athlete ever. He famously guaranteed reporters the Bulls would win Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers shortly after losing Game 6. The five-time MVP also routinely told his opponents before games that he would score 50 points, and he always kept his word.
Jordan’s phlegm was always on full display during his Bulls career, especially after winning championships. During his 1997 Finals press conference following his fifth title, His Airness had an enormous bottle of champagne next to him at the podium. When a reporter asked him about the big bottle, Jordan confidently stated he would have a bigger one next year.
Michael Jordan: “When we get six, it’s gonna be bigger”
Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in six games in the 1997 Finals. MJ enjoyed himself during his postgame press conference with the media, telling reporters that his bottle of champagne would be even larger next season after Chicago’s sixth title.
How many players are thinking about another ring after winning a championship? A better question might be how many guys are basically guaranteeing the sixth title following a fifth banner in seven years? Jordan’s charisma and mentality were what separated him from his peers. He knew he was the best player on the best team and was never afraid to flaunt it.
What makes Jordan’s comments in 1997 even more impressive is that it wasn’t guaranteed the Bulls’ championship core would be back for the 1997-98 season. General manager Jerry Krause had a strained relationship with MJ, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson and was ready to embark on a rebuild. However, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf nixed that, and what happened next was documented for sports fans worldwide last summer.
Michael Jordan and Bulls embarked on last dance
Jordan and the Bulls gave behind-the-scenes access to a camera crew for the entire 1997-98 season since the players and coaches knew it was the last dance. Krause said Jackson wouldn’t return in 1998-99 even if he went 82-0 and won a sixth title.
The 1997-98 season started off rough for Jordan and the Bulls. Pippen didn’t play until January because he delayed surgery on purpose as his way of displaying his displeasure with management for not extending his contract. He also publicly requested a trade, and Jordan called Pippen’s actions “selfish” in The Last Dance docuseries.
Dennis Rodman took a vacation to Las Vegas after Pippen returned to the lineup. He needed to unwind and went to Vegas with his girlfriend, Carmen Electra. The only consistent player on the Bulls that season was Jordan, who played in all 82 games and won his fifth MVP. He led Chicago to 62 wins, which is extraordinary considering all the turmoil that took place behind the scenes.
Once the 1998 playoffs started, Jordan was ready to win championship No. 6. Although they needed seven games to defeat the Pacers in the conference finals, the Bulls made it back to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years and faced a familiar foe.
Bulls faced Jazz in back-to-back Finals
The Bulls and Jazz met in back-to-back Finals in ’97 and ’98. Utah had home-court advantage in ’98 and won Game 1. It was only the second time Jordan trailed in the Finals.
Chicago won Games 2, 3, and 4 and had a chance to win championship No. 6 at home in Game 5. However, behind 39 points from Karl Malone, the Jazz won Game 5 by two points, shifting the series back to Salt Lake City. An exhausted Jordan would have to come through with a vintage performance in Game 6 since Pippen had a back injury, and that’s precisely what MJ did.
In his final game with the Bulls, Jordan scored 45 points in 43 minutes and hit the game-winning shot with 5.6 seconds left in regulation to capture his sixth championship and sixth Finals MVP. And as he promised in 1997, the 10-time scoring champion enjoyed a massive bottle of champagne.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.