By Michael Romanelli
Lead by the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, the 1997 Jazz were a force to be reckoned with. Karl Malone averaged 27.4 points and 9.9 rebounds to win MVP, while floor general John Stockton was his usual self and averaged 10.5 assists. Utah finished the season with a 64-18 record, going 31-4 after the All-Star game. In the first round, the Jazz swept the Los Angeles Clippers in three games and went on to play the Lakers with Shaq and a rookie named Kobe Bryant. Utah won the series in 5 games. In the Western Conference Finals, the Jazz would face the Houston Rockets and their “Big Three” consisting of Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Houston seemed like they were about to force overtime and likely a game 7, and then John Stockton hit a series winning three pointer to send Utah to their first NBA Finals appearance. In the NBA Finals, Stockton and Malone would have to go up against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. In game 1, Jordan would hit one of his many iconic game winning shots. Chicago won game two as well, but Utah managed to tie the series at home. With back to back wins and another game at home, it seemed like the Jazz would take the series lead back to Chicago, especially because Michael Jordan had the flu. However, Jordan had his famous “flu game” and scored 38 points accompanied by 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block to lead the Bulls to victory. Michael wasn’t 100% for game 6, but felt a lot better and scored 39 points, and the Bulls won the game 90-86. Utah would rematch the Bulls in the 1998 Finals as well.
To learn more about John and Karl, check out our interview with former teammate Mark Eaton