KEY POINTS

  • NBA referee Danny Crawford addressed Michael Jordan's controversial NBA Finals pushing of Bryon Russell
  • Crawford insisted that it was a tough play that could go either way
  • NBA's Last Two Minute Report suggests that refs could have made certain adjustments about the non-call

A veteran NBA referee has addressed Michael Jordan’s controversial alleged pushing of Jazz’s Bryon Russell during his last NBA Finals game-winning shot.

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” has already aired its final two episodes on Sunday (May 17). The finale featured Jordan’s final shot as a member of the Chicago Bulls which helped the team cop their sixth NBA title. The shot wasn’t only historic because it was MJ’s final game-winning shot in a championship game but also because some believe that the then-Bulls star pushed his defender, Russell of the Jazz, in order to clear himself off for a pull-up jumper.

As expected, the playing of the shot in the documentary reignited the controversy behind it regarding whether or not Russell was really pushed by Jordan and whether or not an offensive foul should’ve been called in the dying seconds of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

At the peak of the issue, The Athletic’s Michael Lee decided to reveal what Danny Crawford, one of the officials during the game, once told him regarding the non-call.

According to Lee, Crawford insisted that it was a really hard play to call at the time, and based on his experience as an official, it could “go either way.”

“I spoke to referee Danny Crawford a few years about if MJ pushed off in ‘98 & he said you can’t blow a whistle on 'what you thought you saw' in real time. It wasn’t an egregious play where you thought, ‘Oh, no. You can’t do that.’ It was a tough play that could go either way,” Lee wrote.

Though some were convinced that Jordan pulled off a dirty play on Russell, one thing that was certain was that the non-call resulted to arguably the most memorable game-winning moment in the history of NBA.

A slow-mo replay posted by BBiomechanics attempted to put an end to the debate. But looking at the clip, it’s really hard to tell whether Jordan really swiped Russell’s legs or he just slipped after the tricky crossover.

Looking back, there’s a rule that suggests the refs could have done something about it. According to NBA.com, a “Last Two Minute Report” or “L2M,” is “a play-by-play report regarding all calls and material non-calls in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of any overtime period (if applicable) for all games (including playoffs) that meet designated criteria.”

In simpler terms, the officials could stop the clock and make important adjustments within the last two minutes of every ball game in order to make the proper call.

The Last Dance focuses on the 1998 playoffs when Michael Jordan won his sixth and last title as the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the finals The Last Dance focuses on the 1998 playoffs when Michael Jordan won his sixth and last title as the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the finals Photo: AFP / ROBERT SULLIVAN