How Michael Jordan motivated Bulls for Game 7 of '98 Eastern Conference finals

Rob Schaefer
·2 min read

In the Bulls' six championship seasons between 1990 and 1998, the team faced just two decisive Game 7s. It's a statistic almost as impressive as the titles themselves.

The first came against the New York Knicks in 1992, but the outcome of that game was hardly ever in doubt. On the hallowed hardwood of the old Chicago Stadium, the Bulls ceded just 30 second-half points en route to a 110-81 blowout victory.

But the second, against the Indiana Pacers in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals, was a tad more contentious. Not only was 1998 the Bulls' "last dance" season, that Pacers team was about as formidable an opponent as they encountered that decade. Entering Game 7 of the series, the home team had won every game (advantage Chicago), but every contest except Game 5 had been decided by six points or less. Anything could presumably happen in this winner-take-all affair.

That's how a sports blogger might think, anyways. Or even Phil Jackson. But fortunately, that specter of doubt never even approached the mind of Michael Jordan. On the most recent addition of "The Lowe Post" podcast, Steve Kerr recounted to ESPN's Zach Lowe how the team prepared for Game 7, and it features a peak Jordan cameo:

"I remember the day before the game we had our walkthrough, our practice, and I remember Phil called us in, and in typical Phil fashion, he's trying to get our minds right. He said, ‘You know, the important thing in a game like this is to not fear losing. You embrace the idea that you could lose. It's OK. You face that.' And so he was kind of getting into the psychological spirit of how to approach the game. 

But before he could even really get started, Michael just said, ‘No, [expletive] that, Phil, we're not losing.' And then we all put our hands in the middle, said ‘1-2-3, Bulls!' everybody went home, and then we showed up at the arena the next day."

Indeed, the Bulls emerged victorious, 88-83, in a game that went down to the wire. Jordan dropped 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Kerr had 11 points and three 3-pointers off the bench.

For once, it appears ignoring Phil Jackson was the key.

Through May 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing every 1998 Chicago Bulls NBA Playoff game (21 total). Find the full schedule here.

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How Michael Jordan motivated Bulls for Game 7 of '98 Eastern Conference finals originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago