The 1998 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1998 playoffs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the conclusion of the 1997–98 NBA season. The Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls played against the Western Conference champion Utah Jazz, with the Jazz holding home-court advantage with the first 2 games in Salt Lake City. In a repeat of the previous year's Finals, the Bulls won the series 4 games to 2 for their third consecutive NBA title and their sixth in eight seasons. Michael Jordan was voted the NBA Finals MVP of the series (he also had won the award the last five times the Bulls won the Finals: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1997). This would be his sixth NBA championship and sixth Finals MVP award in six full basketball seasons. Until 2014, it was the last consecutive Finals rematch between two teams.
The 1998 Finals garnered the highest Nielsen TV ratings in NBA history at 18.7, and even surpassed the Nielsen ratings for the 1998 World Series, marking the first time the NBA had a higher rating in its championship round than of Major League Baseball's championship round.
The 1998 NBA season documentary "Unforgettabulls" was the first of five narrated by Will Lyman through NBA Entertainment, which recaps the entire Bulls' season. Rick Telander narrates on the opening credits. Marv Albert narrates the timeline of Michael Jordan's career with the Bulls. Until 2012, this was the most recent final played entirely outside of Texas and California.
|1998 NBA Finals|
|Announcers||Bob Costas, Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas|
|Announcers||Brent Musburger, Jim Durham (Game 6), and Jack Ramsay|
|Hall of Famers||
Michael Jordan (2009)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
John Stockton (2009)
Karl Malone (2010)
Phil Jackson (2007)
Jerry Sloan (2009)
Tex Winter (2011)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
|Eastern Finals||Bulls defeat Pacers, 4–3|
|Western Finals||Jazz defeat Lakers, 4–0|
The series marked the first time since 1989 that the same two teams met in the Finals in consecutive years. The Jazz earned the league's best record by virtue of sweeping the two-game regular season series with the Bulls despite both teams finishing at 62 wins. In the playoffs, the Jazz were pushed to the brink by the Houston Rockets before winning Game 5 in Utah, and then overcame Rookie of the Year Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs 4–1. They then swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Bulls swept the New Jersey Nets and then took out the Charlotte Hornets in five, but it took seven games to overcome the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
|Utah Jazz (Western Conference champion)||Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference champion)|
First seed in the West, best league record
|Defeated the (8) Houston Rockets, 3–2||First Round||Defeated the (8) New Jersey Nets, 3–0|
|Defeated the (5) San Antonio Spurs, 4–1||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (4) Charlotte Hornets, 4–1|
|Defeated the (3) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–0||Conference Finals||Defeated the (3) Indiana Pacers, 4–3|
The Utah Jazz won both games in the regular season series:
January 25, 1998
|Utah Jazz 101, Chicago Bulls 94|
February 4, 1998
|Chicago Bulls 93, Utah Jazz 101|
|1998 Chicago Bulls Finals roster|
|1998 Utah Jazz Finals roster|
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Road Team|
|Game 1||Wednesday, June 3||Utah Jazz||88–85 OT (1–0)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 2||Friday, June 5||Utah Jazz||88–93 (1–1)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 3||Sunday, June 7||Chicago Bulls||96–54 (2–1)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 4||Wednesday, June 10||Chicago Bulls||86–82 (3–1)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 5||Friday, June 12||Chicago Bulls||81–83 (3–2)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 6||Sunday, June 14||Utah Jazz||86–87 (2–4)||Chicago Bulls|
Bulls win the series 4–2.
|Chicago Bulls 85, Utah Jazz 88 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 17–17, 23–28, 19–22, 20–12, Overtime: 6–9|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 33
Rebs: Pippen, Longley 8
Asts: Steve Kerr 5
|Pts: John Stockton 24|
Rebs: Karl Malone 14
Asts: John Stockton 8
|Utah led the series, 1–0|
|Chicago Bulls 93, Utah Jazz 88|
|Scoring by quarter: 23–20, 27–26, 20–27, 23–15|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 37
Rebs: Kukoč, Rodman 9
Asts: Scottie Pippen 4
|Pts: Jeff Hornacek 20|
Rebs: Karl Malone 12
Asts: John Stockton 7
|Series tied, 1–1|
|Utah Jazz 54, Chicago Bulls 96|
|Scoring by quarter: 14–17, 17–32, 14–23, 9–24|
|Pts: Karl Malone 22
Rebs: Greg Ostertag 9
Asts: John Stockton 7
|Pts: Michael Jordan 24|
Rebs: Ron Harper 10
Asts: Ron Harper 7
|Chicago led series, 2–1|
|Utah Jazz 82, Chicago Bulls 86|
|Scoring by quarter: 19–21, 18–18, 20–22, 25–25|
|Pts: Karl Malone 21
Rebs: Karl Malone 14
Asts: John Stockton 13
|Pts: Michael Jordan 34|
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 14
Asts: Scottie Pippen 5
|Chicago led series, 3–1|
|Utah Jazz 83, Chicago Bulls 81|
|Scoring by quarter: 16–18, 14–18, 29–19, 24–26|
|Pts: Karl Malone 39
Rebs: Karl Malone 9
Asts: John Stockton 12
|Pts: Toni Kukoč 30|
Rebs: Scottie Pippen 11
Asts: Scottie Pippen 11
|Chicago led series, 3–2|
|Chicago Bulls 87, Utah Jazz 86|
|Scoring by quarter: 22–25, 23–24, 16–17, 26–20|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 45
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 8
Asts: Kukoč, Pippen 4
|Pts: Karl Malone 31|
Rebs: Karl Malone 11
Asts: Karl Malone 7
|Chicago won NBA Finals, 4–2|
Unlike the 1997 Finals, the Jazz and Bulls entered this series as equals. The Jazz had won both regular season meetings with the Bulls, and many analysts predicted a hard-fought seven-game series. The two teams entered the Finals on completely different notes; the Jazz uneventfully swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and had a total of ten days rest before the Finals began. The Bulls, meanwhile, endured a hard-fought series against a resurgent Indiana Pacers team helmed by Larry Bird (in his first year as head coach). They would need all seven games to get past the Pacers and would have only two days' rest before having to travel to Utah. Predictions of a Jazz championship were strengthened with their 88–85 Game 1 victory in overtime in Utah, with Scottie Pippen just missing a 3 pointer at the buzzer. True to form, the Bulls tied the series in Game 2 while putting together a huge fourth-quarter run to silence the Delta Center and holding on to win 93–88, finally securing their first victory against Utah all season. Karl Malone shot very poorly in the first two games of the series with some misses including one layup in Game 2 that hit the underside of the rim.
The Finals moved to Chicago with control of the series at stake in Game 3. In a 96–54 loss, the Jazz set the record for the lowest points scored in Finals history, as well as the lowest number of points scored in any NBA game (since eclipsed by a score of 49 from the Bulls on April 10, 1999) since the inception of the shot clock.
Chicago won Game 4 86-82, and Utah took Game 5 83–81 despite nearly blowing a seven-point lead in the last two minutes. Karl Malone had his best game of the series with 39 points, while Antoine Carr made all five of his field goal attempts. The series returned back to Utah with the Bulls leading 3-2.
As they arrived at the Delta Center for Game 6, things didn't look good for the Bulls. Scottie Pippen, whose back was already injured going into the game, aggravated his injury when he dunked the opening basket of the game. He scored only 8 points the whole game. To keep pace with Utah, the Bulls were forced to rely almost entirely on Jordan, who scored 23 points in the first half. Emotions ran high at the Delta Center when the Jazz suffered a critical shot clock violation in the second quarter. Referee Dick Bavetta ruled that Howard Eisley did not get a successful 3-point shot off in time, although TV replays showed that the ball was out of Eisley's hands just before the shot clock hit zero. Later in the fourth quarter, Michael Jordan tied the game with only a minute left. The Jazz received some relief as John Stockton hit a 3 with 41.9 seconds left to give Utah an 86–83 lead and sent the Delta Center into a frenzy.
After Jordan made a layup to make it 86–85, the Bulls needed to stop the Jazz from scoring again. When John Stockton passed the ball to Karl Malone, Jordan stole the ball away and dribbled down the court. Guarding him was Bryon Russell, one of the Jazz's best defenders. With 10 seconds remaining, Jordan started to dribble right, then crossed over to his left. Jordan hit the 20-footer to give the Bulls an 87–86 lead with 5.2 seconds left. After a time-out, Stockton missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer, giving the Bulls their sixth NBA title in 8 years. Jordan, who scored 45 points, and whose game-winning shot has been immortalized around the world, was once again named Finals MVP.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
The Finals were televised in the United States by NBC, with Bob Costas on play-by-play and Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas serving as color analysts. Hannah Storm hosted the pre-game show, assisted by Bill Walton, John Salley and Peter Vescey, and Ahmad Rashād and Jim Gray reported from the sidelines. This was the first time since NBC took over the broadcasting rights to the NBA Finals in 1991 that Marv Albert was not the play by play commentator. He was fired from NBC on September 25, 1997 for sodomizing a woman.
As of the 2017–18 season, this series remains the last Finals appearances for both the Bulls and Jazz. After the season, the Bulls dynasty broke up. Without its key personnel, the Bulls missed the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 1999 season, winning just 13 of 50 games. The Bulls would not make the postseason again until 2005, win a playoff series until 2007, and earn the Eastern Conference top seed until 2011.
Phil Jackson declined an offer from the team president to coach another season. He would come back as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999, winning five NBA titles in two separate stints with the team before retiring in 2011. This would give Jackson 11 NBA Titles, the most for a coach in the history of the four major American sports leagues. Ron Harper followed Jackson to the Lakers and won championships during his final two seasons, in 2000 and 2001.
In January 1999, Michael Jordan announced his retirement for the second time; he would come out of retirement for the second and final time in 2001 with the Washington Wizards and played two seasons with the team. However, neither season ended with a playoff appearance. Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets during the offseason and played his last season (2003–04) with the Bulls. Dennis Rodman, released by the Bulls in the offseason, signed with the Lakers mid-season, playing only 23 games before being released. In January 1999, the Bulls re-signed Steve Kerr and traded him to the San Antonio Spurs, where he would win two more championships in 1999 and 2003, his last year in the NBA. Luc Longley also retired in 2001.
The Jazz would continue to make the postseason until 2003, John Stockton's last season, and next made the Western Conference Finals in 2007 but lost in five games to the Spurs. The following three seasons, the Jazz made the postseason but each time were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan resigned in February 2011.
Antoine Carr and Chris Morris became free agents after the Finals, signed with other teams, and retired by 2000. Jeff Hornacek retired in 2000 after two more seasons with Utah. After five more seasons with the Jazz, Karl Malone spent his final season of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals.
The 2005–06 postseason saw the retirement or departure from the NBA of these former members of the 1998 Finals teams: Howard Eisley, Greg Ostertag, Shandon Anderson, Bryon Russell, and Toni Kukoč. Eisley remained with the Jazz the next two seasons and ended his career with the Denver Nuggets. In July 2006, the Nuggets traded Eisley to the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls later waived Eisley before the 2006–07 season. Ostertag retired in 2006 after having played all but one season since the 1998 Finals with the Jazz; he played for the Sacramento Kings in 2004-05. In his second season with the team and final season of his career, Anderson won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. Like Eisley, Russell played his final NBA season with the Denver Nuggets in 2005–06; Russell played three years afterward with teams in the American Basketball Association and International Basketball League.