“Never Thought I Wаѕ Plаyіng Mісhаel Jordаn”: When Kаrl Mаlone Deѕсrіbed Fасіng Bullѕ Legend Durіng 1998 NBA Fіnаlѕ

Karl Malone and John Stockton are two Hall of Famers who retired ringless due to the dominance of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the 90s. The brilliant Utah Jazz team, spearheaded by Stockton and Malone, won the West in both 1997 and 1998. But they couldn’t get past the Bulls in the Finals on both occasions. Looking back at the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, Malone didn’t have regrets. He held his head high despite what may seem like a frustrating run for his team.

“Never Thought I Was Playing Michael Jordan”: When Karl Malone Described Facing Bulls Legend During 1998 NBA Finals

When asked to appear in the Netflix documentary “The Last Dance,” the Mailman had turned down the offer. If you think it was a pride thing, you might be right. The Jazz legend instead decided to sit down with ESPN during their “E60” campaign. During the interview, the topic invariably veered to Jordan and the 1998 Finals. Malone didn’t seem to enjoy the question very much, as he bluntly replied,

 “I have the utmost respect for Michael, but I never thought I was playing Michael Jordan. I was playing the Chicago Bulls.”

Malone does have sour memories about Jordan’s last-minute steal and the game-winner he then proceeded to hit. But the two-time NBA finalist had more in store for Jordan. 

“Everybody says this person was a bad man and all that. Well, yes, I give them respect. But I’ve got a setup. I’m a man, and I was a bad son of a b*tch, too, so that’s how I look at that, and that’s who I am.” 

Scouring through Malone’s interview footage, it’s clear that the two final losses haven’t taken much out of the power forward; he still appears as confident as ever. But to put himself in the same conversation as Jordan may rub some fans the wrong way. However, some may understand where he’s coming from.

The 1997 MVP trophy is something that Malone will always have on “His Airness”. But when it mattered the most, No. 23 murdered the Jazz—even won his final ring on their home court.

Jordan gave the Jazz credit but still called game 

1998 was Jordan’s last season with the Bulls. But MJ wasn’t heading out the door a loser; he wanted another three-peat. While the first chip came relatively easy, as the Bulls put the Supersonics away in 6 games, the same couldn’t be said about the next two. 

The Bulls would have back-to-back matchups with the Utah Jazz in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. The first series wasn’t close, as Jordan proved to be too much for the Jazz’s superstar duo. The second time around, the Bulls had a harder time closing out the Jazz, mainly due to fatigue and injury issues. But after dropping a series-winning game 5 at home, Jordan knew that he would have to go to Utah and get his championship. In an interview with Chicago Magazine, Jordan admitted that the Jazz were bringing out the best in him and that he was more competitive than ever due to same,

“I was more competitive than I ever was because I wanted to win more than I ever did.”

Jordan kept his word till his final day as a Bull, the 5-time MVP brought the Bulls their 6th championship, and ironically enough, he did it off a steal on Malone, that led to a championship clinching buzzer-beater.

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