Chicago Bulls History
Chicago's Bulls: The Team That Mike Built
1966-67: Bulls "Red" Hot At Start Of Inaugural Season
1967-68: Chicago Struggles Without Its "Guy"
1968-72: Bulls Turn Corner Because Of Love
1972-74: A Player With No Fear: Bulls Acquire Van Lier
1974-76: Stifling Defense Helps Chicago Win Division
1976-81: Artis Is Awesome, But Bulls Aren't
1981-84: A Three-Year Struggle
1984-87: "Air Jordan"
1987-89: Jordan Gets A Supporting Cast
1989-90: Jackson Replaces Collins As Head Coach
1990-91: No Bull! Chicago Cops Championship
1991-92: Two Rings Are Better Than One
1993: Jordan Announces His Retirement
1993-94: There Is Life Without Jordan
1994-95: "His Airness" Returns
1995-96: Greatest Ever? Bulls win 72 Games, Title
1996-97: Five Times A Champion
1997-98: Repeat Three-peat
1998-99: The Rebuilding Begins
1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98
Retired Uniform Numbers:
(4) Jerry Sloan
(10) Bob Love
(23) Michael Jordan
Chicago Bulls 1966-
Season W L % 2000-01 15 67 .183 1999-00 17 65 .207 1998-99 13 37 .260 1997-98 62 20 .756 1996-97 69 13 .841 1995-96 72 10 .878 1994-95 47 35 .573 1993-94 55 27 .671 1992-93 57 25 .695 1991-92 67 15 .817 1990-91 61 21 .744 1989-90 55 27 .671 1988-89 47 35 .573 1987-88 50 32 .610 1986-87 40 42 .488 1985-86 30 52 .366 1984-85 38 44 .463 1983-84 27 55 .329 1982-83 28 54 .341 1981-82 34 48 .415 1980-81 45 37 .549 1979-80 30 52 .366 1978-79 31 51 .378 1977-78 40 42 .488 1976-77 44 38 .537 1975-76 24 58 .293 1974-75 47 35 .573 1973-74 54 28 .659 1972-73 51 31 .622 1971-72 57 25 .695 1970-71 51 31 .622 1969-70 39 43 .476 1968-69 33 49 .402 1967-68 29 53 .354 1966-67 33 48 .407
Chicago's Bulls: The Team That Mike BuiltThe Chicago Bulls joined the NBA for the 1966-67 season. The franchise struggled for the better part of a quarter century, occasionally putting excellent teams on the court, such as the tough units of the mid-1970s that featured Bob Love, Norm Van Lier, Jerry Sloan, and Tom Boerwinkle. More often, however, the Bulls worked hard for mediocre results. That all changed in the mid-1980s with the drafting of Michael Jordan, the dominant player of his era and possibly the greatest player of all time.
Jordan won seven straight scoring titles with a combination of breathtaking slam dunks and a bag of thrilling shot-making tricks. He put up some of the biggest numbers in NBA history and wrote some of the most memorable chapters in the annals of the league. In the early 1990s the Bulls assembled a strong supporting cast for Jordan and won three consecutive NBA titles, becoming only the third franchise in history to string together a trio of crowns. After more than a year of "retirement" to try his hand at professional baseball, Jordan returned to lead the Bulls back to another title in 1996, one more in 1997 and a third in a row in 1998, the Bulls' second Three-peat of the decade and their sixth NBA championship trophy.
Prior to the inception of the Bulls organization, two pro teams had failed in Chicago. One squad, the Stags, had been a charter member of the 11-team Basketball Association of America, the predecessor of the NBA. The franchise folded after the 1949-50 campaign. The Packers debuted in 1961-62, but after two last-place finishes and a name change to the Zephyrs, the franchise moved to Baltimore and eventually became the Washington Bullets.
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1966-67: Bulls "Red" Hot At Start Of Inaugural SeasonThe brand-new Chicago Bulls franchise earned its first victory on October 15, 1966, with a 104-97 win over the St. Louis Hawks. The team's coach was Johnny "Red" Kerr, a former player with the Syracuse Nationals, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Baltimore Bullets. He is one of a select group of players to surpass the 10,000 mark in both rebounds and points, and he held the league record for consecutive games played with 844 until Randy Smith eclipsed his mark during the 1982-83 season.
Chicago's starting lineup on opening night included Len Chappell, Bob Boozer, Don Kojis, Jerry Sloan, and Guy Rodgers. In the team's victorious debut against St. Louis, Rodgers poured in a game-high 37 points. Three days later the Bulls ran their record to 2-0 by defeating the San Francisco Warriors, 119-116. Then, behind 34 points and 18 assists from Rodgers, Chicago upped its winning streak to three games with a 134-124 triumph over the defending Western Division champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Chicago finished with a 33-48 record, the best ever by an expansion team in its first year of play. The Bulls secured a playoff berth in the Western Division, but the Hawks eliminated them in the opening round. Kerr was named NBA Coach of the Year, and center Erwin Mueller made the NBA All-Rookie Team. Rodgers led the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game (including a club-record 24 against the New York Knicks on December 21) and also topped the team in scoring at 18.0 points per game. Rodgers and Sloan represented the new franchise in the 1967 NBA All-Star Game.
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1967-68: Chicago Struggles Without Its "Guy"After that promising beginning the Bulls fell apart. During the 1967-68 season the club traded Guy Rodgers, the steadiest player on the squad, to the Cincinnati Royals for Flynn Robinson and two future draft choices. Chicago lost its first nine games, slumping to 1-15 before climbing back to respectability. The Bulls went 28-38 the rest of the way but still finished 29-53.
Even that record was better than those of the new expansion teams in Seattle and San Diego, so the Bulls still snuck into the playoffs, where they were drubbed by the Lakers in the division semifinals. Bob Boozer, a 6-8 forward who had the most productive seasons of his 11-year career while playing for Chicago, led the team in scoring with 21.5 points per game, and Jim Washington topped the club in rebounding with 10.1 boards per contest.
When Jerry Colangelo left the Bulls' front office to run the Phoenix Suns expansion franchise, he took Kerr along as coach. Kerr's replacement for the 1968-69 season was Dick Motta, who had won three Big Sky Conference championships at Weber State. Motta was an unlikely choice, but he proved to be a fortuitous one. In the early 1970s he molded Chicago into a tough, defensive-minded squad that was always ready to challenge the opposition, even if it couldn't match up in talent.
Chicago owned the fourth overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft and selected 7-foot, 265-pound center Tom Boerwinkle of Tennessee. Boerwinkle would spend his entire 10-year career with Chicago and wind up as the Bulls' all-time leading rebounder with 5,745 career boards. Return to top of page
1968-72: Bulls Turn Corner Because Of LoveIn 1968-69 the Bulls went 33-49, a record that helped explain the home crowd of just 891 fans who watched them beat Seattle, 120-105, on November 7. On November 23 they traded Flynn Robinson to Milwaukee for Bob Love, a smooth 6-8 scoring threat, and Bob Weiss, a scrappy 6-2 guard. Chicago was accumulating the elements of a competitive club.
Jerry Sloan, who was known primarily as a defensive stalwart, hit for a career-high 43 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 5. A 6-5 scrapper, Sloan made the NBA All-Defensive First Team at season's end. Boozer led the team in scoring at 21.7 points per game, and Boerwinkle led in rebounding with 11.1 boards per contest. In fact, the 1968-69 team would stand as the best rebounding squad in Bulls history, pulling down 4,550 boards on the season.
The 1969-70 team finished 39-43 and was the highest-scoring Bulls outfit in history, putting up 114.9 points per game. On January 8 against Phoenix, Boerwinkle grabbed a franchise-high 37 rebounds as the Bulls beat the Suns, 152-123. Newcomer Chet Walker led the team in scoring for the season, averaging 21.5 points. Boerwinkle again paced the club in rebounding, beefing up his average to 12.5 boards per contest. Chicago advanced to the playoffs but lost to Atlanta, four games to one, in the Western Division Semifinals.
The Bulls finally began to fire on all cylinders in 1970-71, putting together a 51-31 record, second to Milwaukee in the newly formed Midwest Division and third best in the league. They started modestly, hovering just above .500 going into December, then ran off a six-game winning streak. Starting in late January, the Bulls went on a 19-5 tear that put them more than 20 games above .500. They had developed into a ruggedly physical club, led by Boerwinkle, who pulled down 33 rebounds in a March 9 win over Milwaukee. That victory snapped the Bucks' 20-game winning streak.
Chet Walker led the league at the foul line with an .859 free throw percentage. Bob Love set a new club record for points with 2,043, finishing sixth in the NBA scoring race with a 25.2 average. (Love would hold most of the Bulls' scoring records until Michael Jordan came along.) Boerwinkle set team rebounding marks by pulling down 1,133 boards and averaging 13.8 per game.
In the 1971 NBA Playoffs, Chicago stretched the Los Angeles Lakers to the limit in the division semifinals before losing in seven games. For catching the NBA by surprise, Dick Motta was named the league's Coach of the Year.
The Bulls continued to improve in 1971-72, muscling their way to a 57-25 record. Even that stellar mark trailed the Lakers, who won 33 straight while fashioning a 69-13 mark, and the Milwaukee Bucks, who claimed the Midwest Division title at 63-19.
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1972-74: A Player With No Fear: Bulls Acquire Van LierIn November the Bulls acquired 6-2 guard Norm Van Lier from Cincinnati for center Jim Fox. Van Lier brought a pugnacious attitude to the game and teamed with Sloan to form the toughest defensive guard tandem of the era. The squad had a seven-game winning streak in late November, then another of equal length in late December, and stood at 27-10 entering the new year. Another five-game string in January put the Bulls 21 games up in the win column.
On February 6 against Cincinnati, Chet Walker hit for 56 points, another club record that would eventually fall to Michael Jordan. Walker is the only Bulls player besides Jordan ever to score 50 or more points in a game. Walker did it once; Jordan did it 32 times.
Love represented Chicago in the 1972 NBA All-Star Game. The team continued to play solid ball and looked like a contender until Boerwinkle sustained a knee injury in the last week of the regular season. The Bulls were swept out of the playoffs by the Lakers, who went on to capture the NBA title. Clifford Ray, a 6-9 third-round draft pick from Oklahoma, was named to the All-Rookie Team at season's end.
The Bulls slipped a bit in 1972-73 as Boerwinkle missed most of the year while his knee mended. Nonetheless, the team still had a fine season at 51-31. Love scored 49 points on successive nights-February 4 against Milwaukee and February 6 against the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. Walker and Love made the All-Star Team. The Bulls were at 31-20 in early February, when they went on a 17-6 run that turned a good season into a great one.
Chicago made the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. For the second time in three seasons the Bulls took the Lakers to Game 7 in their playoff confrontation. In the decisive contest the Bulls held a 90-83 lead with less than three minutes left, but they were outscored, 12-2, in the final minutes.
In 1973-74 the team posted a 54-28 record and battled the Detroit Pistons for second place in the Midwest Division behind Milwaukee (59-23). The Bulls got out of the gate fast, with a 13-2 record in the early going, including 12 straight wins in October and November. They forged another seven-game streak in December, then really heated up in January, running off 10 straight victories. Chet Walker and Norm Van Lier played for the East All-Stars, and Van Lier and Jerry Sloan were selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
In the playoffs Detroit and Chicago locked horns in a physical seven-game conference semifinal series, and the Bulls prevailed in the deciding contest, 96-94. Depleted by their battle with the Pistons, Chicago then fell in four straight to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Western Conference Finals.
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1974-76: Stifling Defense Helps Chicago Win DivisionAfter four straight 50-win seasons the Bulls fell to 47-35 in 1974-75 but still captured first place in the Midwest Division. The team got off to a shaky start as Van Lier and Love held out while they renegotiated their contracts. However, 6-11 center Nate Thurmond, acquired from Golden State in a trade for Clifford Ray, picked up the slack. Thurmond was in the final years of his Hall of Fame career, but in his Bulls debut (the season opener on October 18) he set a team record by blocking 12 shots against the Atlanta Hawks.
The team's trademark during this era was a stifling defense. Chicago led the NBA in team defense in 1974-75, yielding just 95.0 points per game. Once Love and Van Lier had returned to action, the Bulls became hard to handle. They won 12 straight home games from January 24 to February 21 and were nearly invincible in the second half of the year.
The positive momentum carried into the playoffs. Chicago topped the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals, then faced the Golden State Warriors and Rick Barry in the conference finals. The Bulls forged a two-games-to-one lead in the series, then pushed it to three-games-to-two. However, the Warriors claimed the final two contests and a ticket to the NBA Finals, in which Golden State won its first NBA championship since moving to the Bay Area.
The Bulls' recent playoff success was good news for Chicago sports fans. The bad news was that Chet Walker retired, Jerry Sloan injured his knee, and Chicago's 1975-76 record fell to 24-58, the team's worst ever. Dick Motta left after the season and was replaced by Ed Badger. After a period of stability the franchise looked to be in disarray. During the next decade the Bulls would try seven different coaches, suffer a long run of unproductive draft choices, constantly reshuffle the roster, and, more often than not, watch the playoffs from the sidelines.
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1976-81: Artis Is Awesome, But Bulls Aren'tThe immediate results were surprisingly good, however, as Badger helped the 1976-77 squad to a dramatic 20-game improvement and a 44-38 record. Prior to the season the Bulls had acquired 7-2 center Artis Gilmore in the ABA Dispersal Draft. After five great campaigns with the Kentucky Colonels in which he had averaged 22.0 points, Gilmore put in six sterling seasons with Chicago. He couldn't rescue the Bulls from a team-record losing streak, however, as they went winless in 13 games. That rough patch was forgotten by season's end, though, as the team won 20 of its final 24 contests, with Gilmore, rookie Scott May, and veteran Norm Van Lier leading the charge. The remarkable turnaround vaulted the Bulls into the playoffs, in which they became victims of Bill Walton and the championship-bound Portland Trail Blazers.
The 1977-78 squad slipped to 40-42 and missed the playoffs despite posting a 28-23 record at the All-Star break. Gilmore represented Chicago at the 1978 NBA All-Star Game, the first of his four All-Star appearances with the Bulls. He led the club in scoring (22.9 ppg) and rebounding (13.1 rpg) and finished third in the league in field goal percentage (.559).
The following season the Bulls slid to a 31-51 record under two different coaches, Larry Costello and Scotty Robertson. Costello took the reins from Badger to open the season, only to be replaced after a 20-36 start. Robertson didn't fare much better, compiling an 11-15 mark the rest of the way. For the second straight season Gilmore led the team in scoring (23.7 ppg) and rebounding (12.7 rpg), ranking among the league's top 10 in both categories. Standout guard Reggie Theus, the Bulls' first-round draft pick in 1978, began a 13-year career with a berth on the NBA All-Rookie Team.
The 1979-80 Bulls team fell to 30-52 under new coach Jerry Sloan, who had served as a scout and assistant coach for the Bulls after his retirement in 1976. Sloan's coaching debut was soured by a leg injury that sidelined Gilmore for 34 games, snapping his string of 670 consecutive games played.
Chicago moved to the Central Division in 1980-81 to make room in the Midwest for the expansion Dallas Mavericks. The new surroundings suited the Bulls well, as they bounced back to a 45-37 record and a second-place finish behind Milwaukee (60-22). Chicago hovered around .500 for most of the season but sizzled down the stretch, winning 13 of its final 15 games. In the playoffs for the first time since 1977, the Bulls eliminated the New York Knicks in a best-of-three first-round series, then were swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Boston Celtics, the eventual NBA champions. Return to top of page
1981-84: A Three-Year StruggleThe 1981 NBA Draft yielded 6-9 forward Orlando Woolridge of Notre Dame, but after the promise of the previous season, 1981-82 was a disappointment. A December 2 game against Golden State was especially galling-the Bulls broke their own NBA record with a .705 field goal percentage but still lost to the Warriors, 120-119. The team went 19-32 under Sloan, and on February 17 he was replaced by Bulls General Manager Rod Thorn. Thorn guided the Bulls to a 15-15 finish and a 34-48 overall record. Gilmore led the team in scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg) and led the NBA in field goal percentage at .652.
After failing to make the playoffs the team revamped its roster. The Bulls' top selection in the 1982 draft was Quintin Dailey, a talented but troubled 6-3 guard from the University of San Francisco. Chicago also traded Artis Gilmore to the San Antonio Spurs for Dave Corzine and Mark Olberding.
In 1982-83 Chicago reeled to a 28-54 record under new coach Paul Westhead, who had guided the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship in 1980. The Bulls struggled early and often, losing all seven games of their first extended road trip of the season. When a knee injury sidelined Woolridge for the final 25 contests of the year, the squad hit another seven-game slide. Reggie Theus (23.8 ppg) made the All-Star Team, and Dailey (15.1 ppg) was an All-Rookie Team selection. However, Westhead's stay in Chicago was brief; he was released from his contract at season's end.
With Kevin Loughery as the team's new coach for 1983-84, the Bulls finished 27-55, the second-worst record in franchise history. In the middle of the year Chicago traded Theus to Kansas City for Steve Johnson and draft choices, creating the need for a shooting guard.
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1984-87: "Air Jordan"The reward for the lean season was the third pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. The Houston Rockets, picking first, selected Hakeem Olajuwon, who would become one of the NBA's most dominant centers for more than a decade. The Portland Trail Blazers used the second selection for another center, Sam Bowie, whose career would be hampered by a series of injuries. The Bulls took College Player of the Year Michael Jordan, a 6-6 guard from North Carolina.
Chicago improved to 38-44 in 1984-85 as Jordan stepped directly into the starting lineup and began rewriting the Bulls' record book. On his way to the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, Jordan set a team rookie record with 49 points against Detroit on February 12. He was dazzling throughout the year, earning a starting berth in the 1985 NBA All-Star Game. Many compared him to Julius Erving because of his high-flying style of play. Jordan finished the season averaging 28.2 points, third in the NBA behind New York's Bernard King (32.9 ppg) and Boston's Larry Bird (28.7). Jordan also led Chicago in rebounding (6.5 rpg), assists (5.9 apg), and steals (196).
Jordan helped the Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since 1981, but it was a short visit. Chicago fell to Milwaukee, three games to one, in a first-round series. Coach Loughery was fired after the season.
Stan Albeck was named the new head coach for 1985-86, but the season took a disastrous turn when Jordan sustained a broken foot in the Bulls' third game. Many thought he would miss the rest of the season, but Jordan returned triumphantly on March 15 (after missing 64 games) and helped Chicago to a playoff berth despite the club's 30-52 record.
The Bulls faced Boston in the first round and lost in three straight, but the series was made memorable by Jordan's remarkable 63-point performance in Game 2 at Boston Garden. The outburst established a single-game playoff scoring record, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Celtics from winning, 135-131, in double overtime.
Rugged rookie Charles Oakley joined the Bulls in 1985-86 and immediately established himself as a force on the boards, leading the team with 8.6 rebounds per game. He grabbed a club-record 18 offensive rebounds against Milwaukee on March 15. Chicago was still searching for the right coaching formula, and the Bulls fired Albeck after the season.
With yet another new head coach, Doug Collins, in for 1986-87, the Bulls improved to 40-42. Chicago qualified for the playoffs for the third straight season but was again eliminated by Boston in the first round.
The team's record was a secondary concern for most fans, who had their eyes riveted on team superstar Jordan. In late November and early December he went on a rampage, scoring 40 or more points in nine consecutive games. On February 26 he poured in 58 points against the New Jersey Nets, including a record 26 of 27 free throws. On March 4 he hit for 61 points against Detroit. Just a month later, on April 16, he matched that performance with 61 against Atlanta. That season Jordan became the first NBA player to reach 3,000 points in a season since Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1962-63.
Jordan led the league in scoring at 37.1 points per game, his career high for a season. He set Bulls single-season records for points (3,041), field goals (1,098), free throws (833), and steals (236). His output was rewarded with the first in a series of All-NBA First Team selections.
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1987-89: Jordan Gets A Supporting CastJordan was indisputably great, and Oakley, who led the league in total rebounds (1,066), was outstanding. Still, the Bulls lacked a quality supporting cast. They took a major step toward alleviating that problem at the 1987 NBA Draft, when Vice President of Basketball Operations Jerry Krause acquired two players who would be vital cogs in Chicago's future championship machine. With two picks in the top 10, Krause selected Olden Polynice at No. 8 and Horace Grant at No. 10. He then traded Polynice and draft considerations to the Seattle SuperSonics for Scottie Pippen, whom the Sonics had grabbed with the fifth pick.
With Grant and Pippen on board the Bulls began to show their stuff in 1987-88, forging a 50-32 record, their best mark since 1973-74. Chicago finished in a second-place tie with Atlanta in a competitive Central Division won by the surging Detroit Pistons. The Bulls made some noise in the playoffs, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in a five-game first-round series, but then fell to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Oakley and the Los Angeles Clippers' Michael Cage engaged in a nip-and-tuck battle for the league's rebounding title, which came down to the last day of the regular season. On April 22 against Cleveland, Oakley put the pressure on Cage by pulling down 35 rebounds, the second-highest total in Bulls history behind Tom Boerwinkle's 37 in 1970. Two days later, however, Cage grabbed 30 boards in a game against Seattle, just enough to edge Oakley by the slimmest of margins, 13.03 per game to 13.00. Cage played in 10 fewer games than Oakley, however, so Oakley led the NBA in total rebounds for the second consecutive year, with 1,066.
Jordan led the league in scoring (35.0 ppg) and steals (3.16 per game). He won every major award, including Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First Team, NBA All-Defensive First Team, All-Star Game MVP, and NBA Slam-Dunk Champion.
Even with the success of the previous season, the team did not stand pat. The Bulls began the 1988-89 campaign with seven new faces on the roster. Jerry Krause made a blockbuster deal in June 1988 when he sent Oakley to the New York Knicks for 7-1 center Bill Cartwright. He also acquired three-point specialist Craig Hodges from Phoenix. While the players adjusted to one another the team's record slipped to 47-35, but the regular season was just a tune-up for the playoffs.
For only the third time in franchise history the Bulls advanced to the conference finals, upending Cleveland in five games and New York in six along the way. Chicago took a two-games-to-one lead over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Pistons roared back to win the next three and take the series. Jordan had led the league in scoring for a third straight year with 32.5 points per game.
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1989-90: Jackson Replaces Collins As Head CoachPhil Jackson replaced Doug Collins as head coach for 1989-90. As a player Jackson had spent 13 years in the NBA, 11 of them with the Knicks. He had been named the Continental Basketball Association's Coach of the Year in 1985, the season after his Albany Patroons won the league championship; he then hooked on with the Bulls as an assistant coach.
With Jackson at the helm Chicago began to mesh, cruising to a 55-27 record and a return to the Eastern Conference Finals. Beginning in November, the Bulls won a team-record 15 consecutive home games. The team also assembled an eight-game road winning streak, the longest in franchise history. Chicago was playing solid ball at midseason, and Jordan and Scottie Pippen made the All-Star Team. The Bulls sizzled after the break, closing out the season with a 27-8 flourish that included two nine-game winning streaks. On March 28 at Cleveland, Jordan rained in 69 points, his all-time high. For the season, he captured his fourth consecutive NBA scoring title (33.6 ppg) and his second NBA steals title (2.77 per game).
Pippen, a versatile 6-7, 225-pound forward, proved to be a vital complement to Jordan. Not as flashy as "Air Jordan," he nevertheless had many of the same all-around skills: good ballhandling, solid scoring, and terrific defense.
For all of their success, the Bulls couldn't keep up with the Detroit Pistons, who finished four games ahead of them in the Central Division. Chicago strolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, eliminating Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but for the second straight year they couldn't bump Detroit from the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons won a low-scoring seven-game series en route to their second consecutive NBA championship.
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1990-91: No Bull! Chicago Cops ChampionshipIn 1990-91 some of the less obvious aspects of Phil Jackson's coaching philosophy began to draw attention-and began to produce unprecedented results. Although the Bulls had the most creative offensive force in the history of the game in Jordan, they also stressed defense and teamwork.
Chicago lost the first three games of the year, then never dropped more than two in a row the rest of the way. On December 4 the Bulls set a regulation-game team record by scoring 155 points against Phoenix, a total topped only by a 156-point, four-overtime game in 1984. They had two seven-game winning streaks, in December and January, while building a 30-14 record. Then the team went on a tear in February, winning 11 straight, losing a single game, then winning nine more, to stand at 50-15 on March 20.
Finishing with a 61-21 record, the Bulls won their second division title and became just the ninth team in NBA history to win 60 or more regular-season games. They swaggered through the postseason, sweeping the New York Knicks in three games, eliminating the Philadelphia 76ers in five, and reaching the NBA Finals by winning four straight against the defending NBA-champion Detroit Pistons.
The 1991 NBA Finals matchup between the Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers was billed as a confrontation between two of the game's most charismatic figures, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson; however, the drama never unfolded. Los Angeles won the first game on a last-second three-pointer by Sam Perkins, but then Chicago ran through the Lakers in four straight contests. Jordan scored 30 points and handed out 10 assists in a 108-101 Game 5 victory, which clinched the first NBA championship in the Bulls' 25-year history.
The title capped a memorable season for Jordan. He was voted the league's Most Valuable Player for the second time, won his fifth consecutive scoring title, reached the 15,000-point plateau, and was named to the All-NBA First Team and to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. He was also voted MVP of the Finals.
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1991-92: Two Rings Are Better Than OneIn 1991-92 the Bulls came roaring back. They dominated throughout the year and threatened the league record for victories in a season before ending up at 67-15, the best mark in franchise history. Chicago was slow out of the gate but then ran off a team-record 14-game winning streak for a 15-2 record by early December. The Bulls put together a 13-game streak in January to sit at 37-5, then coasted in with a 30-10 second half. Chicago equaled its best home record at 36-5 and set a new club mark with 31 road victories.
The playoffs, however, were tougher than the previous season's. Chicago had a rugged conference semifinal confrontation with New York, finally subduing the Knicks in seven games. In the Eastern Conference Finals they went to six games against Cleveland before prevailing.
Chicago faced a high-powered Portland team in the 1992 NBA Finals. After the Bulls notched a Game 1 victory at home, the Blazers gave Jordan and company a jolt by stealing Game 2 at Chicago Stadium. But Chicago managed to win two of three contests in Portland, bringing the series back home with a one-game lead after five. When the Blazers took a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 6, a seventh game seemed assured. The Bulls' bench turned the game around, however, igniting a 14-2 run at the start of the final period as Chicago logged the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in Finals history. The Bulls won the game, 97-93, and took home their second consecutive championship, becoming only the fourth NBA franchise to win back-to-back titles.
Jordan eclipsed his regular-season average of 31.2 points per game by averaging 35.8 points per game in the six contests against Portland. He repeated as Most Valuable Player for both the regular season and the Finals, becoming the first player since the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird to take both honors in successive years. He also captured his sixth straight scoring title, was a starter in the All-Star Game, and was named to the All-NBA First Team and to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. Scottie Pippen was an All-Star starter and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. In the summer of 1992 Jordan and Pippen both played on the United States Dream Team, which won a gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
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1992-93: "Three-Peat"The Bulls finished the 1992-93 regular season at 57-25, the team's fourth straight 50-win campaign. For the second consecutive year Chicago never lost more than two games in a row. On January 16 against the Orlando Magic, Jordan scored 64 points, his second-highest total ever. He won his seventh straight scoring title at season's end and joined Pippen on the NBA All-Defensive First Team. B. J. Armstrong, a fourth-year guard from Iowa, moved into the starting lineup and led the NBA in three-point percentage at .453.
Entering the 1993 NBA Playoffs, the defending champs were still the team to beat, but not the clear-cut favorites. Many, in fact, were picking Coach Pat Riley's New York Knicks to emerge from the Eastern Conference, and still others felt Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, who notched the league's best record at 62-20, would take the crown. Undaunted, the Bulls swept Atlanta in three games and Cleveland in four in the first two rounds of the postseason. They met the Knicks in a much-anticipated Eastern Conference Finals and rallied from a two-game deficit to win four straight and take the series.
As expected, Phoenix was waiting in the NBA Finals. Chicago was looking to make short work of the series after stunning the Suns with two victories in Phoenix, but Barkley carried his team to two improbable wins in Chicago, sending the series back to Phoenix for Game 6. The Suns took control of the contest in the fourth quarter and seemed on their way to forcing a decisive Game 7, but then the Bulls' John Paxson provided one of the greatest moments in Finals history. With Chicago trailing, 98-96, Paxson hit a dramatic three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls a 99-98 victory and their third straight NBA title.
Michael Jordan averaged 41.0 points against the Suns to break Rick Barry's previous record for the highest scoring average in a Finals series. He was named Finals MVP for the third straight year. With the victory the Bulls became the first NBA team in 27 seasons to win three consecutive championships. (The Minneapolis Lakers, led by George Mikan, won three in a row from 1952 through 1954, and the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics won eight straight titles from 1959 through 1966.)
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1993: Jordan Announces His RetirementThe Bulls seemed poised to go as far into the record books as Jordan would carry them, but then, prior to the opening of training camp for the 1993-94 season, Jordan dropped the bomb. He retired at age 30.
Jordan had won a slew of awards and honors during his nine-year NBA career. He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1984-85, then went on to win seven straight scoring titles, three regular-season Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Finals MVP Awards, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, and two NBA Slam-Dunk Championships. He was also an All-Star in each of his nine campaigns. Most importantly, however, Jordan owned three championship rings.
Basketball aficionados will argue that the game, at its improvisational best, is poetry and jazz, and that is how Jordan rewrote the book every day. He shocked the basketball world with his high-flying grace and beauty, building on the legacy of Connie Hawkins and Julius Erving with jaw-dropping variations. He created a breathtaking illusion with his leaning, one-handed slam, in which he would tip toward the horizontal in midair, appearing to level out for flight before cramming the ball through the hoop. He developed into a deadly three-point shooter, and was never more accurate than in the crucible of championship play. And above all, Jordan was a winner.
Needless to say, his departure would have an impact. He had been surrounded by fine players, including Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and B. J. Armstrong. But at the end of the 1992-93 season the question looming over the franchise, and over the league, was whether they (or anyone, for that matter) could fill the vacuum left by the departure of the player who was arguably the greatest in the history of the game. Return to top of page
1993-94: There Is Life Without JordanHowever, the 1993-94 Bulls proved there was life without Michael Jordan. Although Chicago didn't win its fourth straight championship, it posted a 55-27 record (for second place behind the Atlanta Hawks in the Central Division) and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. But for the first time in four consecutive playoff matchups, the New York Knicks eliminated the Bulls, though it took them seven games to do it.
Scottie Pippen had a tremendous season in all facets of the game. The leading vote-getter for both the All-NBA First Team and the NBA All-Defensive First Team, he ranked eighth in the league in scoring (22.0 ppg), 23rd in rebounding (8.7 rpg), 19th in assists (5.6 apg), and second in steals (2.93 per game). Pippen also won MVP honors at the 1994 NBA All-Star Game, in which he was joined for the first time by teammates Horace Grant and B. J. Armstrong.
Toni Kukoc had a solid rookie season and gave the Bulls confidence in their future. The former European star found some aspects of the NBA difficult, but as a versatile sixth man he made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team and scored 10.9 points per game. He hit several game-winning buckets during the year, including a last-second three-pointer against the Knicks in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Kukoc looked to be one of the team's focal points in 1994-95, especially after Grant left the team to sign with the Orlando Magic as a free agent.
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1994-95: "His Airness" ReturnsThe 1994-95 season opened with the Chicago Bulls in a new arena, the United Center, and with Michael Jordan as a memory. The team played close to .500 ball for much of the campaign. Scottie Pippen was one of the league's best all-around talents, finishing among the league leaders in steals (2.94 per game, 1st), scoring (21.4 ppg, 12th), rebounding (8.1 rpg, 23rd), and assists (5.2 apg, 23rd). Pippen started in the All-Star Game and was named to the All-NBA First Team at season's end. Toni Kukoc was inserted into the starting unit about 25 games into the season and averaged 15.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists for the year. Most nights Kukoc and Pippen formed a formidable duo.
Yet the Bulls became much stronger late in the year. Jordan, who had been toiling without much success as a minor league baseball player attempting to make the majors, realized that he missed basketball. So on March 18, amid much fanfare, Jordan declared, "I'm back," unexpectedly rejoining the Bulls in what was certainly the most memorable return of a player in NBA history.
Although he was not quite the same player who had left the NBA in 1993, Jordan was still better than most guards in basketball and made the Bulls a feared team. In 17 regular-season games he averaged 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. He sparked the team to a 9-1 record in April. His 55-point performance against the rival New York Knicks on March 29 showed that he could still conjure up the old magic. That game, his first at Madison Square Garden since his return, was one of the most anticipated regular-season games of the year and ended with Jordan dishing off for a Bill Wennington dunk that gave Chicago a last-second win.
Chicago finished the regular season at 47-35, in third place behind the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets but only five games off the lead. The Bulls blasted past the Hornets in the first round of the playoffs and threatened to seize a fourth championship. But even with Jordan, the Bulls could not overcome their own glaring weakness: the lack of a solid inside player. Power forward Horace Grant had left the team in the offseason to sign with the Orlando Magic; he came back to haunt the Bulls in the conference semifinals as his Magic took the series in six games. Jordan averaged 31.5 points in the playoffs.
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1995-96: Greatest Ever? Bulls win 72 Games, TitleAfter hearing for an entire offseason that he wasn't quite the same player as he had been when he abruptly retired in 1993, Michael Jordan was driven to lead the Bulls to the NBA championship for the fourth time in six years. His supporting cast included Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, acquired in a preseason trade. Though a talented collection of players, no one could have predicted what the team would accomplish.
After losing to Seattle to fall to 10-2 in late November, the team won 31 of its next 32 games, including 14 during an undefeated January. Although they lost back-to-back games at Denver and Phoenix to avoid becoming the first team in NBA history to play an entire season without consecutive losses, their failures were few and far between.
They were nearly invincible at home, going 37-0 (extending their home winning streak to 44) before losing to the Charlotte Hornets on April 8. At Milwaukee, on April 16, they achieved what many experts never thought possible - 70 wins - with a 86-80 decision over the Bucks. They finished 72-10, breaking the 69-13 record of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Only the Indiana Pacers were able to beat the Bulls twice.
In doing so, the Bulls won many of the postseason awards: Jordan was named the league's Most Valuable Player and was the All-Star Game MVP. He led the league in scoring (30.4 ppg) ranked third in steals (2.20 spg), and 11th in three-point field-goal percentage. Pippen, long regarded as perhaps the best all-around player in the NBA, averaged 19.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 5.9 apg, and finished 12th in the NBA in steals.
Rodman, who added an element of intrigue with his unique antics and unparalled rebounding ability, led the league in rebounds (14.9 rpg). Rodman, Jordan and Pippen were all named to the league's All-Defensive Team. Toni Kukoc won the NBA Sixth Man Award, and the supporting cast included Steve Kerr (second in three-point field goal percentage), Luc Longley (9.1 ppg) and Ron Harper (7.4 ppg).
In the playoffs, the Bulls kept rolling, losing only one playoff game in series wins over Miami, New York and Orlando. In the Finals, the Bulls beat the Sonics in six games, finishing with a postseason record of 15-3, and an overall record of 87-13, the best in NBA history. Jordan was named the Finals MVP for the fourth time as he cemented his legend in the Windy City and in NBA annals.
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1996-97: Five Times A ChampionComing off of a record-breaking 1995-96 season, what could the Chicago Bulls do for an encore? How about 69 wins and a second consecutive NBA title, the fifth for the Bulls in seven years? That's exactly what the Bulls accomplished in 1996-97, posting a 69-13 record and winning the championship with a memorable six-game triumph over the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals.
Despite the gaudy record, defending the title wasn't easy. Led by the dynamic duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls were able to overcome injuries to Toni Kukoc and Luc Longley, suspensions and injuries to rebounding specialist Dennis Rodman and constant public and media scrutiny to win the Central Division by 13 games over the Atlanta Hawks.
Jordan made more NBA history along the way, becoming the first player in league history to record a triple-double at the All-Star Game (14 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists). Teammate Steve Kerr reigned on All-Star Saturday as the winner of the AT and T Shootout.
The Bulls finished one game shy of recording back-to-back 70 win seasons by losing three of their final four games. Jordan led the league in scoring (29.6 ppg) and set an NBA record with 2,000 points for the 10th time in his career.
Despite that late "slump," the Bulls were ready come playoff time. They held off a tenacious Washington Bullets team to record a first-round sweep, then disposed of the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat in five games apiece, setting up the series with the Jazz.
In the Finals, Jordan took center stage once again. He won Game 1 with a buzzer-beater, then posted 38 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists to give the Bulls a 2-0 series lead. After the Jazz won twice at home to tie the series at 2-2, Jordan added another epic to his legacy; playing despite a stomach virus, Jordan poured in 38 points, including a three-pointer in the final minute to give the Bulls a 90-88 win in Game 5. He added 39 more points in the Game 6 clincher and fed Kerr for the game-winning shot with only five seconds to play. For the fifth time in five championship seasons, Jordan was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. At season's end, Jordan and coach Phil Jackson signed new one-year contracts, providing the Bulls an opportunity to 'three-peat' for the second time in the decade. Return to top of page
1997-98: Repeat Three-peatIt wasn't easy for the 1997-98 Bulls. Unlike many of Chicago's prior title runs, this one never seemed like a mere formality. From the very beginning of the season, the Bulls were challenged both mentally and physically.
Scottie Pippen began the season on the injured list, missing the Bulls' first 35 games while recovering from off-season left foot surgery. Despite an opening night loss to the Boston Celtics and a relatively slow start of 12-9, Chicago was back on top by midseason. As Pippen played himself back into shape, Michael Jordan carried the Bulls with an assist from Toni Kukoc and the league-leading rebounding prowess of Dennis Rodman. When the regular season ended, Jordan and company had led the Bulls to a 62-20 record, tying Utah for the top mark in the NBA.
Jordan, still the league's marquee player, enhanced his legend with a plethora of honors, including All-Defensive First Team honors, All-NBA First Team honors, MVP honors for the fifth time and All-Star MVP honors for the third time. His 28.7 ppg led the NBA, giving Jordan his 10th scoring title.
In the postseason, the Bulls met first-time playoff foe Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals after dispatching the New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Hornets. The veteran Pacers, led by NBA legend Larry Bird, forced a decisive Game 7, a first for the Bulls since 1992. Jordan's 28 points sealed the 88-83 victory for Chicago, and it was back to the Finals and a rematch with the Jazz.
By virtue of their season-series sweep over the Bulls, the Jazz had the home-court advantage this time around. After the Jazz defended home court in Game 1, the Bulls managed to steal Game 2, 93-88. Back in Chicago, the Bulls posted a 96-54 rout in Game 3 and won a close Game 4 to close within one more win of another championship. The Jazz, however, were not ready to bow out gracefully. Led by a game-high 39 points by Utah's Karl Malone the Jazz came away with an 88-86 win, as a last second shot by Jordan missed its mark.
Game 6, back in Salt Lake, was one of Jordan's finest performances ever. With Pippen severely limited by back pain, it was on Jordan's shoulders to deliver another title. It all came down to a Hollywood ending. With the Bulls trailing by one in the final minute, Jordan stole the ball from Malone and buried the series-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining. Chicago beat Utah 87-86, and Jordan added his sixth Finals MVP trophy to his list of accomplishments.
After the Bulls wrapped up their season with another celebration in Chicago's Grant Park, speculation began as to what might happen next. Would the most celebrated sports dynasty be back for another title shot? If so, it wouldn't be under Jackson. After leading the Bulls to six championships, the Bulls' head coach announced he would not return. Meanwhile, Bulls fans were forced to wait out the summer for word as to whether Jordan, Pippen and Rodman would return.
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1998-99: The Rebuilding BeginsAfter six NBA championships in the previous eight seasons, it was time for the Chicago Bulls to start over.
Chicago entered the lockout-shortened season without seven key components from the teams that won three straight titles from 1996-98. Michael Jordan retired and coach Phil Jackson took a year off. Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr left in sign-and-trade deals, and Dennis Rodman and Jud Buechler signed elsewhere as free agents.
Toni Kukoc was still in Chicago, and he led the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounds (7.0 rpg) and assists (5.3 apg) as the Bulls finished 13-37 in Tim Floyd's first season as coach.
Despite all the changes, one thing stayed the same: The Bulls still drew a crowd, as the team's home sellout streak reached 567 games (regular season and playoffs). The last time Chicago did not sell out a home game was Nov. 17, 1987.
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