Michael Jordan Denies Pushing off on Bryon Russell Before GW Shot: 'Bulls--t'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JUNE 14: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles past Bryon Russell #3 of the Utah Jazz prior to shooting the game winning jumpshot during game six of the 1998 NBA Finals played on June 14, 1998 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice and Credit:  Copyright 1998 NBAE  (Photo by Scott Winterton/NBAE via Getty Images)
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It is one of the most iconic shots in NBA history and one of the most memorable moments in the transcendent career of Michael Jordan.  

Jordan, holding the follow-through, connected on the winning jumper in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, propelling his Chicago Bulls to a sixth championship in eight years and a second straight title over the Utah Jazz.

Except his detractors believe he pushed off Bryon Russell to create separation before launching the shot.

"Now, everybody says I pushed off," Jordan said in The Last Dance on Sunday. "Bulls--t. The man, his energy was going that way. I didn't have to push him that way."


The Last Shot https://t.co/93R2q9W8Xc

Whether it was a push-off is up for debate, but it is notable it was juxtaposed against Reggie Miller's push-off at the end of Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. That physical series between the Bulls and Indiana Pacers was a featured piece of Sunday's episodes, and Miller gave Jordan a much harder shove to free himself up than No. 23 ever gave to Russell.

As for the winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals, it capped off one of the best individual stretches in league history.

Jordan's Bulls were down three with less than a minute remaining when he scored a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone and then, without calling a timeout or even thinking of passing the ball, hit the shot over Russell.

"When I scoped over the floor, I felt like, I can get a jump shot off or I can get all the way to the basket," he said. "So it's just a matter of me picking the right time, win that timing."

His teammates knew it was coming.

"I knew. I said, 'He's going to shoot this f--ker,'" Dennis Rodman said. "He is not going to pass this f--king ball. F--king John Paxson or f--king Steve Kerr, hell no. This is his turn."

"Get the hell out of the way," Scottie Pippen said when asked what he was thinking on that possession.

How much Jordan's left hand influenced Russell getting out of the way remains a topic of debate, but His Airness weighed in on it Sunday.