The state of Utah isn’t the first place that comes to mind when it comes to sports. Having only one professional team, the NBA’s Utah Jazz, will do that, even if the state does have successful college programs in both basketball and football. 1998 saw Utah experience a basketball season that was, by any objective measure, extraordinarily successful. It was also was, by any objective measure, extremely aggravating.
At the college level, Rick Majerus and the Utah Utes made a run to the NCAA championship game. The 1998 Utah basketball team became America’s darling in March—they weren’t a true Cinderella, as a #3 seed who had been to the regionals each of the previous two years. But the country liked the colorful Majerus and seein him pull off consecutive upsets of Arizona and North Carolina to reach the Monday Night stage had anyone without a direct rooting interest in the opponent pulling for the Utes.
Unfortunately, that opponents was the Kentucky Wildcats. They were the team that knocked out Utah each of the previous two years and even set on opposite sides of the NCAA Tournament bracket, the two programs seemed destined to find each other. Utah led by 12 points early in the second half, but fell short of a national championship.
The 1998 Utah Jazz made the NBA Finals. It was the franchise’s second straight trip to the Finals. Unfortunately, they ran into Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls for the second straight season. The Jazz were in position to get their first championship, but Jordan would rip their hearts out one last time with a magical performance that has lived on in history. Like their college counterparts, the 1998 Utah Jazz had that one annoying opponent they couldn’t quite get past.
It might have been a frustrating ending in both the Final Four and the NBA Finals, but the 1998 Utah Utes and the 1998 Utah Jazz gave their home state a great ride and some excellent basketball along the way.
Read more about the 1998 Utah basketball team
Read more about the 1998 Utah Jazz