1997 NBA Finals
|Hall of Famers||Bulls:|
Michael Jordan (2009)
Robert Parish (2003; did not play)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
Toni Kukoc (2021)
Karl Malone (2010)
John Stockton (2009)
Phil Jackson (2007)
Jerry Sloan (2009)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
|Eastern Finals||Bulls defeat Heat, 4–1|
|Western Finals||Jazz defeat Rockets, 4–2|
The 1997 NBA Finals was the concluding series of the 1997 NBA playoffs that determined the champion of the 1996–97 NBA season. The Western Conference champion Utah Jazz took on the defending NBA champion and Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls for the title, with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The series were played under a best-of-seven format, with the first 2 games in Chicago, the next 3 games in Salt Lake City, and the last 2 games in Chicago.
The Bulls and Jazz won a combined 133 regular season games, second most in Finals history. Until 2016, the 1997 NBA Finals was the last to feature teams that won a total of at least 130 regular season games.
For the Chicago Bulls, the campaign was almost identical to their record-breaking 1995–96 season. They began the season 12–0, and by the All-Star break, were 42–6, putting them on pace to win 70 games for a second year in a row. But some late-season injuries and poor play denied them another 70-win season, and the Bulls settled for a 69–13 record, best in the league.
In the playoffs, the Bulls swept the Washington Bullets in the first round, dispatched the Atlanta Hawks in five games in the second round, then defeated the Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Jazz emerged as a force in the Western Conference during the 1990s, powered by its All-Star duo of point guard John Stockton and power forward Karl Malone. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals twice between 1992 and 1996, but lost on each occasion.
However, a different story was written for the 1996–97 season. Powered by league MVP Karl Malone, along with the talented John Stockton, the Jazz finally asserted themselves atop the Western Conference, finishing with a franchise-record 64 wins.
In the playoffs, Utah swept the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round and eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the second round. Then, with John Stockton's buzzer-beating, three-point shot in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, eliminated the Houston Rockets to advance to their first NBA Finals in franchise history.
Road to the Finals
|Utah Jazz (Western Conference champion)||Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference champion)|
1st seed in the West, 2nd-best league record
|Defeated the (8) Los Angeles Clippers, 3–0||First Round||Defeated the (8) Washington Bullets, 3–0|
|Defeated the (4) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–1||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (4) Atlanta Hawks, 4–1|
|Defeated the (3) Houston Rockets, 4–2||Conference Finals||Defeated the (2) Miami Heat, 4–1|
Regular season series
Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team:
1997 NBA Finals rosters
|1996–97 Chicago Bulls roster|
|1996–97 Utah Jazz roster|
|Game||Date||Away Team||Result||Home Team|
|Game 1||Sunday, June 1||Utah Jazz||82–84 (0–1)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 2||Wednesday, June 4||Utah Jazz||85–97 (0–2)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 3||Friday, June 6||Chicago Bulls||93–104 (2–1)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 4||Sunday, June 8||Chicago Bulls||73–78 (2–2)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 5||Wednesday, June 11||Chicago Bulls||90–88 (3–2)||Utah Jazz|
|Game 6||Friday, June 13||Utah Jazz||86–90 (2–4)||Chicago Bulls|
The Finals were played using a 2–3–2 site format, where the first two and last two games are held at the team with home court advantage's (Chicago's) home court (United Center).
Had the Western Conference Finals between the Jazz and the Houston Rockets reached a game 7, the Finals would have started on Wednesday, June 4 and followed the similar Wednesday-Friday-Sunday rotation.
|Utah Jazz 82, Chicago Bulls 84|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–17, 24–21, 22–24, 18–22|
|Pts: Karl Malone 23
Rebs: Karl Malone 15
Asts: John Stockton 12
|Pts: Michael Jordan 31|
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 12
Asts: Michael Jordan 8
|Chicago leads the series, 1–0|
Despite injuring his foot in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, Scottie Pippen helped the Bulls to an 84–82 victory over Utah on Sunday. He scored 27 points while Jordan scored 31. The Bulls trailed by one in the 4th, yet were able to grab an 81–79 lead after Pippen blocked Antoine Carr, then made his third 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining. However, John Stockton answered with a 3 of his own with 51.7 seconds left to give Utah an 82–81 lead. Michael Jordan made 1 of 2 free throws with 35.8 seconds left to tie it at 82. Then, Karl Malone was fouled by Rodman with 9.2 seconds left and had a chance to give Utah the lead. Scottie famously psyched him out, saying, "Just remember, the mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays, Karl", before he stepped up to the line. He missed them both. Jordan got the rebound and quickly called a time-out with 7.5 seconds left. With the game on the line, the Bulls put the ball in Jordan's hands. He dribbled out most of the waning seconds, then launched a 20-footer (game-winning shot) that went in at the buzzer to give Chicago a 1–0 series lead, after which he pumped his fist in triumph. The fist-pumping often draws comparisons to another famous Jordan reaction to a buzzer-beater, when he leaped into the air after hitting The Shot that eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
|Utah Jazz 85, Chicago Bulls 97|
|Scoring by quarter: 20–25, 11–22, 28–31, 26–19|
|Pts: Karl Malone 20
Rebs: Karl Malone 13
Asts: John Stockton 7
|Pts: Michael Jordan 38|
Rebs: Michael Jordan 13
Asts: Michael Jordan 9
|Chicago leads the series, 2–0|
The Bulls simply dominated Game 2. After a hard-fought first quarter, the Bulls took control of the game with a 12–0 second-quarter run. Utah's 31 points in the first half was only one point above an NBA low. Karl Malone, who missed those two key free throws in Game 1, had another bad night, making only 6 of 20 field goals. Dennis Rodman nailed a late 3-pointer to put the Bulls up 97–85.
|Chicago Bulls 93, Utah Jazz 104|
|Scoring by quarter: 22–31, 23–30, 15–16, 33–27|
|Pts: Scottie Pippen 27
Rebs: Ron Harper 7
Asts: Michael Jordan 6
|Pts: Karl Malone 37|
Rebs: Karl Malone 10
Asts: John Stockton 12
|Chicago leads the series, 2–1|
Utah's fans welcomed their proud Western Conference champs with force. During the introductions of the Jazz's starting lineups, the Bulls players plugged their ears, due to the loud cheers and fireworks within the Delta Center. The Chicago Bulls started off the first three quarters with mediocre play, despite Scottie Pippen tying a then-Finals record with seven 3-pointers. Utah was led by Karl Malone, who scored 37 points and had 10 rebounds. Chicago attempted a 4th-quarter comeback, cutting a 24-point deficit down to 7, but Utah ultimately won its first game of the series. With the Bulls trailing by 18 points in the second quarter, Michael Jordan threw down an alley-oop slam which drew loud boos from the crowd. Dennis Rodman defended his poor performance in Game 3 with a vulgar remark denigrating Mormons and was fined a then record $50,000 for this remark and CKE Restaurants dropped his television commercials permanently. He apologized, claiming he was not aware that Mormon referred to a religion and intended his remark at obnoxious Jazz fans.
|Chicago Bulls 73, Utah Jazz 78|
|Scoring by quarter: 16–21, 24–14, 16–21, 17–22|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 22
Rebs: Scottie Pippen 12
Asts: Jordan, Kukoč, Pippen 4 each
|Pts: Karl Malone 23|
Rebs: Karl Malone 10
Asts: John Stockton 12
|Series tied, 2–2|
Due to the extremely loud Jazz fans in Game 3, Bulls coach Phil Jackson wore a pair of ear plugs. A tight game with many lead changes throughout, the Jazz led by 5 after the first quarter, but trailed by 5 at halftime. The score was tied going into the fourth quarter. Late in the game, Michael Jordan made a fast break dunk to give the Bulls a 71–66 lead, but John Stockton made a momentum-shifting 3 at the top of the key to cut the deficit to 71–69. Jordan made a jumper to give the Bulls a 73–69 lead, but the Bulls would not score again. The Jazz pulled to within 1 when Stockton stole the ball from Jordan and made 2 free throws at the other end. On the next possession John Stockton grabbed a rebound from a Jordan miss and threw a full-court pass to Karl Malone for a layup with 44.5 seconds left that put Utah in front for good, 74–73. After Stockton made the assist, he jumped up into the air several times pumping his fist. After some Bulls misses, Karl Malone made two free throws with 17 seconds left to put the Jazz up by 3. On the next possession, Michael Jordan's potential game-tying 3 with less than 10 seconds left rattled out; Stockton grabbed the rebound and threw another full-court pass to Bryon Russell, who escaped the intentional foul and dunked with 5 seconds left in the game to seal it, drawing a huge roar from the crowd. The Jazz's 12–2 run tied the series at two games apiece. The Delta Center grew so loud that during the final moments of the game when Bryon Russell made the dunk that iced the game, Marv Albert was unable to be clearly heard. The 78–73 score was one of the lowest scores in NBA Finals history.
|Chicago Bulls 90, Utah Jazz 88|
|Scoring by quarter: 16–29, 33–24, 18–19, 23–16|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 38
Rebs: Scottie Pippen 10
Asts: Jordan, Pippen 5 each
|Pts: Karl Malone 19|
Rebs: Greg Ostertag 15
Asts: Karl Malone 6
|Chicago leads the series, 3–2|
Game 5, known by its misnomer as "The Flu Game", was one of Michael Jordan's most memorable games. At 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Jordan called his personal trainer to his hotel room, where he was lying in the fetal position and sweating profusely. He hardly had the strength to sit up in bed and was diagnosed with a stomach virus or food poisoning, likely caused by a pizza ordered the night before. Jordan eventually claimed it was food poisoning in the 2020 docuseries The Last Dance. The Bulls' athletic trainers told Jordan that there was no way he could play the next day. The Jazz were a perfect 10–0 at home in the postseason up until that point, and a third consecutive win would give them the series lead. The Bulls needed their leader for this critical game, and despite his sickness, Jordan got out of bed at 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday, just in time for the 7 o'clock tip-off at the Delta Center.
Jordan was weak as he stepped on the court for Game 5. At first, he displayed little energy, and John Stockton, along with reigning MVP Karl Malone, led the Jazz to a 16-point lead (36–20) in the second quarter. But Jordan slowly began to make shots despite lacking his usual speed. He scored 17 points in the quarter as the Bulls ended the half with a large run cutting the Jazz lead to four (53–49). While Jordan was fatigued in the third and sitting on the bench, Utah was able to reclaim the lead and stretched it to 8 points (77–69). Jordan shot well again in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points. With 46.4 seconds left and Chicago down 85–84, he was fouled and went to the free throw line. He made the first to tie the game, but missed the second. Toni Kukoč got the offensive rebound to Jordan, who dribbled back to allow the offense to set up. He passed the ball to Pippen, who was quickly double-teamed. Pippen then passed the ball back to a now-unguarded Jordan, who made a 3-point shot to give the Bulls an 88–85 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the game. A Greg Ostertag dunk brought the Jazz back within one point, but Luc Longley answered with a dunk of his own, and Chicago held on for a victory when John Stockton missed the first of two free throws in front of the stunned crowd. With only a few seconds remaining and the game's result safely in Chicago's favor, Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms, creating an iconic image that has come to symbolize The Flu Game.
Malone was the high-scorer for the Jazz with 19 points but shot poorly during the game, air-balling an off-balance shot on the possession prior to Jordan's 3-pointer. Malone finished the second half 1-for-6 from the field. Jordan played 44 minutes, finishing the game with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.
|Utah Jazz 86, Chicago Bulls 90|
|Scoring by quarter: 23–17, 21–20, 26–27, 16–26|
|Pts: Karl Malone 21
Rebs: Greg Ostertag 8
Asts: John Stockton 5
|Pts: Michael Jordan 39|
Rebs: Jordan, Rodman 11 each
Asts: Michael Jordan 4
|Chicago wins the series, 4–2|
Michael Jordan hadn't fully recovered from his illness, but he was feeling much better and led the Bulls with 39 points. Chicago struggled in the first half, scoring just 37 points and making only 9 of 27 field goals. With the Bulls struggling in the third quarter, Michael Jordan dunked after a steal, bringing the crowd to its feet and Jud Buechler buried a 3 to help give the Bulls the momentum. The Bulls trailed by 9 early in the fourth quarter, but went on a 10–0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes when Steve Kerr hit a 3-pointer, but the Jazz regained the lead and the game remained one possession until the final score. In the final minutes, Jordan's fadeaway jumper extended the Bulls lead to 3, before Bryon Russell hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 left to tie the game at 86. The two teams failed to score on their next possessions. Shandon Anderson then missed a reverse layup. The Jazz argued that this was due to Pippen grabbing the rim before the shot, causing the basketball standard to shake. However, the officials ruled that the ball had no chance of going in. Dennis Rodman grabbed the rebound and called time-out with 28 seconds left in a tie game. The Jazz expected Jordan to take the final shot. Instead, Jordan drew a double-team, then passed to a wide-open Steve Kerr, who hit a 17-footer with 5 seconds left to send the United Center into a frenzy. The Jazz looked for a final shot to stay alive, but Scottie Pippen made a significant defensive play as he knocked away Bryon Russell's inbound pass intended for Shandon Anderson and rolled the ball over to Toni Kukoč, who dunked the final 2 points of the game before the roaring crowd to bring the Finals to an end, despite there being 0.6 seconds left in the game. Afterwards, Jordan was named Finals MVP for the 5th time. This would also be the last United Center championship celebration until the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the 2015 Stanley Cup.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
- Chicago Bulls
- Utah Jazz
Marv Albert was the play-by-play announcer for his seventh straight NBA Finals for the NBA on NBC. It was his third straight NBA Finals working with color analysts Matt Guokas and Bill Walton. This would be the last NBA Finals that Albert would announce in the 1990s because of a sex scandal that would force NBC Sports to fire him later in 1997.
This would be the only NBA Finals on NBC during the 1990s that would not include Bob Costas in any capacity. He had served as the pre-game host from 1991 to 1996. The next year, during the 1998 NBA Finals, Costas served as the play-by-play announcer, a role in which he would continue until after the 2000 NBA Finals.
Both teams would meet again in the Finals in 1998, the first time the same two teams met in the NBA Finals since 1989, when the Lakers and Pistons went up against each other. Only this time, the Jazz had home-court advantage. The Bulls won that series in 6 games, highlighted by Michael Jordan's last shot as a Bull in Game 6.
- Jet Magazine staff (June 30, 1997). "Rodman fined $50,000 for remarks about Mormons". Jet. 92 (6). Johnson Publishing Co. p. 61. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved October 2, 2019 – via Google.com.
- Wise, Mike (June 13, 1997). "N.B.A. Fines Rodman $50,000 for Remarks on Mormons". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
- Howard-Cooper, Scott (June 13, 1997). "Rodman Gets Himself in Another Fine Mess". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
- Grover, Tim. "Trainer: MJ had food poisoning". ESPN. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
- Weinberg, Rick (2004). "79: Jordan battles flu, makes Jazz sick". ESPN. Archived from the original on September 21, 2007.