To understand Michael Jordan and his run with the Chicago Bulls, you have to understand the competition he had to face.
We all know of the PIstons and the Pacers because they were MJ's biggest challengers in the East. They pushed him to the brink multiple teams and (in the case of the Pistons) even beat him the 80s.
Toward the finals years of their run though, in the Finals, it was the Jazz who stood between the Bulls and their titles. And though Michael hardly needed any motivation to perform, he revealed in the latest episode of "The Last Dance" what it was that fueled him to beat Utah during their Finals series in 1997.
Jordan retired with 5 MVP's, but he might have had six had Malone not won it that year. For context, MJ averaged 29.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on 49.7% shooting that year. Malone, meanwhile, put up 27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 55 percent shooting.
The case can certainly be made for either player, but (in this case) Malone's MVP win probably ended up working against him. If there's one thing we've learned about MJ, it's that it's never wise to piss him off.