Michael Jordan made sure Bulls didn’t lose ’96 Finals to SuperSonics after George Karl snub

Michael Jordan took George Karl snub personally before '96 Finals

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals.

The SuperSonics were coached by George Karl, who went to UNC, the same school as Jordan. MJ and Karl knew each other pretty well and occasionally played golf together in the summers.

That’s why Jordan was furious when Karl didn’t say hello to him when the two were at the same spot for dinner.

“He walked right past me,” Jordan said in “The Last Dance” documentary. “I say, ‘Really? So that’s how he’s gonna play it.’ It’s a crock of sh-t. We went to Carolina, we know Dean Smith, I’ve seen him in the summer, we play golf. You gonna do this? Okay, fine.

“That’s all I needed. That’s all I needed for him to do that and it became personal with me.”

The Bulls won the first three games of the 1996 NBA Finals. Jordan averaged 31.0 points while shooting 46.0% from the field, 50.0% from beyond the arc and 81.1% from the free-throw through the first three games, and it appeared the Bulls would sweep the SuperSonics.

However, Seattle responded by winning Games 4 and 5. SuperSonics star Gary Payton guarded Jordan and did a great job. MJ averaged 24.5 points while shooting only 41.5% overall and 0.0% from three.

“A lot of people back down to Mike,” Payton said in “The Last Dance.” “I didn’t. I made it a point. I said, ‘Just tire him out. Tire the fu-k out of him. You just gotta tire him out.’ And I kept hitting him and banging him and hitting him and banging him. It took a toll on Mike. It took a toll.

“And then the series changed and I wish I could’ve did it earlier. I don’t know if the outcome would’ve been different, but it was a difference and beating him down a little bit.”

With the Bulls up 3-2, the series shifted back to Chicago. Jordan didn’t shoot the ball well in Game 6. He shot just 5-of-19 from the field.

However, MJ did shoot 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. He finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and the Bulls won by 12 points for their fourth championship.

Jordan won the 1996 NBA Finals MVP Award. He averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.2 blocks in the series.

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