Michael Jordan Was Relieved When Bulls Beat Pacers in Game 7 of ’98 Eastern Conference Finals: ‘That’s the Hardest We Worked in 13 Years’

Michael Jordan played in three Game 7s during his legendary run with the Chicago Bulls. The six-time champion went 2-1 against the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, and Indiana Pacers.

The Bulls lost to the Pistons in Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals despite getting 31 points from Jordan. However, they rebounded by beating the Knicks in Game 7 of the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals and the Pacers in Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bulls-Pacers series was a treat for basketball fans since they got to watch two elite teams led by Hall of Famers battle it out for seven games. The series was so grueling that Jordan, arguably the most competitive player in NBA history, was relieved after the Bulls won Game 7.

Michael Jordan after Bulls beat Pacers: “That’s huge”

After the Bulls beat the Pacers in Game 7 at the United Center, a smiling Jordan went around the locker room to congratulate each of his teammates. As he approached Scottie Pippen and Randy Brown, MJ let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s huge,” Jordan said. “That’s huge, man. That’s the hardest we worked in 13 years.”

The Bulls defeated the Pacers in Game 7 by a final score of 88-83. Chicago outscored Indiana 19-18 in the fourth quarter. Jordan not only scored nine of his 28 points in the final quarter, but he also limited Reggie Miller to zero points.

Black Jesus finished the Pacers series with averages of 31.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Meanwhile, Miller put up 17.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.

Jordan and Miller had their own motivation in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. The former wanted to defeat the team that kept giving him scratches on his body, while the latter desired to retire Superman.

Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller talked ’98 ECF in The Last Dance

Episodes 8 and 9 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries focused on the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan and Miller, who got into a fight in 1993, discussed what they were feeling back in the day.

“If I had to pick a team that gave us the toughest time in the East, Indiana was probably the toughest, outside of Detroit,” Jordan said. “They were tough. Every time I’d go in that f****** game and come out, I got a new scratch. It became personal with me.”

“We all looked at the Bulls as the standard model of success,” Miller said. “They were considered the best at that time, but we felt, I feel to this day, we were the better team. The whole thing is, there was whispers that this was going to be Mike’s last year. So I think a perfect storm was brewing, and in my mind, I was thinking, ‘All right, this is it, you’re gonna retire Michael Jordan.'”

After the Bulls won Game 2, Jordan and Miller met in the hallway at the United Center to exchange pleasantries: “My brother,” Jordan said to Miller while hugging him. “You all right? How’s your family? It’s gonna be a battle. I knew that coming in.”

Jordan and the Bulls needed everything in their tank to defeat Miller and the Pacers, who were coached by Larry Bird. After Game 7, Jordan and Bird met in the United Center hallway, and as he did with Miller following Game 2, Air Jordan had some words for Bird.

MJ to Larry Bird: “You bi***, fu** you”

Jordan never beat Bird in the playoffs when the latter played for the Boston Celtics, so he was presumably happy he finally got the best of Larry Legend. The Last Dance camera crew caught a hilarious interaction between the two NBA icons after Game 7, and it is undoubtedly one of the best moments from the docuseries.

“Enjoy yourself, dog,” Jordan told Bird in the United Center hallway while hugging him. “You bi***, fu** you. Y’all gave us a run for our money. All right, take care. Now you can work on that golf game of yours.”

After barely getting past the Pacers, the Bulls faced the Utah Jazz in the 1998 Finals. Chicago won the series in six games, with Jordan winning his sixth Finals MVP.

Miller, Bird, and the Pacers almost upset the Bulls, but Jordan was too much to take down in the end.

RELATED: Michael Jordan Was Unsure How Well Larry Bird Would Do as Coach of the Pacers: ‘If He Succumbs to Some of the Frustrations That a Lot of the Player-Coaches Go Through, With the Players Not Taking the Same Approach as They Once Did, Then It Will Be Very Difficult’