It’s time for 1997 on NBA Tuesday, as we continue looking at the “first” comeback of Michael Jordan with his final seasons in Chicago. Definitively the greatest NBA player ever, His Airness put together two three-peat championship runs with the Bulls, from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998. While we’ve had one team put together a three-peat effort since (Los Angeles Lakers, 2000-2002), we know that was pretty fixed.
While the NBA may have been playing with TV ratings for maximum profits, it wasn’t fixing outcomes with MJ on the court, that’s for sure.
1997 NBA FINALS MVP: Michael Jordan, SG, Chicago (original, confirmed)
Chicago beat the Utah Jazz in a very tight, six-game Finals series to claim a second consecutive title. The Bulls outscored the Jazz by just 0.6 ppg, overall, and Chicago escaped with three victories by less than 5 points each (Games 1, 5, and 6). The age was beginning to show on Jordan’s game, for sure, but he was still named the MVP, of course. Who else would have been?
Jordan’s line here: 32.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, and 1.2 spg in 42.7 mpg. The Bulls had just one other player in double-digit scoring, and Jordan topped his team in scoring, assists, and minutes. This was a defensive era of NBA play, and he knew how to grind out wins like no one else in the game. We confirm his vote award here with no other options, really.
1997 NBA DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo, C, Atlanta (original); Grant Hill, SF, Detroit (revised)
Center Dikembe Mutombo (6.64 DWS) won the vote again, this time playing for the Atlanta Hawks. But he won’t win it from us, because of two teammates also in the Top 10 for DWS: point guard Mookie Blaylock (5.57) and power forward Christian Laettner (5.44). Teammates from New York (C Patrick Ewing and PF Charles Oakley) and Miami (C Alonzo Mourning and PF P.J. Brown) also are out.
Our contenders for the crown here are now just three: Detroit Pistons small forward Grant Hill (5.90), Houston Rockets C Hakeem Olajuwon (5.62), and Seattle SuperSonics PF Shawn Kemp (5.40). The Pistons were the worst team of the three, making the playoffs by just 12 wins, while the Rockets and the Sonics cruised in by 23 victories. So, it’s Hill for this award, surprisingly.
His statistics: 7.5 defensive boards, 1.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks a game for a team that gave up the second-fewest points per game in the Eastern Conference while scoring just the third-least points. That’s not a lot of margin for error (5.3 ppg), so every defensive play mattered—and Hill’s career-best 7.3 apg helped a lot of defensive stops turn into fast-break points, too.