Most all franchises in sports can go back to a couple specific moments in their team’s history where they failed to clinch an important victory. The "Bill Buckner" moments, or more recently, a "JR Smith" moment are what challenge our loyalty in our team. My Buckner moment was during game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
The Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets for their first shot at bringing a title to Salt Lake City. After 5 games with the Chicago Bulls, we come to a last stand. Both teams have competed hard all series, with the record at 3-2, and the Bulls leading. A game 7 will be forced if the Jazz can pull through and win this game.
There’s about 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, both teams tied at 86. Stockton slips a nice bounce pass to rookie Shandon Anderson on the baseline. Anderson, picked up by Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Dennis Rodman, planks a lay up right off the glass.
When I saw Chicago grab this rebound, I about ripped my hair out. Now, what is often disregarded is the fact that Pippen jumped up and grabbed the rim. Even replays after the fact showed a clear and blatant goaltend, which should have resulted in counting Andersen’s 10th points, and a better opportunity for the Jazz to win.
Next possession, the Bulls are planning to isolate Jordan after the time out. There are only 5 seconds left when Jordan can’t get an open look, and dishes the ball to Steve Kerr for a quick jumper that takes the lead. Jazz call a timeout, hoping to inbound the ball immediately from half court, for a quick bucket in return.
Teams come from their benches, and ready up to close out this game. Bryon Russell inbounds to ball only to be stolen by Jordan, which led to a Bulls’ dunk to put Utah away. The crowd rushes the floor with 0.6 seconds left, and the officials call the game as the Jazz lost a chance at their first title in history.
Did poor officiating cost the Utah a title? Or was it the rookie who couldn’t finish? Not to mention the fact that it would have been our first title… it’s quite possibly just as bad as the Buckner moment to any Utah fan.