This Week In Chicago Sports History: Bulls Dynasty Title Special

The 1996 Finals saw the Greatest Team Ever bring Chicago its fourth NBA Championship, which was won 23 years ago on June 16.

WARR producer and Blackhawks reporter Sid “The Kid” is a reliable source of information when it comes to Chicago sports throughout the ages. Now every #throwbackthursday Sid gives you some of the top moments to remember for each week forward.

By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)

As the NBA sits on the verge of crowning another champion, we basketball fans in Chicago have to once again realize our role as complete sideline riders instead of being in the mix of title celebrating in any way.

For those of us born in the early 1990s or earlier, a time can be remembered when the exact opposite was the case — when Chicago was THE spot to see the best basketball played in mid-June year in and year out.

We’re in the middle of a particularly memorable stretch of days that will always be observed with pride by fans of the Chicago Bulls. These days, bridging so many Father’s Days, even hitting one of those days in particular, represent five of the clinching performances where the Bulls secured their championships in the ’90s. Starting on June 12 and ending on June 16, there’s not a day you can’t draw back on and remember a significant championship moment involving Mike, Scottie, Phil and the greatest winners in Chicago sports. It all started on June 12, 1991.

After dominating the Lakers in the previous three games of the ’91 Finals, the Bulls were primed to clinch their first title in franchise history in their 25th anniversary season.

Game 5 at The Forum would turn out to be a tight contest thru three quarters. In the fourth quarter Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen would carry Chicago (Jordan with 30 points and Pippen a team-high 32) but it was John Paxson who joined the cast memorably, scoring 20 points, including key jumpers in the final minutes to give the Bulls the 108-101 win on enemy turf.

The 1991 championship would place the franchise and Jordan into a different, ascendant class, changing the narrative that Jordan and the Bulls were only a one-man team that would always be limited in their success.

Carrying over to ’92, the Bulls forged a 3-2 lead that only came with winning two out of three games in Portland. Chicago was certainly ready for a championship to be clinched on the home court at old Chicago Stadium and it would certainly be earned on June 14 against the clear best team in the West.

The Trail Blazers dominated the first three quarters of Game 6, leading by 17 points heading to the final 12 minutes. This would be a time where the Bulls’ reserves would need to step up and the supporting cast (BJ Armstrong, Bobby Hansen, Stacey King, Scott Williams and Cliff Levingston) did so memorably while slowly chipping away at Portland’s lead.

Eventually, Jordan kicked in 12 points in the final 6:01 of the game, a significant part of his game-high 33 and the Bulls collected title No. 2 by a score of 97-93 in front of a raucous home crowd. With this win the Bulls joined the Detroit Pistons and the LA Lakers as the only other teams to win back to back titles since the 1960s Boston Celtics. Jordan capped off 1992 with his second consecutive pair of regular season and Finals MVP awards.

The six-game series in 1993 didn’t end in this stretch of days (June 20th) but we’ll likely look into that clincher next week. A lot of hard work and praying that Jordan would undo his ’93 retirement took place in the interim and by ’96 the franchise was back on top and ready to close out what was then and still is the greatest single season a pro sports team has ever had.

After taking command with a 3-0 series lead in the Finals against Seattle, the Bulls were blown out by the Sonics at Key Arena in the next two games. A possibility arose of Jordan and the Bulls facing their first ever Finals Game 7, but Game 6 would turn out to be a breeze thanks to Jordan’s 22 points while Pippen chipped in with 17. Newcomer Dennis Rodman solidified his worth by grabbing a game-high 19 rebounds.

The 1996 title would put the Bulls back on top of the NBA mountain and establish themselves as one of the great teams in league history for one season while setting the tone for a second 3-peat. Jordan won his fourth finals MVP award while completing his epic comeback from early retirement.

Clinching the title on Father’s Day, June 16th of that year, saw Jordan celebrating a big win without his father James for the first time after the elder Jordan’s tragic murder in the summer of 1993.

On to 1997 and the Bulls facing the Utah Jazz for the first time in the Finals. Following the heroics of Game 5 from Michael Jordan in Salt Lake City, which we also remember this week, the Bulls were looking at history with a chance to win their fifth title in the last seven seasons. Utah would not cooperate and would make this game into a classic finish on June 13th of ’97.

With the score tied at 86-86, reserve guard Steve Kerr — who struggled with his 3-point shot in the series- would step into the hero role by nailing a free throw jumper with an assist from Jordan to put Chicago ahead to stay. The 90-86 win would give the Bulls their fifth championship along with Jordan’s fifth finals MVP award.

The final step taken by the dynasty, title No. 6, would have to go through Salt Lake City’s finest once again and this time in their hostile arena back on June 14, 1998.

Jordan and Karl Malone would have a scoring duel in the opening half like the stars they are. Pippen might have joined in the fun but he injured his back seconds into the game after completing a dunk and ended up with only eight points.

The second half would play out like a photo finish for the ages. With the Jazz leading 86-83 late in the 4th quarter, the final sequence of plays would sum up the career of Michael Jordan in a Bulls uniform.

First a basket cutting the lead to a single point, stealing the ball from Malone off a double team and nailing the game winning shot over Bryon Russell for the 87-86 win and the franchise’s sixth NBA championship.

Jordan led Chicago one last time with 45 points and an unforgettable moment in time. Along with the win came MJ’s sixth and final series MVP award and the satisfaction that only he and his right hand Pippen lasted through all six titles with the Bulls franchise.

Sidney Brown is WARR Media's resident Chicago sports historian 
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