Michael Jordan Documentary: The Key Betting Info From 1997-98 NBA Season

Michael Jordan Documentary: The Key Betting Info From 1997-98 NBA Season

Basketball fans across the world have been waiting patiently for ESPN’s Michael Jordan 10-part documentary titled “The Last Dance” and we won’t have to wait much longer with it set to debut on Sunday, April 19.

The Jordan-led Chicago Bulls may be the most iconic team the NBA has ever seen and with the documentary extensively featuring the Bulls’ 1997-98 NBA championship season, we at Odds Shark have compiled all the best betting info and data from ATS records to NBA championship futures to help bettors understand just how dominant MJ was at the tail end of his prime. 

‘The Last Dance’ Broadcast Schedule

After much pressure from fans stuck in their homes for the past four weeks and dying for new content, ESPN saw this as a perfect time to unveil its 10-part masterpiece to feature the most dominant athlete in history.

This documentary was expected to debut in June following the NBA Finals but now hoop heads can start to watch two parts every Sunday for the next five weeks. Here is the full broadcast schedule for the “The Last Dance” on ESPN:

  • Sunday, April 19: Episode 1 and 2 – 9 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, April 26: Episode 3 and 4 – 9 p.m. ET 
  • Sunday, May 3: Episode 5 and 6 – 9 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, May 10: Episode 7 and 8 – 9 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, May 17: Episode 9 and 10 – 9 p.m. ET

Background on the Bulls’ 1997-98 Season

For anyone who didn’t get to see Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls play live, here’s a refresher on what the basketball landscape was like back then.

Going into the 1997-98 season, the Bulls were coming off back-to-back championships and five titles in seven years. Chicago was a spectacular 69-13 SU in 82 games in the 1996-97 season, which is impressive considering they went 72-10 SU the year before in the 1995-96 season. That mark was an NBA record that has since been broken by the Golden State Warriors.

To put that into perspective for millennials: as dominant as the Warriors looked in 2016 and 2017, the Bulls still had a better regular-season record over that two-year stretch and didn’t choke in the NBA Finals with a 3-1 series lead.

MJ was on the way to his 10th NBA scoring title, leading the league in points per game (28.7). He obviously had some future Hall of Famers to lean on with forward Dennis Rodman pacing the league in rebounds (15.1) and Scottie Pippen being his usual underappreciated self by averaging 19.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds despite playing only 44 games.

Anyone and their grandmother would’ve picked the Bulls to three-peat for the 1997-98 season and Jordan’s will to win was evident, playing 82 regular-season games for the third straight year. Load management did not exist then.

Chicago Bulls 1997-98 Futures

At the start of the 1997-98 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls were in a class of their own when it came to futures odds to win the NBA championship. The odds below are courtesy of sportsoddshistory.com.

After Chicago defeated the Utah Jazz in six games to win the 1997 NBA championship, oddsmakers opened the Bulls at +140 to win the title for a third straight year, which feels like disrespect in hindsight considering they had just won back-to-back championships.

Going into the 1998 playoffs, oddsmakers stood pat with the Bulls’ odds at +140 to win it all and that likely was due to the status of Scottie Pippen, who was nursing a back injury, leaving his availability for the playoffs up in the air. In comparison, the Bulls were -200 odds-on favorites entering the 1997 playoffs.

1998 Conference Finals

After making quick work of the New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Hornets in the first and second rounds, the Bulls had a playoff date with the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were always in the thick of it for the East playoffs and after falling short in the Eastern Conference final in the 1994 and 1995 postseasons, they were now tasked with attempting to knock off a dynasty.

Well, the Pacers did something only one other team had accomplished in the Bulls’ championship years: take them to seven games in a playoff series. The Pacers were relentless, winning each of their three home games in the series, including Reggie Miller’s sensational game-winner in Game 4 that might have been the biggest shot of his career (and a bit of a push-off on His Airness):

But in Game 7, it all fell apart for Indiana as the Pacers couldn’t sustain their play on the road and MJ did his thing, putting together a nice and tidy 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in an 88-83 Chicago win. The stage was set for a rematch of the 1997 NBA Finals with the Utah Jazz, who had just finished dismantling the Shaq-led Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference final.

1998 NBA Finals

After the Bulls barely squeaked past the Pacers in the East final, sportsbooks installed Chicago as the -115 favorite to win the series over the Utah Jazz. See, Scottie Pippen was still laboring due to his back issue and unlike the previous year, the Jazz had home-court advantage for the series. With Utah at +105 to win the title, it was essentially a coin flip.

For any bettors who backed the Bulls to win the championship at that time (me being one of them), I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous after Chicago dropped Game 1 on the road. SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t matter.

The Bulls rebounded by taking Game 2 in Salt Lake City, winning two of three games at home and then closing it out on the road in Game 6 with an iconic sequence from MJ that is better to watch than read about (just go to the 2:20 mark of the video):

At Odds Shark, we have NBA betting records in our database since 1996 so for reference, here are the betting lines and records for the 1998 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Jazz:

Date Home Score Home Spread ATS Total OU
Game 1 CHI @ UTA  UTA 88-85 -3.5 W 187.0 U
Game 2 CHI @ UTA CHI 93-88 -2.5 W 181.0 P
Game 3 UTA @ CHI CHI 96-54 -4.5 W 180.0 U
Game 4 UTA @ CHI CHI 86-82 -5.0 L 179.0 U
Game 5 UTA @ CHI UTA 83-81 -5.5 L 176.0 U
Game 6 CHI @ UTA CHI 87-86 -2.0 W 177.5 U

1997-98 Chicago Bulls ATS Records

With Odds Shark’s database and ATS records in mind, we’ve compiled some data on how the Chicago Bulls fared during the 1997-98 regular season. Despite their dominance in finishing 62-20 SU, they didn’t have a winning record against the spread.

The Bulls wrapped up the season at 39-41-2 ATS for a 48.8 percent cover rate and there were likely a lot of factors that contributed to this. They were a very public team so their spreads would’ve been very inflated for most of the year even though Scottie Pippen missed almost 40 games.

According to David Payne Purdum with ESPN Chalk, the Bulls had the longest NBA favorite streak of all time, being favored in an insane 185 consecutive games from November 1995 to June 1997. The Bulls went 159-26 outright and 97-87-1 against the spread in that span and were favored by an average of 10.4 points per game. They were favored by fewer than three points only five times.

Here is a full ATS breakdown of the Bulls from the 1997-98 regular season:

Situation Bulls ATS Record
Favorites 37-36-1 ATS (50.7%)
Underdogs 2-5-1 ATS (33.3%)
Home 21-20 ATS (51.2%)
Away 18-21-2 ATS (46.2%)
Worst ATS Loss -17.5 Home Favorites vs GS (Jan. 10, 1998)
Average Bulls Spread -8.14

That worst ATS loss to the Warriors stings because Golden State was terrible, routinely picking at the top of the NBA draft, and finished the year 19-63 SU. Jordan scored 32 points (13 of 31 from the floor) but got almost no help from Toni Kukoc and Pippen, who combined for only 24 points in the 87-82 win.

MJ could usually be counted on even when his teammates couldn’t muster the same effort. When the Bulls faced the Supersonics in their next game at home on January 13, he dropped 40 on the team he’d owned in the 1996 NBA Finals and Chicago won 101-91. To put into perspective the dominance of that win, Seattle had the second-best record in the Western Conference at that stage of the season at 29-7 SU.

Even though some fans expected the Bulls to win every night, you could tell that season there were some nights the Bulls didn’t have it and were running on fumes. After their years of dominance, the documentary will likely detail more about the trials and tribulations of a team ready to be dismantled. Thank you, Jerry Krause!




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