Michael Jordan

Jordan and the Bulls sliced through the Blazers in six games to earn their second straight title.


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 Award 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). 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 Playoffs in 1991, defeated the Lakers, Phoenix and tough Utah, which had All-Stars John Stockton and Karl Malone, to gain 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 and staged a remarkable comeback at home in Game 6 to repeat as NBA Champions.

Larry Bird played his final season in 1991-1992.

KEY RESERVES PROPEL BULLS TO TITLE
Portland had taken it on the chin at home, losing two of three games to return to Chicago down 3-2 in the Finals. 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 and cut the seemingly insurmountable lead to 81-78. 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 explained afterward. "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."

Score one for daring.