1990-91 AWARD WINNERS
THE DETROIT PISTONS ONCE CREATED THE "JORDAN RULES" as a way to contain Michael Jordan, but it was Jordan who ruled the NBA in the 1990-91 season, winning the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the Edge Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career. Jordan also won the award in 1988.
"This year is a little more special," said Jordan after receiving the award in May. "My teammates really stepped up and have given me the contribution we need to put ourselves in the position to win the world championship."
And win it they did. Jordan, who led the league in scoring for the fifth straight season, sparked his team to its best record (61-21) in franchise history and the team first NBA World Championship in an exciting 4-1 series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bulls also won their first division title since 1975 and had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Jordan capped his MVP year by being unanimously chosen the 1991 NBA Finals MVP, presented by Jeep/Eagle.
As his teammates rose to the occasion and came through with substantial contributions during the regular season and the Playoffs, it became clear that Jordan had joined the ranks of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, players who make their teammates better.
"I accepted a long time ago that Michael is the greatest athlete in the sport, maybe in the world," said Chicago John Paxson, Jordan's partner in the Bulls' backcourt. "And you've got to accept your role. Michael's challenged me at times. The great ones do that. Bird did it with the Celtics. Magic did it with the Lakers. And a lot of times greatness is determined by how a team responds to its leader's challenge."
"Michael humbled himself in a way that he could see that we had a chance to win a championship this year," said Chicago forward Horace Grant. "So if we were scoring early and he only had two points, he'd accept that, as long as we were winning."
Jordan received 891 points, including 77 first-place votes, from a nationwide panel of 96 media members -- three from each league city and 15 representing the national media -- in the voting for the Edge NBA MVP award. Each voter was asked to select a top five, in order, and points were awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis.
Magic Johnson of the L.A. Lakers, a three-time winner of the Edge NBA MVP award and its recipient the past two seasons, finished second in the balloting with 10 first-place votes and 497 points overall. David Robinson of San Antonio was a close third with 476 points and six first-place votes.
The 6-6 Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game this season, becoming only the second player in NBA history (after Wilt Chamberlain) to lead the league in scoring for as many as five seasons. The seven-year veteran shot a career-high .539 from the field, which ranked 12th in the NBA, and was third in the league in steals with 2.72 per game.
"When he takes it to the basket, three things can happen," said Cleveland center Brad Daugherty. "You're either going to foul him, or he's going to score, or you foul him while he's scoring."
Jordan also led all vote getters in balloting for the 1991 All-NBA teams. Joining him on the All-NBA First Team were Magic Johnson, Robinson, Karl Malone of Utah and Charles Barkley of Philadelphia.
Named to the All-NBA Second Team were Kevin Johnson of Phoenix, Clyde Drexler of Portland, Patrick Ewing of New York, Dominique of Atlanta and Chris Mullin of Golden State.
The All-NBA Third Team consisted of John Stockton of Utah, Joe Dumars of Detroit, Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston, James Worthy of the L.A. Lakers and Bernard King of Washington.
The Detroit Pistons were not able to three-peat, but Pistons defensive standout Dennis Rodman did repeat as the Master Lock NBA Defensive Player of the Year, winning the award for the second consecutive year.
The 6-8 Rodman ranked second in the NBA in rebounding with 12.5 rpg, with more than one-third of that total (4.4) coming off the offensive glass. He also led all Detroit regulars in field goal percentage at .493. But it was his defense that set the tone for the Pistons, who allowed the fewest points in the NBA last season.
"He could be an offensive player, but that isn't important to him," said Pistons Coach Chuck Daly. "He's one of those rare people in all of basketball that doesn't care about scoring. He's like a diamond, absolutely like a diamond."
The five-year veteran often drew the opposing team's most dangerous scorer -- whether it was a guard, forward or center -- and enabled the Pistons to hold the opposition to just 96.8 points per game, the lowest mark in the NBA since Chicago's 95.0 ppg -- allowed in 1975 and the second straight season the Pistons led the league in that category. Detroit also held opponents to a .453 field goal percentage, which ranked third in the NBA behind San Antonio (.448) and Boston (.452).
"One year, my goal is to guard all the best players in the NBA by myself," said Rodman. "I don't want any help. I want to do it by myself."
Rodman received 51 of a possible 96 votes, followed by Robinson, who finished second with 18. Rodman and Robinson also were the top vote-getters for the 1991 Master Lock NBA All-Defensive team, as selected by the league's 27 head coaches. Joining them on the first team were Buck Williams of Portland, Alvin Robertson of Milwaukee and Jordan, who was named to the team for the fourth straight year, the longest such active streak in the league.
On the second team were Dumars, Olajuwon, Stockton, Scottie Pippen of Chicago and Dan Majerle of Phoenix.
It looks like New Jersey netted a star with the No. 1 pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Derrick Coleman was the selection and was rewarded for his outstanding rookie year by being named the winner of the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the Minute Maid Orange Soda NBA Rookie of the Year for 1991, beating out Lionel Simmons of Sacramento.
Coleman averaged 18.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to lead all first-year players in scoring and rebounding. The 6-10 forward led the Nets (26-56) to a nine-game improvement over last season's record, ranking second on the team in scoring and leading the club in rebounding, a category in which he ranked 10th in the NBA. Coleman also ranked second on the team in blocked shots with 99 (1.33 bpg), helping the Nets to an NBA-leading 600 blocked shots for the season.
"He's extremely competitive," said Nets Coach Bill Fitch. "If you're keeping score, he wants to have the most. If the name of the game is to have the least, he'll have that, too. I like that about him. That's the common denominator of all the good ones."
Coleman, who concluded his four-year college career at Syracuse as the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder, established an NBA rookie season high for rebounds by grabbing 23 during a 98-92 win over Philadelphia and also tied Simmons for the rookie season high for points with 42 during a 138-110 Nets win over Denver.
"Coleman's a heck of a talent," said Indiana's LaSalle Thompson. "Right now, as a rookie, he's one of the premier forwards in the league. He's exciting to watch."
Coleman and Simmons were both unanimous selections for the 1991 NBA All-Rookie team. They were joined on the First Team by Boston's Dee Brown, Charlotte's Kendall Gill and Orlando's Dennis Scott.
Named to the Second Team were Minnesota's Felon Spencer, Miami's Willie Burton, Sacramento's Travis Mays, Seattle's Gary Payton and Denver's Chris Jackson.
The top rookie of 1990, David Robinson, was named the winner of the 1991 Schick Award for outstanding all-around contributions to his team's success. The Schick Award winner is determined by utilizing a computer evaluation of key offensive and defensive statistics. It was the second Schick Award for Robinson, who led the NBA in rebounding (13.0 rpg) and ranked in the league's top 10 in blocked shots (3.9 bpg), scoring (25.6 ppg) and field goal percentage (.552).
Despite those impressive statistics, Robinson says his career is still on the upswing.
"I feel I can do much more," said Robinson. "In each game I try to improve on my rebounding, my shot-blocking, my control of the middle and every other area of the game."
Speaking of improvement, for the second year in a row the American Airlines NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award went to a member of an expansion team, perhaps symbolizing the development of these young teams. This year's winner was Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic, who beat out Boston's Kevin Gamble and Houston's Kenny Smith in the tightest balloting in the six-year history of the award.
Skiles ranked among the NBA's leaders in three categories this season and more than doubled his scoring average from a year ago. He averaged 17.2 ppg and 8.4 apg for the Magic, leading the team in both departments and sparking the second-year franchise to a 31-51 record -- a 13-game improvement over the 18-64 mark of their inaugural season and the best improvement of any NBA team last season. Skiles' averages were up significantly from 7.7 ppg and 4.8 apg a year ago.
"Scott deserves a lot of credit for the way he spreads the floor, creating opportunities for his teammates," said Orlando Coach Matt Guokas. "That's why he's one of the better point guards in the league."
The 6-1, five-year veteran, who also averaged 3.4 rebounds per game, ranked sixth in the NBA in free throw shooting (.902), fifth in three-point shooting (.408) and 10th in assists. Skiles set an NBA record with 30 assists in a game against Denver on Dec. 30 and dished for at least 10 assists in 25 games this season.
Another improved team last season was Houston, despite the loss of All-Star center Olajuwon for 25 games due to injury. Rockets Coach Don Chaney, who guided his team to the best record in franchise history (52-30), was named the recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the Digital NBA Coach of the Year.
"It's great to win an award named for Red," said Chaney, referring to the long-time coach and current President of the Boston Celtics who was the winningest coach in NBA history. "That makes it even more special. He drafted me. He brought me into this league."
Chaney, who earned a reputation as a defensive specialist during his 12-year NBA career, imparted much of that experience to the Rockets this season. Houston held opposing teams under 100 points in a game 40 times during the season, a franchise record, and allowed just 103.2 points per game, sixth lowest in the league and the second lowest in team history. The Rockets also held opponents to just .456 field goal shooting during the year, tying with Portland for the fourth-lowest percentage in the league.
When Olajuwon went down with a fractured eye socket on Jan. 3, Chaney and the Rockets revised their game plan and went 15-10 in Olajuwon's absence. The Rockets were 9-2 over the final 15 games before Olajuwon's return, and then, after losing to the Clippers in his first game back, proceeded to win 13 games in a row in March, the longest winning streak in team history.
"As the season wore on, this team became a joy to coach," said Chaney. "The thing I appreciated most was the all-out effort night after night; a loss is a loss, but if the total effort is there, there's nothing to hang your head about. That's the way I learned the game, and that's the way my players learned it."
In the closest balloting of the year, Detlef Schrempf of the Pacers was named the winner of the Miller Genuine Draft Sixth Man award by the margin of one vote over Dan Majerle of Phoenix.
Schrempf, who was the runner-up for the award in 1990, came off the bench in 79 of 82 games for Indiana last season and led the team in rebounding with a career-high 8.0 rpg. The versatile 6-10 forward, who has played all five positions in his six-year career, scored 16.1 ppg and shot a career-high .520 from the field while playing 32.1 minutes per game. Schrempf also set a career high for assists this season with 301 (3.7 apg), while shooting .818 from the free throw line and .375 (15-for-40) from three-point range.
"I like to go in and contribute whenever I can," said Schrempf. "It doesn't matter what position. I just want to get in and get the job done. I don't worry about starting. I just want to get my minutes, help us win and be in there with the game on the line."
Majerle, the Suns' 6-6 guard/forward, averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season, coming off the bench in 70 of 77 games.
Majerle's teammate, Kevin Johnson, was honored for his commitment and service to the community by being awarded the 1991 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America. Johnson was recognized for creating and providing financial support for the St. HOPE (Helping Our People Excel) Academy in his hometown Sacramento, an after-school support program for the youth. His tireless efforts also earned him a "Daily Point of Light" honor by President Bush in March.
The Portland Trail Blazers were disappointed not to make it back to the NBA Finals, but the team nonetheless has had a very successful year, finishing the regular season with the league's best record (63-19). In honor of their achievements, Morris "Bucky" Buckwalter, who serves as the team's Vice President of Basketball Operations, was named the NBA's Executive of the Year in voting conducted by The Sporting News. Buckwalter's additions of forward Buck Williams from New Jersey in 1989 and guard Danny Ainge from Sacramento in 1990 were an important factor in the Blazers' ascension to the upper echelon of the NBA today.
Finally, for the fourth year a nationwide panel of writers and broadcasters selected an All-Interview Team, based on accessibility and quotability, in balloting conducted by the NBA Public Relations Directors Association. Leading the way o the First Team, as usual, was loquacious Charles Barkley of Philadelphia, along with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Doc Rivers, with Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. Named to the Second Team were Kevin Johnson, Kevin McHale, David Robinson, Mychal Thompson, and Clyde Drexler, coached by Chuck Daly.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 1991 issue of Hoop.
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