Michael Jordan Had Jazz Players in Awe After Scoring 45 Points, Getting Game-Winning Steal and Hitting Game-Winning Jumper in Game 6 of ‘98 Finals: ‘You Just Saw the Best Player Who Ever Played the Game Take His Team on His Shoulders and There Was Nothing We Could Do About It’
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan made sure his final game with the team was sensational. In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, His Airness not only scored 45 points, but he also recorded the game-winning steal and hit the game-winning shot while running on fumes.
After the Bulls defeated the Jazz in the 1998 Finals, Utah players were in awe of what they saw from Jordan.
Michael Jordan had Jazz players singing his praises
Bulls players and coaches weren’t the only ones amazed by what Jordan did in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals. During Utah’s media portion, John Stockton, Greg Foster, and head coach Jerry Sloan spoke about how incredible MJ was, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein.
“He’s the greatest closer in the history of the game,” said Stockton. “You just saw the best player who ever played the game take his team on his shoulders and there was nothing we could do about it,” added Foster. “I think everybody knows how he should be remembered: as the greatest player that ever played,” said Sloan.
The Jazz had a three-point lead over the Bulls with 41.0 seconds remaining in regulation. With Jordan running out of gas and Scottie Pippen playing through a back injury, Utah presumably thought it had Game 6 in the bag.
However, as he did in 1997, Jordan refused to let anything stop him.
Michael Jordan scored four points and got one steal to finish Game 6
After Stockton hit a 3-pointer to give the Jazz a three-point lead, Jordan drove hard to the basket and scored a tough layup. The score was now 86-85 Utah. The Bulls needed a stop to prevent Game 7 from happening, and Black Jesus came through for his team.
Karl Malone had the ball in the post against Dennis Rodman when Jordan stole the rock from the Jazz star. The one-time Defensive Player of the Year knew what play Utah would run.
“I knew they were gonna run their patented play though Karl Malone,” Jordan said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries. “They ran that play a couple times prior, and Dennis and Malone had been fighting all game, and Karl just totally forgot that I was on the weak side.”
After Jordan stole the ball, Bulls head coach Phil Jackson didn’t call a timeout since he didn’t want the Jazz to talk about what they wanted to do on defense. What happened next is a play that will be talked about in Chicago history forever.
MJ hit game-winner over Bryon Russell
Jordan had the ball on the left side of the floor and knew he would go right on Bryon Russell. The Bulls icon made his move, and Russell had no chance of stopping him.
“I was going to the right because I knew I could get a shot off,” Jordan said. “Any time I needed to make a shot, I went to my right as long as the defense didn’t make a mistake and open a lane to my left. When you go to your right, the defensive player has to come across your body to get to the ball.”
Jordan crossed over Russell and hit a mid-range shot with 5.0 seconds left to give the Bulls a one-point lead. Stockton missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer on the next possession, clinching the Bulls’ second three-peat and sixth championship in eight years.
Even though the Jazz thought Jordan pushed off on Russell, they still acknowledged Superman’s greatness and gave him his flowers, which couldn’t have been easy since they lost back-to-back Finals against him.