Bulls

Bryon Russell trash talked a retired Michael Jordan, fueling '97 and '98 Finals

Bulls

In the penultimate episode of The Last Dance, viewers learn about the Bulls-Jazz rivalry and what was the motivation.

Many speculated that Karl Malone's 1997 NBA MVP Award could've been the fuel and Michael Jordan confirmed it was a motivating factor.

But it was more than that, including a young Bryon Russell during Michael Jordan's first retirement.

"We had probably three guys that were typically assigned to match up with Michael and Bryon Russell would've been first and foremost," Jazz point guard John Stockton said. "Bryon Russell made our team in the first place through incredible effort defensively, so he earned the right to take on some of the tougher assignments and it doesn't get any tougher than Michael."

"Pffft..." Jordan says in the next frame.

And then comes the story of a young and dumb Bryon Russell challenging Michael Jordan that was filed away in His Airness' iron-clad grudge vault and pulled out when the Jazz met the Bulls in the 1997 NBA Finals.

"When I was playing baseball, Utah was in town to play the Bulls," Jordan recounts. "They're practicing at the facility and I go over to say hi to John and Karl. And this kid, Bryon Russell, comes up to me and says 'Man, why you quit? Why you quit? You knew I could guard your ass. You had to quit.'

"I said, 'Karl, you need to talk to this dude' [Karl responds] 'Ah, he's just a young rookie.' But from that point on, he's been on my list."

 

Cue the Jordan banking game-winning shots over Russell.

And while it wouldn't come until the 1998 NBA finals, the final nail in the coffin is Jordan hitting that shot in Game 6 to complete the Bulls' second three-peat.

If there is one thing we've learned in The Last Dance, it's you never ever trash talk Michael Jordan.

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