Greg Ostertag On 1998 Finals: We Would Have Won Game 7

The former Utah Jazz center made some bold statements about Michael Jordan and the NBA Finals

Tiki and Tierney
May 18, 2020 - 8:15 pm
Michael Jordan Phil Jackson Bulls

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Former Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag wasn’t too interested in The Last Dance

“I haven’t watched a second of it,” Ostertag said on Tiki & Tierney. “I’ve only seen highlights of it.”

But Ostertag, who played for the Jazz from 1995 to 2004 and again from 2005-06, has plenty of thoughts on the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals.

“I think we were the better team the second time through,” Ostertag said. “I’m not going to say we weren’t the better team the first time, but the end result doesn’t lie. They won. Where we screwed up is we had home-court advantage the second year, and we lost that second game at home. That’s just something you can’t do, especially against a team like the Bulls with that kind of roster.”

The Jazz won Game 1, 88-85, but lost Game 2, 93-88. The Bulls won Games 3 and 4 to go up 3-1 in the series before the Jazz took Game 5, 83-81, to force a Game 6 in Salt Lake City.

“I truly believe – and I’ve always believed – that if we could have gotten to Game 7, we would have won,” Ostertag said. “But again, players of that caliber step up and hit that caliber of shot to win games – and he did, even though there was a giant push-off.”

Ostertag, of course, is referring to Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot against Bryon Russell. Jordan, Jazz fans argue, pushed off on Russell to create space for the shot, but others, including Bob Costas, don’t agree.

“I saw Michael’s quote where [Russell’s] momentum carried him,” Ostertag said. “I’m not going to say his momentum [didn’t] carry him, but his momentum didn’t carry him that far.”

Jordan said that Russell played defense on his toes, which made him easier to exploit.

“I’m not going to argue that he may have been on his toes, but you’re not going to go 10 feet past somebody being on your toes,” Ostertag said. “But in all honesty, that call is not going to be made in that situation, especially on that player. It’s just not going to happen. We had chances to win that game.”

And the series. Both series, in fact. Ultimately, though, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Russell and Ostertag will join the long list of 1990s NBA players who didn’t win a title because of Jordan.

“To me, Michael Jordan is the best player to ever play the game,” Ostertag said. “That’s not taking anything away from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar [or] Bill Russell. Michael Jordan is by far the best player to ever play the game. Over LeBron James, over Kobe Bryant, who I think are fantastic players.”