Obviously most closely associated with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan will forever be linked to several other NBA franchises. Of course, there’s the Washington Wizards, with whom he played his final two seasons. But there’s also the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks, and perhaps most notably, the Detroit Pistons. MJ and the Bulls battled these teams for years in the Eastern Conference, and all played vital roles in Jordan’s arc. But we certainly can’t forget about the Utah Jazz, against whom Jordan won the final two of his six NBA championships.
But long before MJ broke the hearts of the Jazz and their fans with some of the most legendary performances in NBA Finals history, he provided another classic moment that actually involved a Utah fan.
Michael Jordan was heckled by a Jazz fan and shut him up quickly
On December 2, 1987, Jordan and the Bulls traveled to Utah for an early-season matchup with the Jazz. At 11-3, the Bulls had the better record, but Utah, who came in at 7-6, took control of the game early and held a 27-20 lead after the first quarter.
Jordan was coming off a season-low 16 points against the Golden State Warriors, so he seemed determined to get himself going from the get-go. He kept the Bulls close as the first half progressed, and with just under a minute to go in the second quarter, he posted up John Stockton, who’s about five inches shorter than MJ. Seeing the mismatch, Scottie Pippen, who was a rookie at the time and still coming off the bench, quickly threw a pass, which Stockton attempted to steal and missed, and Jordan quickly turned and slammed it home.
Stockton dribbled up the floor for Utah on the ensuing possession and was fouled by Pippen, earning him two foul shots. Now, at some point while this was happening, a random Jazz fan screamed something along the lines of, “Hey, Jordan, pick on somebody your own size!”
So Stockton hits both free throws, and Utah goes to somewhat of a full-court press, which the Bulls easily broke in just two passes. And that second pass went to Jordan, who received the ball at the foul line with just one defender between himself and the rim. That defender was 6-foot-11-inch, 240-pound Jazz center, Mel Turpin. Of course, that meant nothing to Jordan, who took flight and soared over Turpin for a tomahawk slam.
And as he ran back down the court, Jordan looked directly at the fan and asked, “Was he big enough?” I guess you could say His Airness took that comment personally.
Jordan scored 47 points to lead the Bulls to a comeback victory
While the Jordan-Stockton-Turpin story has become legendary over the last three-plus decades, it’s not as if that story was all that particular game had as, overall, it was extremely entertaining and competitive.
After trailing the Jazz by seven after the first quarter, the Bulls cut the lead by one going into halftime, and trailed 52-46. After three quarters, Utah led by just three, 79-76. And at the end of 48 minutes, Jordan & Co. had completed the comeback and walked away with a 105-101 victory.
In addition to the dunks on Stockton and Turpin, Jordan hit 15 other shots from the floor that night, including a dazzling reverse layup. Overall, he went 17-for-27 from the floor and 13-for-16 from the foul line on the way to 47 points while also adding nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. John Paxson was feeling it that night as well, as he went 9-for-16 from the field and 3-for-4 from the charity stripe for 19 points. Pippen chipped in with 11 points off the bench for Chicago.
Karl Malone led the way for the Jazz with 33 points and 14 rebounds, while Stockton added 14 points and 11 assists.
MJ won his last two NBA titles against the Jazz
Nearly a decade after shutting up the random fan, Jordan and the Bulls matched with Stockton, Malone, and the Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals. MJ led Chicago to victory in six games, obviously including a win in the famous “Flu Game,” and won his fifth NBA Finals MVP award after averaging 32.3 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
The two teams met again in the ’98 Finals, and Chicago again took the series in six games. Jordan took MVP honors yet again, averaging 33.5 points, four rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals. And, of course, the series was capped off by MJ’s game-winning shot in Game 6, which will forever remain one of the most iconic images in NBA history.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference