The moment captured Michael Jordan’s superior footwork, his clutch shooting and his flair for the theatrical. But should Jordan’s iconic decisive shot for the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals have been waived off? After all, Jazz fans often have argued the Bulls’ star pushed off on Bryon Russell.
“Everybody says I pushed off — bull—-,” Jordan said in the final episode of “The Last Dance. “His energy was going that way. I didn't have to push him that way."
Here is how the play happened.
After making a layup to cut the Jazz’s lead to 86-85 with 37 seconds left, Jordan forced a turnover by double teaming an unaware Karl Malone.
Jordan said he made eye contact with Bulls coach Phil Jackson, who did not want to take a timeout for a few reasons. One, Jackson did not want the Jazz time to conserve energy and set up its defense. Two, Jordan had the ball. So Scottie Pippen echoed the thoughts of he and his other teammates when he described the team’s strategy on the final play: “get the hell out of the way.”
“He’s going to shoot this (expletive),” Bulls forward Dennis Rodman said of Jordan. “He’s not going to (expletive) pass this ball.”
No, Jordan was going to make an iconic shot.
He stood outside of the perimeter by the nearside of the court. Then, Jordan dribbled and drove right to throw Russell off balance. After giving Russell a nudge, Jordan pulled up for the mid-range jumper. Swish. With 5.2 seconds left, the Bulls held a 87-86 lead that they would not relinquish. It marked the perfect moment for Jordan to cement the end of his time with the Chicago Bulls (1983-93; 95-98). It would’ve marked the perfect ending to his NBA career if not for his comeback with the Washington Wizards (2001-03).
“When he made that shot,” former Bulls guard Steve Kerr said, “you could feel the energy being sucked out of the building.”
Some other takeaways from the final episode of "The Last Dance" …
Bulls respected Pippen’s toughness
Throughout the decisive Game 6, Pippen often left the court so he could ride a stationary bike and receive treatment on a bothersome back. Unlike his infamous ‘Migraine game’ in Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Pippen overcame his ailments against Utah.
He collected eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, four assists, two steals and a whole lot of respect.
Said former Bulls head athletic trainer Chip Schaefer: “Anybody who had the notion that Scottie Pippen is soft is absurd. What he did in Game 6 was extraordinary.”
Rodman took another mini break
Dennis Rodman with actress Carmen Electra in Montreal in July 1998. (Photo: Associated Press)
Apparently, taking a Vegas vacation in the middle of an NBA season is not the craziest thing Rodman did with the Bulls. He also skipped practice in between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals so he could participate a WCW wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Practice footage showed Jackson expressing some irritation with Rodman about that episode. To the media, Jackson offered a different reaction when asked if Rodman’s behavior hurts the Bulls’ focus in the Finals.
“He’s only taking away your focus from the Finals, not ours,” Jackson said.
Nearly 22 years later, Rodman hardly seemed regretful for what he did. After all, Rodman excelled well in a Game 4 win.
“Phil realized I need to do me and do what I need to do,” Rodman said.
Malone accepted his Finals loss with grace
Unlike Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone shook hands after Jordan’s Bulls defeated them. Not only did Malone congratulate them. He went on the team bus to do it.
'THE LAST DANCE': What we learned about Michael Jordan and the Bulls
MORE: Jordan reveals truth behind famous 1997 NBA Finals game
SIGN UP NOW! Get sports news and analysis conveniently delivered to your inbox
Utah's John Stockton hardly starstruck by Jordan
Stockton will forever remain stoic. Even when he crossed paths with Michael Jordan.
So even if his game and personality lacked flash, that is what made Stockton one of the best NBA’s best point guards and competitors.
“I didn’t feel an aura about MJ or the Bulls,” Stockton said when the Jazz faced Chicago in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. “I don’t know how you’d play somebody like that. We were there to win.”
The Jordan Rules
Jordan’s two sons, Jeffrey and Marcus, were not allowed to attend the Bulls’ games in Utah. They might have heard things not printable for this publication.
Said Marcus Jordan: "They felt like Utah was a little hostile for us young kids."
Barack Obama on Michael Jordan's legacy
Obama and other political figures might have wished MJ didn't just stick to sports. But Obama still argued Jordan's legacy went beyond his six NBA titles
"There are great players who don’t have an impact beyond their sport. Then there are Michael Jordan helped create a different way in what people thought about the African American athlete," Obama said. "People saw athletics as part of the entertainment business. He became an extraordinary ambassador, not just for basketball, but for the United States overseas."
Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Source: Read Full Article