The markings of greatness were all over 1998 sports. No fewer than five sports crowned champions where either great players, historic franchises or both sealed their legacy with a championship.
Nowhere was this more obvious than the NBA, where Michael Jordan got his sixth ring and second three-peat for the Chicago Bulls, as he hit a game-winning shot to take Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
While the Bulls were concluding a three-peat, the New York Yankees were starting one of their own, and no team in this franchise’s long and successful history has ever done it better than the 1998 edition. The Yankees won 114 games and won the World Series in a sweep.
The Denver Broncos were the defending Super Bowl champs, and they came back even stronger in 1998. Not only did the Broncos win a second straight title, but quarterback John Elway followed Jordan’s lead in going out the door with a championship.
In hockey, the Detroit Red Wings were similar to the Broncos in that they were after a second straight title. The Red Wings were similar to the Yankees in that the hockey team was one with a proud history. And Detroit was similar to both teams in that they sealed their own legacy with a second straight Stanley Cup Finals sweep.
And finally we come to college basketball. Kentucky won the NCAA title in 1996 and made the final game in 1997. The 1998 team wasn’t quite as loaded talent-wise, nor as dominant during the season. But the end result still saw Big Blue cutting down the nets on a Monday night in San Antonio.
Read more about the 1998 Chicago Bulls
Read more about the 1998 New York Yankees
Read about the 1998 Denver Broncos
Read more about the 1998 Detroit Red Wings
Read more about 1998 Kentucky basketball
When we talk about greatness in 1998, by rights, we should be able to include the Great Home Run Race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Unfortunately, the reality of PED use by both men—as well as by Barry Bonds who subsequently broke both of their records has left that tainted. But there’s no denying how much the McGwire-Sosa race captivated everyone in 1998.
There was also another great race in baseball, one that can be remembered with no regrets—a three-team fight to the finish for the National League wild-card spot that ended on a nice October night in Wrigley Field.
Read more about the great races of the 1998 MLB season
Tennessee football might not have been capping off or beginning a historic dynasty. They might not have been seeing a great player walk off into the sunset in triumph. That makes them a little odd in the montage of 1998 champions, but it doesn’t diminish their excellence. The Vols won the national title, beating Florida State in the first year that college football had a guaranteed 1 vs 2 national championship game set up in advance.
Read more about the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers
In our celebrations of greatness, three organizations/programs that came up just short of a title deserve some mention. The histories of the Atlanta Falcons, the San Diego Padres and Utah Utes’ basketball are not littered with championship success. But all three had great runs in 1998. The Falcons made the Super Bowl for the first time in their history. The Padres made their second World Series appearance and Utah hoops reached the NCAA final, the high point of a good coaching career for their boss, Rick Majerus.