Leading the NBA in per-game stats is a hard task to accomplish. Only the best players in specific categories manage to have these records. During the 1997-1998 season, the Chicago Bulls featured some of the best players in the entire NBA on one team, which is why the team was able to win their third straight championship. Through all the drama, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman cemented their legacy as one of the best big threes of all time.
Outside of the Bulls, there were some other impressive feats as well that might have been overlooked because of all the attention that was directed towards the Bulls this season. Some of the names might be expected, while others could come as a surprise. Here are the stat leaders from the 1997-1998 season.
PPG: Michael Jordan - 28.7
2nd Place: Shaquille O’Neal (28.3), 3rd Place: Karl Malone (27.0)
Jordan had a very successful season in what was his “final” season in the league. After the season, Jordan retired for a second time. At the time, he went out with a bang, winning his sixth Finals MVP and yet another scoring title. Jordan led the league in total points, scoring more than 150 points than runner-up Karl Malone.
Jordan’s field goal percentage (46.5%) was his worst shooting percentage since 1985-1986, but he did just enough to still get the ball into the basket. With the number of shots Jordan took each night, it should come as no surprise that he was able to find points. With a three-peat on the line, Jordan was going to take care of business himself.
RPG: Dennis Rodman - 15.0
2nd Place: Jayson Williams (13.6), 3rd Place: Tim Duncan (11.9)
Dennis Rodman lived a very “see the ball, get the ball” mentality when it came to his style of play. Rodman’s job was to rebound and he did an exceptional job of doing it in Chicago. Rodman led the league with 1,201 rebounds. The second-most rebounds came from Tim Duncan with 977, making Rodman the only player in the league with over 1,00 for the season.
Rodman led the league in defensive rebounds with 780 but came in second place in offensive rebounds. Jayson Williams led the league with 443, while Rodman was close with 421. With Rodman taking care of the boards, it allowed Jordan and Pippen to do so much more on the offensive side.
APG: Rod Strickland - 10.5
2nd Place: Jason Kidd (9.1), 3rd Place: Mark Jackson (8.7)
Out of all the years, Strickland played, this was his best season. Strickland nearly played 40 minutes a night, scored 17.8 points, and added 10.5 assists. This was the only double-double average of his career. He also added 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals as well.
The Wizards were 42-40 as a team and missed the playoffs. Despite having Chris Webber and Juwan Howard leading the team in points, the Wizards could never find their groove. Strickland winning the assists crown was a lone bright spot.
SPG: Mookie Blaylock - 2.6
2nd Place: Brevin Knight (2.5), 3rd Place: Doug Christie (2.4)
Some say that it’s almost unfair that Blaylock won the steals crown. You can spin it however you want. Brevin Knight led the league with 196 total steals, while Blaylock finished with 183. Knight played 10 more games than Blaylock and just lost out on the steals crown. One could make the argument that Blaylock could have easily finished with one steal in each of those games and the stats would have evened out.
Regardless, Blaylock’s total steals were behind Knight, Doug Christie, and Gary Payton. This was one of the closest races in the stats, but Blaylock was able to clinch the crown and bring it home to Atlanta.
BPG: Marcus Camby - 3.7
2nd Place: Dikembe Mutombo (3.4), 3rd Place: Shawn Bradley (3.3)
Camby led the league in blocks per game but didn’t lead the league in total blocks. Dikembe Mutombo finished with 277 blocks to lead the league. Camby didn’t even finish as the runner-up as Theo Ratliff had 258. Camby owned 230 total blocks, but his per-game average was the highest in the league.
It was a breakout season for Camby, who was in his second season in the league. Playing for the Raptors, Camby appeared to be a player that the team could potentially build around. Instead, it was Camby’s last year and he joined the Knicks the following season.
TOV: Antoine Walker - 3.6
2nd Place: Grant Hill (3.5), 3rd Place: Tim Duncan (3.4)
Walker was a turnover machine this season. He nearly finished with 300 total turnovers but came up short with 292. Grant Hill was right behind with 285, while Tim Duncan had his worst overall season handling the ball. Walker averaged 18.7 points per game and was needed for the offense by the Celtics. He was going to have the ball in his hands a lot.
With that said, Walker’s turnover margin was significantly high for the production he gave. Keep in mind that he averaged just 3.1 assists per game. Having the ball in his hands meant points, but it also meant that the possession was going to come up empty as well.
MPG: Michael Finley - 41.4
2nd Place: Glenn Robinson (41.0), 3rd Place: Grant Hill (40.7)
Seven players averaged at least 40 or more minutes per game during this season, but it was Finley that led the league in total playing time. Finley ended up playing 99 total more minutes than Glen Rice, while his average time narrowly beat out Glenn Robinson. Finley was a true horse for the Mavericks this season, where he also averaged 20.2 points per game.
Averaging over 40 minutes of playing time is not something we are used to seeing these days. In the last 20 years, we have only seen Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, Cuttino Mobley, Shawn Marion, Antoine Walker, and Kobe Bryant average more minutes than Finley’s minutes per game average.
Field-Goal Percentage: Shaquille O’Neal - 58.4%
2nd Place: Bo Outlaw (55.4%), 3rd Place: Alonzo Mourning (55.0%)
Shaq’s field goal percentage is even more impressive when you think about how he finished runner-up in the scoring race to Michael Jordan. Shaq nearly capitalized on 60% of his shots and he took 19.1 shots per game. Shaq also finished fourth in the league in two-point field goals, finishing with 670. He trailed only Jordan, Malone, and Duncan in that category.
When you look at true shooting percentage, Shaq finished 12th in the league at this time. This percentage looks at two-point and three-point field goals, as well as free throw percentage. Shaq didn’t attempt a single three-pointer this season, while his 52.7% shooting from the free-throw line likely brought him down.
Three-Point Percentage: Dale Ellis - 46.4%
2nd Place: Jeff Hornacek (44.1%), 3rd Place: Chris Mullin (44.0%)
Ellis led the league in three-point shooting by making 1.5 three-point field goals per game out of 3.5 attempts. Jeff Hornacek finished second by making 0.7 out of 1.6, while Chris Mullin made 1.3 out of 3.0. Needless to say, Ellis finished 14th in the league in three-point field goals made but was out of the top-20 in attempts.
While Ellis was efficient enough to win this category, we need to give a special mention to Wesley Person, who played for the Cavaliers this season. Person led the league in three-point field goals made and attempts. Person beat out the likes of Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars, Tracy Murray, and Tim Hardaway.
Free Throw Percentage: Chris Mullin - 93.4%
2nd Place: Jeff Hornacek (88.5%), 3rd Place: Ray Allen 87.5%
Mullin convincingly won the free throw race by being the only player that shot over 90% from the free-throw line. Karl Malone and Michael Jordan went one-two in most free throws made and attempted, but it was Mullin that converted at the line the most when he was given the opportunity. Mullin finished the season making 1.9 free throws out of 2.0 attempts.
Mullin made 154 free throws out of 164 attempted, which was significantly less than the 628 free throws out of 825 by Malone. With that said, it’s not about how many you take, it’s about the percentage that you make. Given that Mullin missed only 10 free throws all year, it’s still an impressive accomplishment.