Just a few days into the season, Magic Johnson delivered the shocking news that he had contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Johnson announced that he would retire immediately from the NBA and devote his time to educating the public about HIV and AIDS.
Just like that, a 12-year NBA career which included five NBA titles and three Most Valuable Player Awards was over. The season would also prove to be the last for Larry Bird, who played through enormous back pain to appear in 45 games, averaging 20.2 ppg.
While two of the NBA's all-time greats were leaving the scene, the Chicago Bulls and their superstar, Michael Jordan, were just getting started.
Not satisfied with the club-record 61 wins of a season ago, the Bulls improved to 67-15, tying for the fourth-best season mark in NBA history. The incandescent Jordan won his third MVP and sixth straight scoring title, but he averaged only 30.1 ppg, his lowest average in six seasons. More than ever, Jordan worked to capitalize on the burgeoning talents of Scottie Pippen (21 ppg) and Horace Grant (14.2 ppg, 10 rpg).
Even in retirement, though, Johnson remained a fan favorite and was voted as a starter in the 1992 All-Star Game, his 12th and final All-Star Game. He put on an amazing show in that game, finishing with 25 points, five assists and nine rebounds to win MVP honors.
Cleveland, with All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, won 57 games to tie Portland for the league's second-best record. The Cavaliers played well all season, but had no answer for Jordan and succumbed in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Portland, hungry to get back to The Finals after a disappointing 1991 playoffs, defeated the Lakers, Phoenix and a tough Utah squad, which had All-Stars John Stockton and Karl Malone, to reach The Finals for the second time in three seasons.
Just as in 1990, the Trail Blazers managed a split on the road in the first two games. But Chicago took two of three in Portland to set up a remarkable Game 6 back in Chicago.
Most expected an easy triumph for the Bulls in Game 6, but after three quarters, the Trail Blazers led 79-64 and seemed ready to push the series to a seventh game. But a lineup of Pippen plus reserves Scott Williams, B.J. Armstrong, Bobby Hansen and Stacey King turned the tide, outscoring the Trail Blazers 14-2 to open the fourth quarter. They cut the seemingly insurmountable lead to 81-78 and Jordan and Pippen took over from there, scoring the Bulls' last 19 points to grab the series from the stunned Trail Blazers.
"We needed a different matchup," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "That's what we got from those young guys. They had fresh legs. Either it's daring or stupid, depending on which way it comes out."
The Bulls became the third team in the last six years to repeat as champions.
Eastern Conference first round
Chicago defeated Miami (3-0)
Boston defeated Indiana (3-0)
Cleveland defeated New Jersey (3-1)
New York defeated Detroit (3-2)
Western Conference first round
Portland defeated Los Angeles Lakers (3-1)
Utah defeated Los Angeles Clippers (3-2)
Seattle defeated Golden State (3-1)
Phoenix defeated San Antonio (3-0)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Cleveland defeated Boston (4-3)
Chicago defeated New York (4-3)
Western Conference semifinals
Portland defeated Phoenix (4-1)
Utah defeated Seattle (4-1)
Eastern Conference finals
Chicago defeated Cleveland (4-2)
Western Conference finals
Portland defeated Utah (4-2)
Chicago defeated Portland (4-2)
Points -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (30.1)
Assists -- John Stockton, Utah Jazz (13.7)
Rebounds -- Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons (18.7)
Steals -- John Stockton, Utah Jazz (3.0)
Blocks -- David Robinson, San Antonio (4.5)
FG % -- Buck Williams, Portland Trail Blazers (60.4)
FT % -- Mark Price, Cleveland Cavaliers (94.7)
3PT % -- Dana Barros, Seattle Sonics (44.6)
Most Valuable Player -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Rookie of the Year -- Larry Johnson, Charlotte Hornets
Defensive Player of the Year -- David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs
Most Improved Player -- Pervis Ellison, Washington Bullets
Sixth Man of the Year -- Detlef Schrempf, Indiana Pacers
Coach of the Year -- Don Nelson, Golden State Warriors
All-Star Game MVP -- Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
Finals MVP -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls