The 1997–98 Chicago Bulls continued their elite status in the NBA's Eastern Conference, as they had throughout the decade, and defeated the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. The championship was their sixth in eight years and completed the franchise's second "3-peat". This was Michael Jordan's last season as a Bull, as he announced his second retirement after it was over—however, he did make a second comeback with the Wizards. Also leaving Chicago after the season were starters Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman as well as head coach Phil Jackson. Because of these departures, this is considered[by whom?] "the last season" for the Bulls dynasty that had headlined the NBA throughout the 1990s. What followed was a long rebuilding process between 1998 to 2004, and the Bulls did not return to the postseason until 2005.
The Bulls would begin the regular season without star forward Scottie Pippen who injured his foot during the offseason. The Bulls would limp to an 8-7 record to start. Michael Jordan had to carry the load. The team would pick up slack later in the first half of the season, but would go into the All-Star break with only the second-best record in the Eastern Conference to the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls, however would go on a roll in the second-half of the season with a healthy Scottie Pippen, winning 13 straight and reclaiming the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
This was the first time in the 1990s that the same two teams played each other in two consecutive finals. The Jazz had won both regular season match-ups, and many analysts predicted a hard fought seven game series. Predictions of a Jazz championship were strengthened with their game one victory in overtime in Utah. The Bulls would tie the series in game 2 putting together a fourth quarter run to silence the Delta Center and holding on to win 93-88, finally securing their first victory against Utah all season.
The Finals would move to Chicago with control of the series at stake in Game 3. Though anticipation was high, no one could have expected a blow-out of the proportions seen in Game 3. With a 96-54 triumph over Utah, the Bulls would help the Jazz set an embarrassing record for the lowest points scored in Finals history and biggest margin of defeat, while everyone on the Bulls scored. The Jazz would pull themselves together in Game 4 in a better attempt to tie the series, but lost 86-82.
The early Jazz series-lead seemed like a distant memory, a false indication of a tough series as they hit the floor for Game 5 behind 3-1. Chicago fans prepared for the last game they would host with the Jordan-led Bulls of the 1990s. But any notions of a championship at the United Center would be snuffed out when Michael Jordan airballed an off-balance 3 to the right of the basket giving the Jazz a narrow 83-81 win. With the series shifting back to Utah with a far more generous 3-2 Bulls advantage, the promise of another Chicago championship was not so certain.
The Chicago Bulls had never let a Finals series go to a Game 7.
As they arrived at the Delta Center for Game 6, things didn't look good for the Bulls. Scottie Pippen's back gave out when he dunked the opening basket of the game and he was slowed down and held to just 8 points. The Jazz suffered a bad break when the referees incorrectly nullified a Howard Eisley three-pointer that, replays showed, was clearly released just before the 24-second clock expired. In the 4th quarter, the Bulls closed the gap as Michael Jordan tallied many of his 45 overall points. Then things got worse for Chicago when John Stockton hit a clutch 3 with 41.9 seconds left to give Utah an 86-83 lead as the Delta Center crowd roared happily. Down by 3, the Bulls had one last chance to stay alive. Running perilously low on energy, it would be imperative for Chicago to win the series before the game went into OT, and also for the Bulls to avoid a Game 7 on the road when Scottie Pippen was so badly injured and their entire lineup was exhausted.
After Michael Jordan made a layup to cut the Jazz lead to one, the Bulls needed to stop the Jazz from scoring again. When John Stockton passed the ball to Karl Malone, Michael Jordan stole the ball away and dribbled to the front. Guarding him was Bryon Russell, one of the Jazz's best perimeter defenders. Jordan drove inside the 3-point line, executed a quick cross-over (and appeared to push off on Russell, throwing him to the ground in the process), and drilled a 20-ft. jump shot to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds left. After Utah took a timeout, Stockton's 3 hit the rim and bounced away, giving the Bulls their 6th title in 8 years. The famous winning shot has been immortalized in many records, as Jordan completed a perfect sextet: 6 NBA Finals, 6 championships, and 6 NBA Finals MVP trophies for the greatest player of all time.