On June 14, 1998, Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls to an 87-86 win over the Utah Jazz in Game Six of the NBA Finals to clinch their third consecutive NBA title. Jordan scored 45 points and hit the winning jump shot with 5.2 seconds left on the clock in what seemed a fitting end to a historic career.
The Chicago Bulls won the NBA title every year from 1991 to 1998, except a two-year gap in 1994 and 1995 when Jordan left the NBA to play baseball. In the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, the Bulls faced the veteran Utah Jazz, led by point guard and all-time assists leader John Stockton and power forward Karl Malone, second on the career points list. The Bulls, led by Jordan, were a colorful group that included small forward Scottie Pippen, the controversial rebounding champ Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson, their Zen master coach.
One year earlier, in Game Five of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan had staged a performance for the ages. Though suffering from the flu, Jordan willed the Bulls to victory with 38 points, including the winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left. Afterward, the ailing Jordan was helped off the court by teammate Scottie Pippen. The Bulls went on to win the series in six games, with Jordan winning his fifth Finals MVP award.
In the 1998 finals, Utah won Game One 88-85 in overtime, but lost the next three games, including a 96-54 defensive clinic put on by Chicago in Game Three. The Jazz then won Game Five in Chicago 83-81 to send the series back to Utah.
Game Six in Utah was the final installment of the Michael Jordan show. Scottie Pippen, suffering from back spasms, was limited to just 26 minutes. The Jazz led by three in the last minute, but Jordan brought Chicago within one by driving to the basket and laying the ball in with 37.1 seconds left. Utah then brought the ball into their half-court setup, with the reliable veteran Karl Malone on the left post. With 18.9 seconds left, Jordan snuck along the baseline and punched the ball out of Malone’s possession. Jordan then brought the ball up the court, refusing to call a timeout. With 5.2 seconds left Jordan hit an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key after cagily nudging Utah’s Bryon Russell out of the way with his left arm. John Stockton missed a three-pointer near the buzzer to give Jordan and Chicago their third championship in a row and sixth NBA title. Jordan averaged 32.4 points per game in this series for a 33.4 points per game average in the playoffs for his career, an NBA record. He won his sixth Finals MVP after the game, also an NBA record. It was his last game with the Bulls.
In January 2000, Jordan became general manager of the Washington Wizards and returned to play two seasons with the mediocre Wizards in 2001-02 and 2002-03. The Wizards did not make the playoffs in either season.
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