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The Michael Jordan’s Era in the Chicago Bulls

Date:  04-16-2018
Category:  Sport

It seems like the most famed period of Chicago sports history, was The Michael Jordan Era in Chicago Bulls (1984-1998), that made that team worldwide famous. During that time they won six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 with two three-peats. All six championship teams were led by Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and coach Phil Jackson.

It has begun in the summer of 1984 when the Bulls had the third pick of the 1984 NBA draft and chose shooting guard Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan was born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn. When he went to school he made teachers talk about himself very quickly. He was very promising in math, and who knows, how it would be if there wasn’t basketball. In High School, he highlighted his athletic career by playing basketball, baseball, and football. Jordan was recruited by numerous college basketball programs, including Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia. In 1981, Jordan accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina. As a freshman in coach Dean Smith's team-oriented system, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year, after he averaged 13.4 points per game (ppg) on 53.4% shooting (field goal percentage). During his three seasons at North Carolina, he averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0% shooting and added 5.0 rebounds per game (RPG). He was selected by consensus to the NCAA All-American First Team in both his sophomore (1983) and junior (1984) seasons. After winning the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984, Jordan left North Carolina one year before his scheduled graduation to enter the 1984 NBA draft, where he was selected by the Chicago Bulls. The team, with new management in owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause, decided to rebuild around Jordan.

In his first season, he set franchise records for scoring (third in the league) and steals (fourth). Also, he led the Bulls back to the playoffs, where they did not qualify since 1981 and where they lost in four games to the Milwaukee Bucks. For his efforts, Michael Jordan was rewarded with a selection to the All-NBA Second Team and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

In the following off-season, the team acquired point guard John Paxson and on draft day trade with the Cavaliers for the rights to power forward Charles Oakley. Along with Jordan and center Dave Corzine, they provided much of the Bulls' offense for the next two years. After suffering a broken foot early in the 1985–86 season, Jordan finished second on the team to Woolridge in scoring. Jordan returned for the playoffs and led the eighth-place Bulls against the 67–15 Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird. At the time, the Bulls had the fifth worst record of any team to qualify for the playoffs in NBA history. Though the Bulls were swept, Jordan recorded a playoff single-game record 63 points in Game 2 (which still stands to this day), prompting Bird to call him 'God disguised as Michael Jordan.

In the 1986–87 NBA season, Jordan continued his assault on the record books, leading the league in scoring with 37.1 points per game and becoming the first Bull named to the All-NBA First Team. The Bulls finished 40–42, which was good enough to qualify them for the playoffs. However, they were again swept by the Celtics in the playoffs.

In the 1987 draft, to address their lack of depth, Krause selected center Olden Polynice eighth overall and power forward Horace Grant 10th overall, then sent Polynice to Seattle in a draft-day trade for the fifth selection, small forward Scottie Pippen. With Paxson and Jordan in the backcourt, Brad Sellers and Oakley at the forward spots, Corzine anchoring center, and rookies Pippen and Grant coming off the bench, the Bulls won 50 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they were beaten by the eventual Eastern Conference Champions Detroit Pistons in five games. For his efforts, Jordan was named NBA Most Valuable Player, an award he would win four more times over his career. The 1987–88 season would also mark the start of the Pistons-Bulls rivalry which was formed from 1988 to 1991.

In the 1990–91 season, the Bulls recorded a then-franchise record 61 wins, and romped through the playoffs, where they swept the Knicks in the first round, defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinals, then eliminated defending champion Pistons in the Conference Finals and won the NBA Finals in five games over the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls won their second straight title in 1992 after racking up another franchise record for wins with 67. They defeated the Miami Heat in four games in the first round, the Knicks in seven hard-fought games in the second round, then the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the Eastern Conference to the Finals for the second year in a row where they defeated the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers in six games.

In 1993, the Bulls won their third consecutive championship by defeating the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks in the first three rounds and then defeating regular season MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, with John Paxson's three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left giving them a 99–98 victory in Game 6 in Phoenix, Arizona.

On October 6, 1993, Michael Jordan shocked the basketball community by announcing his retirement, three months after his father's murder. Then he further surprised the sports world even more by signing a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox on February 7, 1994. He reported to spring training in Sarasota, Florida and was assigned to the team's minor league system on March 31, 1994. Jordan has stated this decision was made to pursue the dream of his late father, who had always envisioned his son as a Major League Baseball player. The Bulls were then led by Scottie Pippen, who established himself as one of the top players in the league by winning the 1994 All-Star MVP. Despite the Bulls winning 55 games during the 1993–94 season, they were beaten in seven games by the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs. In 1994–95 season Bulls were a shell of the championship team of just two years earlier. Struggling at mid-season to ensure a spot in the playoffs, Chicago was 31–31 at one point in mid-March. The team received help, however, when Jordan decided to return to the NBA for the Bulls. On March 18, 1995, Jordan announced his return to the NBA through a two-word press release: "I'm back."

With a lineup of Harper, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Longley, and perhaps the league's best bench in Steve Kerr, Kukoc, Wennington, Buechler, and guard Randy Brown, the Bulls posted one of the best single-season improvements in league history and the best single-season record at that time, moving from 47–35 to 72–10, becoming the first NBA team to win 70 or more games. Jordan won his eighth scoring title, and Rodman his fifth straight rebounding title, while Kerr finished second in the league in three-point shooting percentage. Jordan garnered the elusive triple crown with the NBA MVP, NBA All-Star Game MVP, and NBA Finals MVP. Krause was named NBA Executive of the Year, Jackson Coach of the Year, and Kukoc the Sixth Man of the Year. Both Pippen and Jordan made the All-NBA First Team, and Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman made the All-Defensive First Team, making the Bulls the only team in NBA history with three players on the All-Defensive First Team. In addition, the 1995–96 team holds several other records, including the best road record in a standard 41-road-game season (33–8), the all-time best start by a team (41–3), and the best start at home (37–0). The Bulls also posted the second-best home record in history (39–2), behind only the 1985–86 Celtics 40–1 home mark. The team triumphed over the Miami Heat in the first round, the New York Knicks in the second round, the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals and finally Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics for their fourth title. The 1995–96 Chicago Bulls are widely regarded as one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball.

In the 1996–97 season, the Bulls narrowly missed out on a second consecutive 70-win season by losing their final two games to finish 69–13. They repeated their home dominance, going 39–2 at the United Center. The Bulls capped the season by defeating the Bullets, Hawks, and Heat in the first three rounds of the playoffs en route to winning their fifth NBA championship over John Stockton, Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. Jordan earned his second straight and ninth career scoring title, while Rodman earned his sixth straight rebounding title. Jordan and Pippen, along with Robert Parish, who was a member of the Bulls at the time, were also honored as members of the 50 greatest players of all-time with the NBA celebrating its 50th season.

The 1997–98 season was also remarkable, with a final regular-season record of 62–20. Michael Jordan was named the league MVP for the fifth and final time, and the Bulls went into the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The first round of the playoffs for the Bulls was against the New Jersey Nets, which The Bulls swept three to nothing in a best of five series. The conference semi-finals were more challenging with the Charlotte Hornets stealing game two from the Bulls at the United Center, and tying the series 1–1. But the Bulls easily defeated the Hornets in the next three games of the series. The Conference Finals was a challenge for the Bulls as they went up against the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers. Experts were of the opinion that the Pacers had the best chance to defeat the Bulls. The Pacers gave the Bulls no road wins, winning games 3, 4, and 6, sending the series to a deciding game seven at the United Center. The Bulls prevailed and beat the Pacers 88–83, winning their 6th Eastern Conference Championship.

 

In a much-anticipated Finals, The Bulls faced the team they beat the previous year, the Utah Jazz. Led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz felt confident that they could defeat the Bulls, winning game one at Utah's Delta Center. Facing a potential two to nothing deficit, the Bulls won Game 2 at the Delta Center and tied the series. The Bulls returned to the United Center and, by winning the next two games, took a 3–1 series lead. The Jazz won Game 5 by two points, 83–81. Game 6 was a tough battle for both teams, as the Jazz had a lead late in the game. Down by three points to the Jazz, Michael Jordan led the Bulls to one final win. Jordan hit a shot to bring the Bulls within 1, then stole the ball from Karl Malone and hit the game-winning shot with 5.2 seconds remaining on the clock. With a score of 87–86, John Stockton put up a three-pointer, but missed, giving the Bulls their sixth championship in eight years. Jordan was named the Finals MVP for the sixth time in his career. He retired for the second time on January 13, 1999. That was the end of Michael Jordan Era in Chicago Bulls History, and, in my opinion, the end of Golden Era of Basketball.