By Clare Martin

NBA Decade
NBA Decade: The '90s index

The 1990s were full of thrilling plays, amazing performers and momentous events, all of which helped make it a decade to remember. But what were the moments which really defined the '90s, that had an impact or effect on the game and its fans which lasted long after SportsCenter had moved on to the next set of highlights?

The 1992 NBA All-Star Game
When Magic Johnson announced in early November 1991, that he was HIV Positive, the world was stunned. His plight was discussed in hushed voices and the retrospectives of his career seemed to take on memorial overtones. When Johnson not only competed in the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando but gave a virtuoso MVP performance, it took on a greater meaning than just another highlight package. He showed that this diagnosis did not have to mean limitations on life or careers, in fact Magic went on to win a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and serve the Lakers again as both a player and a coach. Now a very successful businessman, Johnson has made a big difference in many inner-city communities.

Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan led the original Dream Team to Olympic gold.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA Photos)

The Dream Team
When a team manned by the NBA's greatest stars went to Barcelona and won the Olympic gold medal, it did a lot more than simply reclaim the top prize in a sport which many Americans consider their own. The 1992 Summer Olympics provided a worldwide stage for some of the most talented and charismatic basketball players ever - athletes by the name of Jordan, Bird and Johnson. It gave a tremendous boost to the sport globally, and from Australia to Zimbabwe, more and more people began to play and follow the game. The next decade will continue to show the effect of the 1992 Olympics, as some of the children who were inspired by those games will become players in the NBA (and WNBA), themselves.

The 1994 NBA Playoffs: Seattle vs. Denver
It had never happened before, a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed in the NBA Playoffs, and there was no particular reason to believe it would happen this time. The Sonics had finished with the best record in the league at 63-19. The Nuggets were barely over .500 at 42-40. After Seattle easily won the first two games at home, no one thought Denver had a chance, except the Nuggets, themselves. They came back the win the next three games, two in overtime, for the biggest upset in NBA Playoff history. While this was certainly a defining moment in Nuggets' history, it serves to provide hope to every team that finds itself down and counted out. If Denver could do it, why not them?

50 Greatest Players
The 50 greatest players of NBA history were honored at the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland.
(Andy Hayt/NBA Photos)

NBA 50th Anniversary
At the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland, the NBA 50th Anniversary season culminated in a memorable halftime extravaganza featuring the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. From George Mikan to Michael Jordan, the game's shining stars, past and present, stood shoulder to shoulder on the hardwood floor. Throughout the anniversary celebration, which stretched from opening night in Toronto until All-Star Weekend, a real emphasis was placed on the history of the game, and how that history and the players who built the league from its beginning in 1946, made the NBA what it is today.

Game 6, 1998 NBA Finals
Michael Jordan
In true MJ style, Jordan hit is final NBA shot to win his sixth championship.
(Fernando Medina/NBA Photos)

Everyone has his or her favorite Jordan moment, whether it's a spectacular dunk, a series of three-pointers, or a post-retirement 50-plus point performance. Certainly one of his most amazing games was during the 1997 NBA Finals, when Jordan rose from his sickbed to will the Bulls to a pivotal 90-88 Game 5 win over the Jazz in Utah. But the way many people will remember this incredibly talented and determined individual will be his fitting departure, as Jordan hit his final NBA shot to win his sixth NBA Championship in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz. The score of the game was Chicago 87, Utah 86. The Bulls were the winners, but so on a different level was everyone who had followed Jordan's career through his early struggles with the Bulls to this point of establishing a dynasty, witnessing his greatness night in and night out.