Utah Jazz: Judge Rules That Michael Jordan Pushed Off on Bryon Russell

A judge in Utah has issued his ruling — Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan pushed off on Utah Jazz wing Bryon Russell in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

For fans of the Utah Jazz, June 14, 1998 is a date that will forever live in infamy. It was the day the music died for a generation of Jazz fans; the day of Game 6 of the ’98 NBA Finals versus the Chicago Bulls.

Despite heading into the fourth quarter with the lead, Utah ultimately lost the game and their chance at the title on a Michael Jordan jump shot with 5.2 seconds remaining. If you aren’t old enough to have seen it live, you’ve probably seen it since. The game is replayed ad-nauseam on NBA-TV and is one of the most memorable plays in league history.

For Jazz fans (and many others around the basketball world), Jordan’s game-winner warrants an asterisk. While the play was a storybook ending to Jordan’s career with the Bulls, many wonder if MJ should’ve been called for an offensive foul on the play. To free himself for the shot, he arguably pushed off on Utah’s Bryon Russell.

Let’s go to the tape —

Whether Jordan pushed off or Russell simply slipped as a result of MJ’s crossover dribble remains a matter of debate. However, nearly 19 years after the fact, a Utah judge has issued a “ruling” on the play.

In his recent State of the Judiciary address, Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant stated that His Airness did indeed push off. From The Salt Lake Tribune

After recounting a number of technological improvements made by Utah courts over the past 20 years, the justice joked that it’s also been about 20 years since Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan made a controversial play to beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals.
“I know that some argue he did not push off; most of them live in Chicago,” he said. “But after much consideration, I am now prepared to rule. He pushed off. And if you think I don’t have the power to decide that, you haven’t read the Utah Constitution.”

Durrant’s ruling doesn’t change history, but I’m on-board with it as a long-suffering Jazz fan. Old habits die hard, some wounds never heal and the Jazz should’ve won on June 14 of ’98. Referee Dick Bavetta should have called the foul, the Jazz should’ve won Game 6 and the logical next step would be winning the championship in Game 7.

In lieu of those things, I guess I’ll take the musings of a local judge.

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