Michael Jordan on losing the 1997 MVP race to Karl Malone - “As long as I’m consistently thought of as the MVP, I’m happy with that”

Many felt that Michael Jordan should've won MVP honors in 1997. MJ had a fantastic follow-up to his 1996 MVP season, and the Bulls won just three fewer games than their record-breaking '96 campaign. But the vote went to Utah's Karl Malone, and while Bulls fans didn't agree with the choice, Michael Jordan was gracious in recognizing the Mailman as MVP winner.

"Because of the opinions of others," Jordan said. "They choose to give it t a guy who's been in the league just as long as I have been, just as consistent, and been on a team that's just as successful this year, I can't gripe with that, and you know, I can't have any jealousy or animosity towards Karl."

'Even though I may have a good season certainly from a stat standpoint, it wasn't my best season, you know, but as long as I'm consistently thought of as an MVP, I'm happy with that."

A good argument for MJ as MVP in 1997

Certainly, there was a good argument for Michael Jordan to win the NBA MVP award in 1997. One season earlier, he averaged 30-7-4, and the Bulls won a then-record 72 wins during the regular season before winning their fourth overall title. MJ won MVP honors and finished with 109 votes and would have been unanimous MVP had four not voted for Penny, Hakeem, and Karl Malone.

In 1997, the Bulls won fewer games than in 1996, but at 69 wins, it was still a great accomplishment after a record-breaking season. Michael's stats dropped to 30-6-4 but given that everyone had the target on their backs, it was still a super impressive season from Mike.

On the other hand, the Mailman put up a double-double season at 27-10-5, and he led the Jazz to a 64-win season. When it was time to vote, Malone garnered a total of 63 votes, while MJ got 52 in a close call.

It fueled the fire in Michael Jordan

But while Jordan didn't complain about not winning the award, he admitted it only fueled the fire in him. That season, the Bulls rampaged through the Eastern Conference side of the playoffs, losing just three total games, to set up a 1997 NBA Finals showdown against, well, Karl Malone's Utah Jazz.

In Game 1 of the Finals, Malone missed two free throws in the final 20 seconds that could have won the game for them. Instead, it was Jordan who swished the game-winner over Bryon Russell. In Game 5, Jordan scored 38 points in the iconic Flu Game to give the Bulls a 3-2 series lead. One game later, the Bulls clinched their 5th NBA title as MJ scored 39 points and fed Steve Kerr for the game-winning basket.

Jordan won Finals MVP honors after averaging 32-7-6 in the six-game series. Meanwhile, the Mailman averaged 23-10, but he shot just 44% from the field. Certainly, it would have been a better year had Jordan won the regular MVP award too, but after a dominant Finals performance, that was sweet revenge for the snub.