John Stockton rubbished rumors of the Bulls blowing it up after the 1998 Finals win, only to be proved wrong later.
The Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls weren’t unknown entities to each other at all. While the Karl Malone – John Stockton duo had under-performed earlier, the teams met each other in back-to-back finals.
However, Michael Jordan would deny the Utah duo a chance at the ring on both occasions. Malone and Stockton had also played alongside their rival in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the three had maintained a good relationship.
The 1998 postseason brought along with it a whole lot of insecurities, especially for the Chicago Bulls. GM Jerry Krause had given the ultimatum to HC Phil Jackson, and franchise guy MJ was threatening to retire if the firing went through. Scottie Pippen was severely enraged about his low wages, and this would be his final straw as well.
The route to the Finals was a tough one for Chicago. MJ and the Bulls had barely squeaked past Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in 7 games. The Jazz, in contrast, had blown the Lakers away, and were genuine contenders for the title. Then familiar foe Michael Jordan did his thing.
John Stockton was asked about his opinion on the chaotic Bulls situation during the 1998 post-match interviews
MJ averaged 33.5 points a game, and broke Jazz hearts after his scintillating 45 point game, which concluded with a clutch jumper. He proved that his brilliance had not faded, and everyone expected that he would carry the momentum next season as well.
Even John Stockton couldn’t see the possibility of a scenario where the Bulls blew everything up.
““He’s not quitting. He’ll be back, and Scottie will be back and Phil Jackson will be back. I’m tired of hearing all of that.”
He also discussed MJ’s ferocious determination, and praised him for the feat.
“As long as he decides to play, you have to wonder if there’s any reason for the rest of us to play. It’s not a matter of being disheartened, but you know that as long as he’s breathing, he will not let his team lose.”
That’s a pretty huge compliment to receive from one of MJ’s toughest competitors. None of that, however, could budge MJ from his decision. As soon as Jerry Krause announced the firing of Phil Jackson, MJ promptly announced his retirement for the second time.
Both of MJ’s retirement announcements caught the NBA world by shock. Fans were disappointed, but as a player, you couldn’t possibly leave on a better high.