Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone opted not to participate in ESPN’s The Last Dance, the 10-part docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Director Jason Hehir revealed in May 2020 that Malone turned down an opportunity to be in the popular docuseries “through another party,” causing some fans to speculate the Mailman didn’t like MJ.
While Malone wasn’t in The Last Dance to talk about Jordan, he did briefly speak about the six-time champion in 1990 in NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan’s Playground.
Karl Malone praised Michael Jordan in 1990
At the beginning of Michael Jordan’s Playground, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Mitch Richmond, and Malone talk about their admiration for the Bulls superstar. Malone, who was drafted a year after Jordan, said some nice things about the UNC product.
“You watch him, and he’ll do something, and you’d be like, ‘Hmm, I wish he could do that again,'” Malone said about Jordan.
Jordan is undoubtedly one of the best dunkers and finishers in NBA history. His incredible jumping ability helped him dunk over centers and defy gravity by hanging in the air and finishing in heavy traffic.
Malone is one of the few players who had a winning record against Jordan in the regular season. Unfortunately for the Jazz icon, he never beat Superman when it mattered most.
Karl Malone lost two Finals to Michael Jordan
Jordan and Malone faced each other 24 times in the regular season, with the latter going 13-11. Black Jesus averaged 33.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, while King Karl put up 26.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Malone may have had the advantage over Jordan in the regular season, but it was a different story in the postseason. The Bulls and Jazz met in back-to-back Finals in 1997 and 1998. Chicago won both series in six games, preventing Malone and John Stockton from reaching the promised land.
Jordan averaged 32.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in the 1997 Finals. He admitted in The Last Dance that Malone winning the 1996-97 regular-season MVP motivated him to destroy the Jazz. The 10-time scoring champion followed up his performance in the 1997 Finals with averages of 33.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in the 1998 Finals.
Malone averaged 24.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 12 games against the Bulls in the Finals, which are stellar numbers. However, he had arguably the biggest turnover in Finals history in 1998.
MJ stole the ball from the Mailman in Game 6 with Utah up one
The Jazz had a 86-85 lead over the Bulls in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals with under 30.0 seconds left in regulation. It appeared they would force a Game 7. However, Jordan had other ideas.
With 20.6 seconds remaining, Jordan stole the ball from Malone, who didn’t see the one-time Defensive Player of the Year come from the weak side. Bulls head coach Phil Jackson decided not to call a timeout so the Jazz couldn’t set their defense. Jordan had the ball on the left side of the floor, drove to the middle, crossed over Bryon Russell, and hit a jumper with 5.2 seconds left to give the Bulls a one-point lead.
Utah had one final chance to win the game on their next possession, but Stockton missed a 3-pointer. The Bulls won their sixth title in eight years, and Malone was predictably frustrated in the postgame locker room.
“I don’t know. They got the ball. That’s fine. Whatever,” Malone said. “It’s the same thing, over and over, every year. I’m tired of it. We fought hard. The guys did a good job. It’s a tough loss. Give them credit.”
Malone went on the Bulls’ bus to congratulate Jordan and the entire Chicago team for winning the title. It was a classy gesture by one of the top players in NBA history.