With the end of the NBA Finals and a conclusion that seemed to be shocking to many who believed the Heat would go down swinging, we thought it would be a good idea to replace the bitter taste with a delectable memory from a not-to-distant past. Perhaps the greatest ending to a series in NBA Finals history was none other than the closing minutes to the Chicago Bulls – Utah Jazz matchup of 1998.
While most will certainly recall the series most dramatic moment — Michael Jordan taking a hard dribble right, pushing Bryon Russell aside with his off arm, and then hitting a series-clinching jumper while basically waving goodbye. It would be MJ’s final shot in a Bulls uniform, an iconic gesture that lives in basketball lore. However, few remember that Utah gave Jordan’s Bulls all they could handle in a six-game grind-it-out series, in which five of the games were decided by five points or fewer. In fact, Michael had a chance to win Game 5 at the buzzer as well, but his desperation 3-pointer was off the mark and the series was sent back to Utah.
The Jazz won the opener which was also a thriller, this one in overtime, but the Bulls won the next three to assume command. Oddly, given that the other five games were so tight, the Bulls' 96-54 win in Game 3 was the biggest rout in Finals history, and the Jazz set a record (since broken) for the fewest points in the shot-clock era. While Utah scored more easily in other games, it didn't exceed 88 points in any contest in the series.
To add more intrigue to how close this matchup truly was, do you remember who took the last shot of this series? While most recall Jordan’s heroic moment, his shot actually came with 5.2 seconds left. The Bulls were not crowned NBA champions until John Stockton's last-second 3-point try bounced off the rim.
So while we had the world’s best player in this year’s finals, it was a far cry from what we witnessed sixteen years ago. That t is not to say that Michael is the reason for this…oh who are we kidding. Jordan was, and in some regard still is, the reason why many are watching now. The comparison of LeBron to Jordan will continue to be exist, but it may be Tim Duncan who is now more deserving to be in the conversation now.