For Utah, It Was Fun for a While


So ended what the locals were calling “Utah’s Summer of Love” and “Jazzstock.” Like Woodstock, it was several days of fun, interrupted by a sudden shower.

The Jazz won two glorious games and turned the series into the most compelling NBA finals of the ‘90s, but on the Bulls’ seventh day here, Michael Jordan rose from his sickbed to prove that, at 34, he was still Michael Jordan and there went your festival.

Suddenly, there was a chill wind blowing through the valley and the downtown streets, where revelers drove their cars late into the nights after Games 3 and 4, honking their horns, were empty again.


When you come up against Jordan in the ‘90s, it goes like that. Always has, still does.

This time, he overcame illness--”He was dehydrated, felt like he was going to pass out,” said Scottie Pippen. “We were feeding him fluids, [giving him] cold towels”--rallied his team from 16 points behind, scoring 38 points, including the three-pointer with 25 seconds left that put the Bulls ahead to stay.

Does he ever surprise you any more, someone asked his buddy, Charles Barkley, afterward.

“Couple times,” said Barkley, “when he missed a putt for 100 grand.”

Jordan got sick Tuesday night and missed the Wednesday morning shoot-around, news that was flashed around the state instantaneously by the camera crews waiting outside the Bulls’ practice facility in Park City.

“I let him miss it,” said Coach Phil Jackson to a Salt Lake City TV reporter, skipping the grim details. “He didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“Where was he?” asked the reporter.

“What do you mean, where was he?” said Jackson. “He was in his room. He just didn’t sleep well.”

By game time, the Bulls announced Jordan had “viral gastroenteritis,” but would try to play. The Bulls went “gulp” and considered Plan B, whatever that is.

Meanwhile, the celebration that was Salt Lake City continued. Fans showed up with banners protesting Dennis Rodman’s idea of a joke at Mormons’ expense. One featured a Jazz logo under the words, “This is your brain,” and a Bulls logo under the words, “This is your brain on drugs.”


The Bulls held their ears during the fireworks show, again. Once again, the Bear mascot rode his motorcycle onto the floor during a time out and gunned the engine, the act Jackson had protested. The Jazz shot into a 36-20 lead by the second quarter. Ignoring the seats scalpers were getting hundreds of dollars for, Jazz fans stood most of the time.

Just when things couldn’t get any merrier, Utah’s Jeff Hornacek, who has been known to try plays he can’t make, threw a wild hook pass right to Jordan, who beat the defense to the other end, was fouled and made two free throws.

Hornacek then made another bad pass, springing Jordan for a fast-break layup. Then Toni Kukoc hit a three. Then Luc Longley dunked, off a pass from guess-whom. The Bulls were off on a 25-8 run that would vault them into the lead, of which guess-whom would score 12.

Suddenly all the Bulls felt better. Mike had a cold; his teammates had been suffering from heart failure.

“That’s one of the scariest things you can have in basketball,” said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan of the early lead. “Chicago knows it. Anybody knows it.

“When you come out and try to blow a team away, which is what it looked like we were trying to do, are you going to have enough to finish?


“You have to try to have your emotions the same at the beginning as you do at the end.”

At the end, with the score tied, 85-85, the Bulls posted up Pippen on the shorter Hornacek. Bryon Russell, guarding guess-whom, took a step toward Scottie, who, of course, threw the ball back out to guess-whom behind the three-point line and the rest was just more Michael Jordan NBA finals history.

Late Wednesday night, another motorcycle roar was heard. It was Karl Malone, riding the one Karl Jr. had picked out for him for luck, through the press dining room, out the back of the Delta Center. He gunned the engine one last, loud time. Utah’s summer of love was over but Chicago’s was just warming up.