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Karl Malone is one of the greatest power forwards of All-Time. "The Mailman" played 18 years with the Utah Jazz, all of it with John Stockton, one of the greatest point guards of all time. And in that time, he racked up many accolades including 2 MVPs, 11 All-NBA First Team selections, and 14 All-Star Game appearances. He also appeared on the 1992 Dream Team, still heralded as the greatest team ever assembled.
However, he couldn't win a ring. Even when he joined the Lakers in 2004, he came up short in the finals.
Although his Utah Jazz team fell to the Chicago Bulls in 1997, the Jazz had a legitimate chance to beat the Bulls in 1998. But their fate was sealed with two plays that may have turned the series.
The first was Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The Jazz were up 1-0 in the series and looking to go up 2-0. Michael Jordan and his team came out with reckless abandon and took a nine point lead in the fourth quarter despite Malone's terrible shooting game. However, Malone had a chance to be the hero. On one play, when the Jazz had cut the lead to one, the Jazz needed a defensive stop. Jordan missed a jumper and Malone (one of the game's great rebounders) lost that critical board to Steve Kerr. It lead to a three point play for Jordan and basically the end of the game.
The Bulls would go on to take a 3-2 series lead going back to Utah. Despite Jordan's amazing 43-point effort to that point, the Jazz still held a one-point lead in the final seconds. If the Jazz could just take care of the ball and dribble out the clock, there would have been a Game 7, a position that would have favored them since it would have been in Utah.
But every bad break in the book came down on Malone's team.
First, Malone turned the ball over to Jordan. That's a no-no in the final seconds of a one-point game. Then the Jazz let Jordan isolate on the final play. Sure they were burned by a pass out by Jordan for Steve Kerr's game winner the previous year, but I still would rather anyone else beat me in that situation. Then there was a no-call on the Jordan push on Bryon Russell for the game/series/title winning shot.
If Malone had not turned the ball over, if the referees had called Jordan for an offensive foul, or if Jordan was called for fouling Malone instead of stealing the ball cleanly, there might have been a Game 7 in the series, where the home team wins nearly every time in the finals, and Malone might have a ring.
That turnover (an Jordan's brilliance) cost Malone a title.