Ex-Jazz player calls Michael Jordan’s LAST DANCE sham, claims refs robbed Utah and handed title to Bulls

1998 NBA Finals Controversy: Did Referees Cost the Utah Jazz the Championship?


Ex-Jazz player calls Michael Jordan’s LAST DANCE sham, claims refs robbed Utah and handed title to Bulls

Michael Jordan (via IMAGO)

There was a real possibility that the Utah Jazz would ruin the Chicago Bulls‘ farewell dance. Utah hosted 6 out of the 7 games of the Finals, where they had a home-court advantage. To win, they only needed to keep the court in session. Nevertheless, the Jazz lost the game and the title as a result of two contentious rulings that cost them five points.

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Antonine Carr laughed at the conclusion of the conversation, but the plays he discussed were not lighthearted. In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, there were at least two calls that went against the Utah Jazz and caused them to swing the ball five points. Those two plays may have shifted the tide of a game that was settled by one point in favour of the Jazz.

Former Jazz centre Antoine Carr explained why he thinks the referees stole from the Jazz in an interview with NBA insider Brandon Scoop B Robinson, he stated:

I don’t think that the Chicago Bulls were the ‘be all.’ They were a very good team, and they got lucky to beat us. Well, I remember one game; I’m not gonna say somebody pushed off. Well, I’m gonna say there was a little push-off there. There were also a couple of shots, we hit a nice three-pointer and they discontinued it. And I believe that my Harper came down and hit one; it was after the buzzer, and they counted it. If it hadn’t been for the referees, we would’ve won this.

With less than ten minutes remaining in the first half, Utah was leading 28–24 when the first play was made. Carr misfired on a pass, and Howard Eisley made the save. Eisley made a deep three-pointer as the shot clock was running out, and the buzzer went off. Eisley appeared to have gotten the ball off in time, but referee Dick Bavetta disallowed the basket on replay.

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Then, with Utah leading 79-77 at the half, Ron Harper scored a running shot to level the score. Although the slow-motion replays revealed Harper did not release the ball from his hands in time, the officials nonetheless counted Harper’s basket. See both of the plays here. With 40 seconds remaining in the game, the Jazz were leading 86-83, showing great perseverance even though they missed the break on Eisley’s three-pointer and Harper’s running jumper. However, with 37.2 seconds remaining, MJ made a layup to tie the score. Utah’s following drive, Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone, allowing the Bulls to take the lead. They did, during the play in which he memorably threw Bryon Russell aside in order to hit the winner of the championship.

Did Michael Jordan push off in ‘The Last Shot?’ The unending debate

Debates over that play have lasted for decades. The Bulls have, of course, always maintained that Michael Jordan has done nothing unlawful. Yet according to John Stockton, he obviously pushed off.

Michael Jordan Utah Jazz
Michael Jordan (image via NBA.com)

Danny Crawford, a former NBA referee, countered that it was a questionable play that might have gone anyway. Sadly, it went to Michael J instead of the Jazz.

The Utah Jazz made their second and last trip to the Finals in 1998. They could have won Game 6 with ease if the calls had gone in their favour. You may argue that it could have gone anyway because Game 7 was also held in Utah. Ultimately, this was the Bulls’ first-ever Game 7 experience. However, it is what it is, just as Antoine Carr’s criticism of the referees was appropriate.

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