Michael Jordan hit two iconic game-winning shots over Byron Russell – in 1997 and then the 1998 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Jazz.
Michael Jordan was perhaps the most competitive player in the history of the league. So much so that the Bulls legend had to create fake narratives in his head to feel some semblance of innate competitiveness when going up against a certain team he wasn’t all too excited to face off against.
Going up against John Stockton and Karl Malone however, Jordan did not have to ‘fake’ his excitement as those late 90s Utah Jazz teams were the best competition he faced in the 6 Finals he went to. Jordan was quite fond of Stockton and Malone as the three had come into the league in 1984 and 1985, respectively.
So when matched up against the Utah Jazz in two consecutive NBA Finals, Michael Jordan wasn’t all too motivated to go after John Stockton and Karl Malone. The person who fueled a certain type of fire within Jordan, was the Jazz’s ‘best’ perimeter defender at the time, Byron Russell.
How did Jordan and Byron Russell start their ‘beef’?
It seems as though Michael Jordan had to go up against a bevy of players across the league who were labelled ‘Jordan-stoppers’ at the time. Dan Majerle stepped up to the plate in the ‘93 Finals and struck out as the Bulls bested the Suns to 3-peat.
Byron Russell seems to have been next in line to be humiliated by MJ on the biggest stage of them all. The Byron Russell beef began when he claimed he could lock down MJ back when MJ wasn’t even in the league.
This was the time when Jordan had turned his attention to baseball, and when the Utah Jazz were visiting the Bulls for a game in the regular season, Byron decided to talk trash to the ‘GOAT’.
“Everybody said I pushed off. Bulls–t.”
On this day in 1998, Michael Jordan pulled-up over Byron Russell to win his sixth ring. It was his last shot in a Bulls uniform.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 14, 2020
Michael must’ve remembered Russell’s trash talk as in the coming years; he would make sure Russell ate his words.
Michael Jordan humiliated Byron Russell by hitting two game-winners over him in the NBA Finals
Jordan was known to have the ‘clutch-gene’ and so when a game came down to the wire, everybody knew it was time to hand him the ball and get out of the way. This is exactly what happened in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals where MJ hit a buzzer-beater over Russell to win the bout 84-2. The Bulls would go on to win the series in 6 games.
History would repeat itself but in a moment that somehow, eclipses the one Jordan had merely a year ago. In the 1998 NBA Finals with a chance to take it to a Game 7, Karl Malone fumbled the ball and MJ came up with it.
With less than 7 seconds left on the clock, MJ pulled back on Byron Russell once again, and drained a mid-ranger for a one point lead. This would result in the Bulls 3-peating once again.
Following the two NBA Finals, MJ made it clear to Russell that he could not keep his word when it came to talking trash to him. “Stop trying to guard me. You’re known as the ‘Human Highlight Reel,’ not because of your own, but because you’re always on mine.”