The famous Last Dance docuseries showed how aggressive Jordan was in his pursuit to become the greatest player in NBA history. Many Bulls fans believe MJ’s “flu game” in the 1997 Finals was the most competitive contest he played in since he threw up all night before the game following eating bad pizza and had IVs hooked up to him.
However, the six-time champion has another game set as his most competitive match.
Michael Jordan on Game 6 of 1998 Finals: I wanted to win more than I ever did
Jordan revealed in the summer of 1998 that Game 6 of the 1998 Finals against the Utah Jazz was the most competitive he had ever been in the NBA. The 10-time scoring champion was motivated to win his sixth title on the road in a hostile environment and carry the offensive burden more so than usual since Scottie Pippen played through a severe back injury.
“We lost our opportunity to win it at home, and we came here. At first, as soon as the game ended in Chicago, there were some negative thoughts,” Jordan said, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “And as time went past, I think everybody realized that if we wanted a 6th title, we’d have to go to Utah to get it. I was more competitive than I ever was because I wanted to win more than I ever did. In some people’s eyes, no one expected us to fulfill this.”
Bulls head coach Phil Jackson asked Jordan before Game 6 if he was ready to play 48 minutes. His Airness, who was 35 and mentally and physically exhausted, told the Zen Master “whatever it takes.”
Michael Jordan was sensational in Game 6
Only two players scored in double-figures for the Bulls in Game 6: Jordan and Toni Kukoc. Superman dropped 45 points while shooting 42.9% from the field, while the Croatian Sensation finished with 15.
Pippen managed to play 25 minutes. The All-Star small forward finished with eight points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals despite leaving the game multiple times to receive treatment on his back. Jordan knew he would have to bring all the offensive energy in the fourth quarter since Pippen was hurt, and to no one’s surprise, he came through with flying colors.
“During the 1997-98 season, I built toward the fourth quarter because I was conserving energy early in the game,” Jordan said. “My game had always been to go all out for 48 minutes. Now, I was conserving myself for the last 12 minutes.”
Jordan not only scored 16 of the Bulls’ 26 points in the fourth quarter, but he also finished his Chicago career with one of the most incredible sequences in sports history.
MJ scored four points and got one steal to finish his Bulls career
The Bulls trailed the Jazz by three with 41.9 seconds left in regulation. Jordan drove to the basket and hit a layup over Antoine Carr to cut Utah’s lead to one. The two plays that happened next will likely never be forgotten in Chicago or Salt Lake City.
Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone right in front of the Bulls’ bench. Jackson decided not to call a timeout so that the Jazz couldn’t talk about what they wanted to do on defense, leaving the fate of the game in Captain Marvel’s hands. With 5.2 seconds remaining, Jordan crossed over Bryon Russell and sank a mid-range jumper to give the Bulls a one-point lead. In less than a minute, Black Jesus scored four points and recorded one steal.
John Stockton had a chance to win the game on the Jazz’s final possession, but he missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Jordan finished his Bulls career a perfect 6-0 in the Finals and won all six Finals MVPs. He’s widely viewed as the greatest player in NBA history, and his final three plays with the Bulls are perfect examples of how magnificent he was.