We’ve reached the final season Air Jordan v2 on NBA Tuesday, with the Chicago Bulls winning a third-straight league championship—for the second time in this decade. Life would go on without MJ, of course, but things started to get a lot more contrived in the sport, that’s for sure. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s look at two more major awards … and whether or not the voters got it right.
Here we go, once more!
1998 NBA FINALS MVP: Michael Jordan, SG, Chicago (original, confirmed)
The Bulls did not have home-court advantage for this rematch with the Utah Jazz, but that did not stop shooting guard Michael Jordan from his sixth ring, earned this time in six games. Other than a random, 42-point blowout win for Chicago in Game 3, every contest in this series was decided by 5 points or less. Jordan was voted the MVP, of course, as he more than doubled up his teammates in scoring.
With 33.5 ppg, MJ easily left teammates Scottie Pippen (15.7 ppg) and Toni Kukoc (15.2 ppg) in the dust here, providing 38 percent of all Chicago’s points in the series. He also led the team in steals (1.8 per game), while taking his foot off the gas in other areas (rebounding and passing). It was an odd series for Jordan, in truth, but one that reflected his age, experience, and wisdom. We confirm his MVP nod.
With this affirmation, Jordan now has 6 Finals MVP awards, topping both Bill Russell and Magic Johnson in our books. Russell just passed away, of course, and Johnson remains an icon for many people to this day. As for Jordan, well … we don’t need to say much more than we already have. No one compares, period.
1998 NBA DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo, C, Atlanta (original); Charles Oakley, PF, New York (revised)
We had 8 candidates here, initially, but with Jordan (5.35 DWS) and Dennis Rodman (5.92) as teammates, the field was reduced to 6 guys. Atlanta Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo (5.17) won the award vote again, but there were a lot of other contenders. Yet San Antonio Spurs teammates Tim Duncan (7.17) and David Robinson (6.01) also canceled each other out here. Nuts!
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Shawn Kemp (5.92), New York Knicks PF Charles Oakley (5.57), Mutombo, and Detroit Pistons small forward Grant Hill (5.06)—our pick for the award last year—remain as the primary possibilities. Detroit missed the playoffs, while the Knicks made it by just one game in the Eastern Conference. That edges out Kemp (5-game cushion) and Mutombo (8). Surprise!
At age 34, Oakley played 34.6 mpg and scored just 9.0 ppg. But we know this is not about scoring: His 9.2 rpg and 1.6 spg led to 2.5 apg for a team that finished 43-39 while giving up the fewest points in the Eastern Conference. He was doing the dirty work, and it paid off for the Knicks with a postseason appearance.