John Stockton Never Felt Aura About Michael Jordan When Jazz Faced Bulls In 2 Straight Finals

Utah Jazz legend John Stockton faced Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in back-to-back NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998

NBA, Bulls, Jazz, Michael Jordan, John Stockton
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Jordan was arguably the most feared player in the NBA during his prime. His killer instinct and elite trash-talking skills helped him gain a mental advantage over his opponents.

Former NBA forward Kendall Gill told Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein that some players were beaten before their games against the Bulls started because they were scared to play Jordan.

However, Stockton wasn’t one of those guys.

In ESPN’s “The Last Dance” docuseries, Stockton spoke about facing Jordan and the Bulls in the 1997 and 1998 Finals. The Hall of Famer admitted that while he respected Jordan and Co., he wasn’t afraid of them.

“We had our hands full out West for my entire career,” Stockton said. “We played great teams and we were so close so many times. Just couldn’t kind of get over the top and then we win in kind of a last-second fashion. We had a chance to play and test ourselves against the best and that means as much to me as anything.

“I never said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is the Bulls.’ Great team, all the respect that they deserved, they’d get from me, but I sure didn’t feel an aura about Michael Jordan or the Bulls. I don’t know how you would play against somebody with that. We were there to win.”

Stockton almost didn’t participate in “The Last Dance” docuseries because he didn’t want to be part of a Jordan puff piece. However, director Jason Hehir got Stockton on the phone after two years of chasing him.

Stockton and Karl Malone were confident they could beat the Bulls on the NBA’s biggest stage. However, taking down Jordan in a seven-game series was easier said than done.

The Bulls had home-court advantage in the 1997 Finals and won Games 1 and 2 at the United Center. They won Game 2 by 12 points and some pundits thought the Jazz would get swept.

However, Utah bounced back by winning Games 3 and 4 in Salt Lake City, setting up a pivotal Game 5.

Jordan ate pizza in his hotel room the night before Game 5 and got food poisoning. He somehow managed to play in Game 5 and had one of the greatest performances in Finals history, scoring 38 points in 44 minutes. The Bulls won by two points and were one win away from winning championship No. 5.

Game 6 was a close contest as well. The Jazz didn’t go down without a fight, tying the game with 28.0 seconds left in regulation.

Jordan told Steve Kerr to be ready for a pass during a timeout since he knew Stockton would double him. Jordan found Kerr wide open beyond the free-throw line and the sharpshooter hit a jumper to give the Bulls a two-point advantage.

The Jazz turned the ball over on their final possession, clinching the championship for the Bulls. Stockton and Malone watched Jordan and Scottie Pippen celebrate and used that scene as motivation to come back stronger in 1997-98.

The Jazz had home-court advantage in the 1998 Finals and won Game 1. Jordan only trailed twice in the NBA Finals, with the first time taking place in 1991.

Utah’s good vibes didn’t last long. Chicago won Games 2, 3 and 4 and had a chance to clinch the title in Game 5 at home.

However, the Jazz won by two and the series returned to the Delta Center.

June 14, 1998, is an important date in Bulls history. It’s the day Jordan played his final game in a Chicago uniform. The five-time MVP scored 45 points and hit the game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell with under 5.0 seconds remaining. 

Stockton had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but he missed a 3-pointer.

Jordan finished his career with six rings and six Finals MVPs. He never lost in the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, Stockton is one of the greatest players in NBA history never to win a title. The floor general may not have felt an aura about Jordan, but he experienced what it was like to lose to him.

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