The day was November 15, 1989, and the Bulls were about to play the Jazz for the first time in the season. Chicago was coming off a two-point win over the Kings for the record of 5-2. The Jazz only lost to the Rockets up until that point and were looking for their fourth win of the year. The game was an overture for what ended up happening in the 90s when two teams matched up in the Finals for two straight years. Utah won this game, and Chicago came out on top in both of those series.
Now the game in and of itself was a great one. It was a very close contest throughout the whole 48 minutes. After the first quarter buzzer had sounded, the Bulls were up 27-18. However, Utah wasn’t going anywhere, as they went on the run of their own, winning the second quarter 33-21, and going into the halftime with a three-point lead.
In the second half, we’ve witnessed much of the same. It was 24 minutes of constant lead changes, with no team being able to widen the gap significantly. Not until the last minute though, when Chicago had a seven-point lead and was about to run away with their sixth win of the season. Then the John Stockton magic happened.
Stock first hit a falling-away corner three in John Paxson’s face to bring the game within two possessions reach. It was Utah’s turn to play some defense, as the Bulls were inbounding the ball from the half-court. That’s when your all-time steals leader came to play. Pippen threw a risky pass to MJ, and Michael had a tough time controlling the ball. Stockton noticed it and had left his assignment to steal the ball from Jordan. He threw an outlet to Blue Edwards for a tough hanging layup to make it a two-point game. The Salt Palace erupted as fans expected the Jazz to pull off an upset and comeback from a seven-point deficit in the span of 40 seconds. It sure looked possible.
But with 3 seconds left on the game clock, Chicago was once again in front. Utah had the possession, and they ran a play for who other than John Stockton. Stock got the ball and was running directly at Michael Jordan, who was in a defensive stance running backward. Such a position of disbalance left MJ vulnerable for constant change of directions, not allowing him to properly set his feet and have a controlled defensive motion. Stockton did just that, and with two consecutive running crossovers broke Michael’s ankles for an uncontested body contorting layup to win the game 108-107.
Stock finished the game with 22 points, 18 assists, and 3 steals. His partner in crime Karl Malone led Utah in scoring with 29, with Thurl Bailey having a great impact off the bench with 20 points in 33 minutes. Jordan, on the other hand, had himself a game – 40 points and 10 rebounds while going 16-for-19 from the charity stripe. John Paxson dropped 27 of his own, as Pippen had a low scoring, but the great all-around performance of 16 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, to go along with 3 steals and five blocks.
However, the story of the game was John Stockton and his incredible 40 seconds sequence to steal the win from the Bulls. The sequence where he hit a contested three, stole the ball from Jordan and broke his ankles before hitting a shot to win the game. Now tell me, who else has such bragging rights?