Unrivaled Remembers Most Defining Plays, Moments In Utah Sports History

Jun 26, 2019, 7:08 PM
John Stockton releases a game-winning three against the Houston Rockets in Game 6 May 29, 1997. (Gl...
John Stockton releases a game-winning three against the Houston Rockets in Game 6 May 29, 1997. (Glenn James, Getty Images)
(Glenn James, Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Many of the greatest games in the history of sports were narrow wins or losses.

Several of the best sporting events in the memories of sports fans in the Beehive State came down to just one score or one play, either giving the hometown team a remarkable victory or a crushing defeat.

On KSL’s Unrivaled, hosts Scott Mitchell and Alex Kirry discussed the most memorable one-score or one-play games, the defining moment and what would the implications be if things had turned out differently.

Jordan Pushed Off

For Utah Jazz fans, the biggest moment that they wish had turned out differently was Michael Jordan’s game winner over Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

Jordan’s shot, which passed through the net with 5.2 seconds remaining and gave the Chicago Bulls an 87-86 lead over the Jazz. John Stockton had a chance to take the lead and the game with a 3-point attempt as time expired, but it was no good.

Confetti fell on the floor at the Delta Center as the Bulls celebrated their third straight Finals victory, their sixth championship in eight years and their second straight win over Utah in the championship round.

Years after Jordan’s shot hit twine, Jazz fans remain bitter, often saying that Jordan pushed off of Russell prior to his shot attempt.

Had things turned out differently, either with Jordan missing his shot or Stockton making his, it could have been a very different story. Game 7 would have taken place in Utah, and the Jazz, who had a 36-5 record at home during the regular season, would have had an excellent chance to win the title in front of a madhouse at the Delta Center.

Stockton Sends Utah To NBA Finals

On the other side of the coin, Jazz fans have enjoyed some success on a decisive series-clinching shot as well.

To advance to the 1997 Finals, Stockton nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to boost the Jazz past the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Utah had long struggled to get over the hump and make it to the Finals and were finally able to put years of coming close but not quite getting there to bed. The memory of Stockton, Karl Malone and Jeff Hornacek embracing after the shot is one that’s hard to forget for Jazz fans.

However, unlike Jordan’s shot in ‘98, which came when the Bulls were down by one, Stockton’s shot came with the game tied at 100-all. Had he missed, the Jazz still could have won in overtime or a couple days later in a Game 7 that would have been played in Salt Lake City. But, they still could have lost that game too.

BYU Gets Big Win In Hawaii During Title Run

Another fateful moment in Utah sports history occurred in the 1984 college football season. Early into the year, BYU was ranked sixth in the nation and travelled across the ocean for a game against unranked Hawaii.

The Cougars, of course, finished that season ranked No. 1 in the polls and therefore claimed the national championship. Hawaii wrapped the ’84 season with a decent 7-4 record but weren’t nearly the team that BYU was that year. It should have been an easy win for top-10 BYU, but it came down to one play.

Hawaii trailed by just two points late in the game and with the ball snapped just inches from the BYU goal line, was primed to take the lead. Luckily for the Cougars, linebacker Kyle Morrell jumped the snap perfected, leapt over the offensive line and sacked the quarterback. The Rainbow Warriors settled for a field goal and took just a one-point lead.

BYU, perhaps encouraged by the tremendous defensive effort, went down and scored a touchdown to take a 18-13 lead and ultimately win the game.

The Cougars essentially rolled through the rest of the schedule and never had a closer call in their undefeated season than they did in Honolulu. It could be argued that Morrell’s play won the national championship, according to Mitchell’s opinion.

Sports are great in the sense that they can provide unbelievable excitement in victory or extraordinary agony in defeat. Often times it comes down to just one moment and sports fans in Utah know it well.


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