Michael Jordan Got Away With Fouls On Bulls Since NBA’s Supervisor Of Officials Knew Fans Didn’t ‘Want To See Jordan Foul Out’

During his Hall of Fame career, NBA legend Michael Jordan routinely got away with fouls.

Even if it were evident that Jordan committed a foul, referees would give the Chicago Bulls superstar the benefit of the doubt.

NBA, Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan
TIM CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Fans who rooted against the Bulls in the ’90s were consistently curious why Jordan got away with fouls. Former Chicago guard John Paxson, who won three NBA championships with Jordan, revealed the answer in 2017.

During an interview with Melissa Isaacson of The Athletic in 2017, Paxson said former NBA supervisor of officials Darrell Garretson told the Bulls why Jordan got away with fouls and other players didn’t.

“He told us, ‘Look, we all know the fans are here to see the great players like Michael Jordan, so if there’s a play where Jordan and Paxson are together, and there’s a foul and Jordan smacked the guy on the arm, I’m giving the foul to Paxson because the fans don’t want to see Jordan foul out of the game.’ So I knew where I stood,” Paxson said. “But that didn’t make me feel any better.”

Fans paid a lot of money to watch Jordan play live, so it makes sense that the officials officiated him differently than other players. Utah Jazz supporters still believe Jordan pushed off on Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals on his game-winning jumper.

However, there’s another play Jazz fans may take issue with regarding the Bulls icon.

With 5.0 seconds left in regulation of Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Jazz and Bulls, Steve Kerr hit a jumper to give Chicago a two-point lead. He was wide open after John Stockton left him to double Jordan, who may have intentionally tripped the Jazz star so his teammate had a clean jumper.

Fans rarely discuss this clever move from Jordan, but Kerr and Scottie Pippen touched on it during a conversation with Rachel Nichols of ESPN in 2018.

“Stockton kind of slipped,” Kerr said. “I think he got his feet tangled up.” Pippen also added, “Yeah, I saw that on the film. I watched this a lot. Stockton tripped trying to get back to him.”

The Bulls defeated the Jazz in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, with Jordan winning both Finals MVPs to finish his career with six rings and six Finals MVPs. Stockton and Karl Malone came so close to becoming champions, but Chicago had the best player in the world, who may have had an advantage since refs swallowed their whistle for him.

Since Jordan retired, plenty of superstars have gotten favorable calls, most notably LeBron JamesKobe BryantStephen Curry and James Harden. Fans want to see players play and put up incredible numbers, not watch them sit on the bench due to foul trouble.

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