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1998 NBA Award Winners: Michael Jordan Won His Last MVP Award, Larry Bird Was Coach Of The Year

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1998 NBA Award Winners: Michael Jordan Won His Last MVP Award, Larry Bird Was Coach Of The Year

The 1997-1998 season had the last dance feeling as the Chicago Bulls were going to roll out the red carpet one last time for Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. The Bulls accomplished greatness and solidified their place as the league’s best dynasty with their sixth NBA championship.

Throughout the season, the Bulls weren’t the only ones accomplishing great things. From a stellar defensive season from Dikembe Mutombo to Danny Manning’s miraculous return from knee surgery, the season featured a ton of highs.

These are the award winners for the 1997-1998 season.

Most Valuable Player - Michael Jordan

2nd Place: Karl Malone; 3rd Place: Gary Payton

Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a 62-20 record and led the league in scoring with 28.7 points per game. This was Jordan’s fifth regular-season MVP trophy. With the Bulls searching for their second three-peat, Jordan played like a man on a mission. He also averaged 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals. When the voting was tallied, Jordan received 92 first-place votes.

Right behind Jordan was Karl Malone, who led the league in total win shares. Malone averaged 27.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. Malone secured 20 first-place votes. In the NBA Finals, it was MVP and runner-up when it was all said and done.

Defensive Player Of The Year - Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo

2nd Place: Gary Payton; 3rd Place: David Robinson

The DPOY winner was a tight race between Dikembe Mutombo and Gary Payton. Mutombo narrowly won the race with 39 first-place votes, while Payton came up just short with 37 votes. Mutombo averaged an impressive line of 13.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks. Mutombo was the league’s best rim protector and was instrumental in leading the Hawks to 50 wins.

As for Payton, he was regarded as the league’s best defensive guard. Payton averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. Payton often regarded the likes of Michael Jordan when they played. Payton played about three more minutes than Mutombo in games as well.

Rookie Of The Year - Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan

2nd Place: Keith Van Horn; 3rd Place: None

When Duncan entered the league, he and David Robinson became known as the “Twin Towers.” The combination of Duncan and Robinson made it a fearsome defensive unit. After all, Robinson finished third in the DPOY voting. As for Duncan, he emerged as an early defensive specialist, recording 22 rebounds in just his second road game of the season.

Duncan averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.5 blocks in his first season. He earned All-NBA First Team and was named All-Defensive Second Team. It was an easy race in the Rookie of the Year voting, as Duncan won Rookie of the Month every single month that season. Duncan received 113 of the 116 votes.

Sixth Man Of The Year - Danny Manning

Danny Manning

2nd Place: Kobe Bryant; 3rd Place: Dale Ellis

Manning beat out Kobe Bryant in the voting with 57 votes in comparison to Bryant’s 31 votes. Manning averaged 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steals. Manning shot 51.6% from the field and 73.9% at the free-throw line. Conversely, Bryant averaged 15.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 0.9 steals, while shooting 42.8% from the field and 79.4% from the free-throw line.

Manning accomplished a distinction with the award. He became the first NBA player to have returned to play after reconstructive surgery on both knees. This surgery was done on Kenyon Martin, Amar’e Stoudemire, Greg Oden, and Derrick Rose. That makes it even more impressive that he was able to come back and play at a high level.

Most Improved Player - Alan Henderson

Alan Henderson

2nd Place: Corliss Williamson; 3rd Place: Donyell Marshall

Henderson won Most Improved Player after averaging 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and shot 48.5% from the field. Henderson made significant improvements from his previous season. Henderson averaged 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds during the 1996-1997 season. He saw his minutes double, as well as the number of games he appeared in.

Henderson narrowly won the race with 33 votes, while Corliss Williamson was right in the thick of it with 25 votes and Donyell Marshall with 24 votes. Williamson averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds, while Marshall averaged 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. In the end, Henderson had the best win shares, so maybe that was what got him over the edge.

Coach Of The Year - Larry Bird

Larry Bird Coach

Bird was a special assistant in the team’s front office from 1992 to 1997. In the 1997 offseason, Bird accepted the position of head coach of the Indiana Pacers with the intention of not coaching the team longer than three years. Despite not having any coaching experience, Bird guided the Pacers to a 58-24 record, which was the best record the team had ever recorded since joining the NBA.

The Pacers lost five of their first seven games, but then won 15 of their next 18. Before the All-Star break, the Pacers held the best record in the East at 33-13. The Pacers ultimately finished second in the Central Division, while Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, and Bird represented the team at the All-Star Game. In the playoffs, the Pacers pushed the Bulls to seven games before being eliminated.

NBA Champions - Chicago Bulls

Runner-Up: Utah Jazz

To get to the Finals, the Bulls had to defeat the Indiana Pacers in seven games. It was the first time that Jordan played in a Game 7 since the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Knicks. After the Bulls escaped with the victory, the Bulls played the Jazz in the Finals for a second straight year.

The Bulls and Jazz would split the first two games. After that, the series returned to Chicago where the Bulls blew out the Jazz 96-54. It was a record for the fewest points allowed in a Finals game. The Jazz would pull themselves together in Game 4, but ultimately lost 86-82. The next two games would set up some amazing finishes.

With the Jazz leading 83-81, Jordan had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but air-balled an off-balanced three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left. However, Jordan made up for it in Game 6. With the Jazz leading 86-85, Jordan secured a steal and dribbled up the frontcourt. Guarding him was Byron Russell, who was a prime defender. Jordan drove to the three-point line, committed the cross-over, and drilled a 20-foot jump shot to give the Bulls the lead with 5.2 seconds. The Bulls then played sound defense on the final play to win their sixth title in eight years.

Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

The finish in Game 6 remains an all-time highlight in today’s world. Jordan deserved Finals MVP, having led all scorers in the game. Jordan averaged 33.5 points per game, including 45 points in the final game of the series. With six Finals MVPs, Jordan leads all players in NBA history, while LeBron James trails him with four.

The 1998 Finals remains the highest watched television series in Finals history. Game 6 holds the record for highest television rating in any game in NBA history. The MVP back-and-forth with Jordan and Malone was a true story. They were the best players in the league, but Jordan proved he was the best player on the floor.

1998 NBA Season - All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA Teams, All-Rookie Teams, All-Defensive Teams

All-Star Game MVP: Michael Jordan

All-NBA First Team: Gary Payton, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal

All-NBA Second Team: Rod Strickland, Tim Hardaway, Vin Baker, Grant Hill, David Robinson

All-NBA Third Team: Glen Rice, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Mitch Richmond, Dikembe Mutombo

All-Rookie First Team: Ron Mercer, Brevin Knight, Keith Van Horn, Tim Duncan, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

All-Rookie Second Team: Bobby Jackson, Derek Anderson, Cedric Henderson, Tim Thomas, Maurice Taylor

All-Defensive First Team: Gary Payton, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Dikembe Mutombo

All-Defensive Second Team: Mookie Blaylock, Eddie Jones, Charles Oakley, Tim Duncan, David Robinson


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