Michael Jordan Says Karl Malone Winning 1996-97 NBA MVP 'Fueled a Fire in Me'

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIMay 18, 2020

(FILES) In this 07 June 1998 file photo, Michael Jordan (L) of the Chicago Bulls smiles while standing next to Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz 07 June in the first half of game three of the NBA Finals at the United Center in Chicago, IL. Print and broadcast reports of 12 January indicate that Jordan, a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player, plans to announce his retirement at a 13 January news conference in Chicago.        AFP PHOTOFILES/Jeff HAYNES (Photo by JEFF HAYNES / AFP) (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images

The Mailman delivered Michael Jordan a motive.

Hall of Fame Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone was named the 1996-97 NBA MVP over second-place Jordan, and the Chicago Bulls' six-time champion revealed during Episode 9 of ESPN's The Last Dance on Sunday that it wasn't lost on him:

ESPN @espn

MJ finished second to Karl Malone in the 1996-97 MVP voting and he did not forget it. https://t.co/5OvG6NwF1G

Episode 9 also chronicled Jordan's famous "Flu Game," which saw the legend drop a game-high 38 points as the Bulls defeated Malone's Jazz 90-88 to take a 3-2 series lead in the '97 NBA Finals.

Chicago went on to beat Utah 90-86 in Game 6 to capture the franchise's fifth championship of the Jordan era. The sixth and final ring came the following season—again topping Malone and the Jazz 4-2—which served as the crux of the 10-part docuseries.

As far as MVP awards go, Jordan was named the Finals MVP for the sixth time in his career. The 57-year-old also claimed five league MVPs ('87-88, '90-91, '91-92, '95-96, '97-98) compared to Malone's two ('96-97, '98-99).