Great Playoff Moments, Day 2: Did Michael Jordan Foul or Receive A Superstar No Call Against Utah's Bryon Russell?
Ten years later, the debate rages like teenage girls picking between Usher and Justin Timberlake. Did Michael Jordan foul Byron Russell to get open, stroke a foul-line jumper, and ultimately win his sixth Laurence O'Brien Trophy? ... Ten years later, the debate rages like teenage girls picking between Usher and Justin Timberlake. Did Michael Jordan foul Bryon Russell to get open, stroke a foul-line jumper, and ultimately win his sixth Laurence O’Brien Trophy?
The set-up is well-known; game six, 1998 NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls are leading the Utah Jazz 3-2. Only seconds remain. The Bulls are trailing 86-85, but they have the final possession.
Everybody knows who’s taking the last shot. And everybody knows the final result-even diehard Jazz fans. Of course, Jordan isolates on Russell at the top of the key, drives right, creates separation with his left hand, and nails an easy shot.
Whenever I’ve referenced this play in past posts, the caps-locked hate hits the comment box like Greenpeace activists fighting SUVs or fishing freighters they attack in motorized dingies best suited for backyard pools.
Here is the question: offensive foul or superstar leeway? Watch the clip, read both arguments, and get at me with your caps-locked rant in the comment below …
Offensive Foul …
When watching the clip close-up, Jordan actually fouls Russell twice. First, he slaps his hand like my soccer buddy ‘The Beav’ gets slapped by well-weathered women refusing his overt advances at the Signmaster team retreat on Saltspring Island ( it wasn't just his nickname they found offensive). Second, he finds space by pushing Russell’s leg with his left palm.
Superstar Leeway …
Going by the rulebook, it’s an obvious call. But the record book, not the rulebook, is what matters. The infraction wasn’t whistled; fair or not, Chicago and Jordan are forever remembered by this illustrious shot.
Why a no call? Perhaps, the refs missed it. Basketball is a fast sport and all three black-and-whites can’t catch everything.
Most, however, cry conspiracy. They allege the NBA favours hi-profile, big market teams winning championships. Naturally, then the suits at head office would prefer the beloved Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan beating up little old Utah, right? According to this theory, the foul is small potatoes when stepping back and considering the big picture.
Our call: Neither an offensive foul or superstar leeway. Sure, all sports leagues want big market franchises to succeed, but I also question a Stone-Stern conspiracy.
The refs probably pocketed their whistles for such a monumental play. No zebra wants that call; what they do want is for the players to decide the outcome, which means no offensive foul on Jordan's shove and no whistle if he drives and draws contact.
Of course, disagree in the comment box below ... even if it must be in militant caps lock.
Offensive foul, superstar leeway, or neither? Get at us with your thoughts on Jordan's jumper. And come back to HoopsVibe everyday during the postseason for more great playoff moments. Image courtesy of Wally G's portfolio.
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