During the 90s, the Chicago Bulls were at the top of the league. Thanks to Michael Jordan leading the way, the team went a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals with Jordan capturing six Finals MVP Awards. Jordan led the Bulls to two different three-peats. Had he not retired from the league in 1993 for a brief time, one has to wonder if the Bulls could have won eight straight titles.
When Jordan wasn’t leading the Bulls to a title, the Western Conference prevailed. That included two wins from the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon. Later in the decade, a young Tim Duncan began to start his legacy as one of the greats, while Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were ready to duplicate a three-peat.
Here are the NBA championship winners from 1991 to 2000:
1990-91 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (31.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.4 APG, 2.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG)
It was the first Finals appearance for Jordan. After years of battling Isiah Thomas and the Pistons, the Bulls finally broke through the mold to take on Magic Johnson and the Lakers, who were stars of the 80s decade. The Bulls would win the series in five games thanks to Jordan leading the way. On top of his double-double, he shot 56% from the field.
This Finals would mark the end of the Showtime era for Los Angeles. The Lakers won five titles in eight appearances in the Finals during the 80s. After the season, Johnson retired early due to an HIV diagnosis. He was only 31 years old. It opened the door for Jordan to completely take over as the face of the NBA.
1991-92 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (35.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG)
Clyde Drexler had a special season to lead the Trail Blazers. Drexler was so great that he was often in the same conversation with Jordan among the best players. The world wanted another rivalry to lead the NBA with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird done. The idea of Drexler and Jordan was a perfect narrative all season as the two teams faced off in the Finals.
The series was tied 2-2 after four games. Jordan led the Bulls to a 119-106 win in Game 5 with his 46 points. He outdueled a special performance from Drexler, who had 30 points. The final game saw Jordan and Drexler go at it again with Drexler leading the Trail Blazers with 24 points, but it was Jordan that had 33 points as the Bulls pulled away 97-93.
1992-93 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Phoenix Suns 4-2
Finals MVP: 41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG)
At the end of the regular season, there was a lot of talk about how Charles Barkley won the league MVP over Jordan. The Suns won 62 games and owned the best record in the league. With that said, the Bulls became the first team since the Celtics in the 60s to three-peat. The series was clinched in Game 6 with John Paxson’s famous game-winning three-point shot.
The 99-98 win was the climax of the series, but there were other great moments. After the Bulls won the first two games of the series, the Suns used three overtimes in Game 3 to steal the game on the road 129-121. In Game 4, Jordan used 55 points to lead the Bulls to a win despite Barkley finishing with a triple-double of 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The series was closed out in Game 6, 99-98, with Jordan’s 33 points, but it was Paxson’s game-winning shot that remains on a highlight reel.
1993-94 NBA Finals
Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks 4-3
Finals MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon (26.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.9 BPG
The Rockets holding home court was certainly a help. It was also a second chance for Hakeem Olajuwon. In 1986, Olajuwon lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. It was his first time back in eight years and he had a legitimate shot to win with Jordan out of the league. Meanwhile, the Knicks were looking to win their first title in over 20 years.
The series featured a battle of two centers with Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. Olajuwon outperformed his counterpart in every aspect of the game to lead Houston to the series win. With that said, Ewing set an NBA Finals record with 30 blocks in the series, which featured eight in Game 5. The record has since been broken, but Olajuwon had the biggest block of the series. In Game 6, Olajuwon’s last-second block on John Starks forced a Game 7, where Houston won 90-84.
1994-95 NBA Finals
Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic 4-0
Finals MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon (32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG)
The hype for this matchup was once again all about the centers. A young budding star in Shaquille O’Neal was taking over, while Olajuwon was looking to help his team repeat as champions. The series drew comparisons to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain from 30 years ago. In the end, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single playoff to cap off their historic run.
It was also the first time a defending NBA champion won their second title via sweep. The Magic had made their first appearance in the NBA Finals, but their inexperience showed. The team was up 110-107 late in Game 1 but missed free throws contributed to a loss. Olajuwon looked like a true champion in comparison to O’Neal’s first appearance. Olajuwon averaged 32.8 points, while O’Neal averaged 28.0 points.
1995-96 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Seattle SuperSonics 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (27.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG)
This matchup featured the two best teams in the league. The SuperSonics won 64 games, and the Bulls set an NBA record with 72 wins. The combined 136 wins broke the 1985 record of 125 combined wins of the Lakers and Celtics. The series also featured the league’s best offensive player in Jordan and the league’s best defensive player in Gary Payton.
The Bulls won the first game 107-90 despite not playing well offensively. The team used 29 points from Jordan and 20 rebounds from Dennis Rodman to steal Game 2 by a score of 92-88. The Bulls took a 3-0 lead with a 108-86 blowout in Game 3. After Seattle stole two games, the Bulls turned up the defensive intensity to win Game 6 by a score of 87-75, with Jordan leading the way with 22 points.
1996-97 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (32.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG)
This would be the last time before 2016 that the two teams in the Finals had a combined win total that was over 130 wins. The Bulls and Jazz featured two stars; fourth-time Finals MVP in Jordan, as well as All-Star Karl Malone. The first four games of the series were all about home-court advantage. Both teams won their home games to go into Game 5 with a 2-2 series.
The Bulls stole a road win in Game 5 with a 90-88 win, which was the infamous “food poisoning game” with Jordan. Despite playing extremely weak, Jordan led the Bulls to a win and ended the game by falling into Scottie Pippen’s arms. The last game featured the Bulls winning 90-86. Jordan led the Bulls with 39 points despite still feeling sick. With five seconds left, Steve Kerr hit the go-ahead shot, while Pippen came up with a big defensive play on Bryon Russell in the final seconds.
1997-98 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (33.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG)
The Finals featured a rematch of last season. It featured the highest Nielsen TV ratings in NBA history. Everyone was ready to watch Jordan vs Malone 2.0. The Jazz jumped to an early lead in the series with an 88-85 win in overtime in Game 1. The Bulls responded with a 93-88 win and then a blowout 96-54 win in Game 3.
The Bulls took Game 4 with a 86-82 finish and then came up short of clinching the series in Game 5 with an 83-81 loss. In Game 6, Jordan hit the iconic game-winning shot in the closing moments. His 45 points led the Bulls to the 87-86 win. It capped off the second three-peat of the decade and a perfect 6-0 record for Jordan in the Finals.
1998-99 NBA Finals
San Antonio Spurs vs. New York Knicks 4-1
Finals MVP: Tim Duncan (27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 BPG)
The second season of the “Twin Towers” ended with a championship. The duo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan was a tough one to stop. It helped the Spurs form a lethal defensive duo despite the Knicks having some formidable offensive weapons in John Starks and Patrick Ewing.
The Spurs never scored 100 points in the series, but also never let up 100 points. The Knicks scored over 80 points in just two of the five games. The Spurs won the first two games 89-77 and 80-67. The Knicks stole their first game back in New York 89-81, but the Spurs won 96-89 in the fourth game. In the final game, the Spurs held onto a low-scoring game 78-77, which featured Avery Johnson hitting the game-winner with 47 seconds left.
1999-00 NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers 4-2
Finals MVP: Shaquille O’Neal (38.0 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.7 BPG)
In 1999, the Lakers were one of the best teams in the league, but the team was swept by the Spurs in the playoffs. Three weeks after the sweep, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their new coach, which became one of the greatest moves in team history. The triangle offense around Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led to a three-peat during the 2000s, with the first championship coming this season.
The Lakers dominated the regular season with a 33-7 record through their first 40 games. The team rose to the best record in the league. O’Neal won the league MVP and his play got even better as he got deeper in the season. O’Neal scored 43 and 40 points in the first two wins. In a 120-118 overtime win, O’Neal recorded 36 points and 21 rebounds. In the final win, O’Neal scored 41 points in a 116-111 win en route to being named Finals MVP.
Michael Jordan And The Chicago Bulls Dominated The 1990s
Michael Jordan was one of a kind in his career. While he helped the Bulls rise to fame in the 80s, it was the 90s where he cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever. Jordan and the Bulls dominated the 90s, where the team won six titles in eight years. To this day, fans wonder what would have happened had he not retired in 1994 and missed most of the following season before his anticipated return. Had he stayed two more years, could the Bulls have won eight championships?
Had he not left in 1999, maybe the Bulls would have won 10 straight titles. We will never know. What we do know is that the Bulls were the first true dynasty since the days of Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Jordan and the Bulls won two three-peats. The only team to have accomplished that since 1998 is the Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three titles from 2000 to 2002.
Outside of Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the same draft class as Jordan, led the Houston Rockets to consecutive titles in 1994 and 1995. In 1999, the Spurs won their first championship, with Tim Duncan leading the way and then Shaq and Bryant followed with their first title shortly after. While players like Duncan, O’Neal, and Bryant were setting up their future success with titles at the end of the decade, it doesn’t distract us from the fact that Jordan was the supreme ruler of the 90s decade.
In the end, the Bulls have not been the same since Jordan left. The team has not made it back to the NBA Finals and has played in one Eastern Conference Final. The Bulls were a national treasure, with Jordan leading the way. With him gone, the product is completely different. Winning six titles is legendary. Going 6-0 in those Finals appearances is even greater. We will likely never see something like his greatness ever again.