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Bryon Russell still wonders sometimes.
"If the ball hand bounced a few different ways," he says, "we might have went to a Game 7 and who knows what would have happened."
But 20 years after the Utah Jazz's first ever trip to the NBA Finals, the sting of defeat has faded for Russell. And when he and his teammates come together next month for a reunion at Vivint SmartHome Arena, the former Jazz man said he'll be focused only on the good times they had in Salt Lake City.
"I can't wait," Russell said. "I hope everybody comes. I can't wait to see them all."
The Jazz will honor the 1997 NBA Finals team during a ceremony on March 22, at halftime of the team's game against the New York Knicks.
"We could not be more excited to reunite this historic Jazz team," owner Gail Miller said in a news release. "The 1996-97 season was the culmination of so many years of her work. That team brought our community together during an incredible playoff run, creating memories our fans cherish to this day."
The Jazz won a franchise-record 64 games that season, including 38 victories in Salt Lake City, behind an MVP campaign from Karl Malone, who averaged 27.4 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.
Utah swept the Clippers in three games in the opening round of the playoffs, then took down the Lakers four games to one. In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, John Stockton's 3-pointer in Houston sent the Jazz to the their first NBA Finals.
"We were knocking on the door so many times to try and get there but we had such really good teams in the West then," former Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson said. "Finally we were able to make it."
But on the doorstep of the franchise's first title, the Jazz faltered against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
"I would have liked to see our guys win it. I wanted it for [head coach Jerry Sloan]," Johnson said. "But mostly I wanted it for the city and the owners. They stuck with us for so long. That's the part that hurts. But when you think back about it, I know one thing: every guy gave everything he had. That's all you can do."
The Bulls took the first two games in Chicago before the Jazz evened the series with a pair of wins in Salt Lake City.
The infamous Flu Game, in which Jordan scored 38 points, including the tie-breaking 3 with 25 seconds to play, all while dealing with illness, gave the Bulls the edge going back to Chicago for a decisive Game 6.
"It doesn't tear me up anymore," Russell said. "The way I see it, this guy was the best player that played the game in that era. He changed the game.
"I'm just glad I was around a bunch of great guys who played hard as hell," Russell added. "… It will be good just to see the fellas, hang out, come back and see the crowd and watch the Jazz get a win."