Michael Jordan Told Chicago Bulls Teammates to ‘Shut Up and Play’ During Halftime of Game 7 of 1998 Eastern Conference Finals
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan only played in two Game 7s during the dynasty years when he won six championships in eight years. That’s how dominant he and the Bulls were.
In the 1992 playoffs, the Bulls needed seven games to get past Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in the second round. Jordan scored 42 points in Game 7 in Chicago, and the Bulls won by a final score of 110-81.
The other Game 7 Jordan played came in 1998 against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was such a competitive and fiery game that he told his teammates to “shut up and play” at halftime.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls trailed by eight after the first quarter
Reggie Miller and the Pacers jumped out to an eight-point lead after the first quarter. Since Bulls general manager Jerry Krause said at the beginning of the season that Phil Jackson wouldn’t return in 1998-99, the pressure was on Jordan and his teammates to win and not send the Zen Master home with a loss.
The Bulls outscored the Pacers 29-18 in the second quarter to take a 48-45 lead at halftime. Both teams were complaining to the refs all first half. Indiana was called for 17 fouls in the first 24 minutes, while Chicago was called for 12.
Jordan had 15 points at halftime, but he wasn’t happy that his teammates were arguing with the refs. In the Bulls locker room, he told the players to leave the refs alone.
Michael Jordan told his teammates to “shut up and play”
During his postgame press conference after Game 7, Jordan told the media what he said to his teammates in the halftime locker room. The five-time MVP wanted the players to focus on the game and take their attention off the refs.
“I just said that leave the referees alone,” Jordan said. “We can complain, and we can do whatever we have to say about the referees once we get into the locker room, but out there on the basketball court, we can’t control the game. The referees control the game, and every time we may mouth off and say something, we’re giving away free points and digging ourselves a hole. So I just told them to shut up and play.”
Even though the Bulls were called for 18 personal fouls in the second half, they outscored the Pacers 21-20 in the third quarter and 19-18 in the fourth. Behind Jordan’s 28 points, Chicago defeated Indiana by a final score of 88-83 to advance to the ’98 NBA Finals.
Bulls beat Jazz in ’98 Finals to end dynasty
The Bulls faced the Utah Jazz in the ’98 Finals. It was the second straight year the two teams met.
The Jazz had homecourt advantage and won Game 1. However, Jordan and the Bulls rattled off three straight wins and had a chance to clinch their sixth championship in Game 5 at home at the United Center.
Karl Malone, though, went off for 39 points in Game 5 and led the Jazz to an 83-81 win. The series shifted back to Utah, and many pundits thought the Jazz could win two straight games at home to dethrone the Bulls.
However, Jordan had other plans. In his final game with the Bulls, he scored 45 points and hit the game-winning jump shot over Bryon Russell with 5.6 seconds left in regulation to cap off his historic career in Chicago.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.