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“Bulls would have to fall asleep for the Nets to beat us”: When Michael Jordan’s cockiness led to a near first round exit in 1998

Samir Mehdi

“Bulls would have to fall asleep for the Nets to beat us”: When Michael Jordan’s cockiness led to a near first round exit in 1998

Michael Jordan claimed that the Bulls would need to fall asleep in their series against the New Jersey Nets for the Nets to beat the Bulls. 

Michael Jordan is considered to be one of the most dominant forces the NBA has ever since in its 75 years of existence. With dominance, came championships; and with championships, came an exuberant amount of confidence. Rightfully so as winning 5 titles in a span of seven years would have you feeling as though you’re head and shoulders above the rest. 

The Chicago Bulls would head into the 1998 Playoffs as favorites win the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals for a third time in a row. Their toughest competition in 1998 would undoubtedly be the Indiana Pacers, led at the helm by sharpshooting All-NBA talent, Reggie Miller.

Also read: “James Jordan told Michael Jordan to lead from the front in the 1992 eastern conference semi-finals”: How MJ’s father’s advice helped him defeat the likes of Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley

Before meeting with the Pacers in a would-be classic ‘98 Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan and the Bulls would have to get through the New Jersey Nets in a 5-game, first round series. 

Michael Jordan claimed Bulls would need to fall asleep for the Nets to win. 

As expected, despite the internal turmoil that the Bulls had early on in the season, Chicago were considered heavy favorites to come out of the East and so winning a series against the 8th seeded New Jersey Nets seemed like a walk in the park for the reigning and defending NBA champions. 

So much so that Michael Jordan even claimed that the Bulls would need to fall asleep for the entirety of the series for any outcome other than a 3-0 victory for Chi-town to take place. Fast-forward to the end of Game 1 and the Bulls survived by winning by merely 3 points.

Also read: “You’re too loud daddy! Be quiet!!”: When Warriors’ Stephen Curry got the spotlight stolen from him by his adorable daughter Riley Curry during the 2015 Playoffs

Game 2 saw a bit of a more physical game but would also end with the Bulls barely scarping by as they won by 5 points, leading to a 2-0 series lead. This seemed to have deflated the Nets as they lost by over 20 points in Game 3, as Chicago would move on to the second round. 

Sure, the Bulls would not lose a single game this series but Michael Jordan almost had to eat his words on two back-to-back occasions as the Bulls won by a combined 8 points in Games 1 and 2; two bouts that could’ve been taken by New Jersey.  

About the author

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi


Samir Mehdi is a senior strategist for the NBA division at The Sportsrush. Ever since he was 13 years old, he’s been obsessed with the game of basketball. From watching Kobe Bryant’s highlights on YouTube to now, analyzing and breaking down every single game on League Pass, Samir’s passion for the game is unwavering. He's a complete basketball junkie who not only breaks down current games but also keenly watches ones from the 60s’ and 70s’ while also reading comprehensive books on the history of the league. Samir’s life revolves around basketball and he hopes that shows in his work. Aside from work, he loves to spend time in the gym and with his friends at social gatherings.

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