1992-93 Chicago Bulls: 20th anniversary of 1st three-peat
>> Paxson an unlikely hero as Bulls claimed three-peat
>> Twenty years later, Scottie Pippen recalls first three-peat season
>> Sam Smith's top 20 moments of Bulls' 1992-93 championship season
>> Three the hard way: Bulls' third title was no foregone conclusion
>> 1992-93 Chicago Bulls -- Playoff Results
>> 1992-93 Chicago Bulls -- Sports Illustrated covers
>> Sam Smith: MJ and the Bulls claim third straight title vs. Phoenix
>> Michael Jordan | HOF Class of 2009 and Scottie Pippen | HOF Class of 2010
>> Also: Bulls celebrate 20th anniversary of first NBA title
1991-92 Chicago Bulls: Back-to-back champions
Twenty years after he hit a series-clinching three-pointer in the 1993 NBA Finals that lifted the Chicago Bulls to their third straight championship, John Paxson looks back on how it all played out, being ready for the moment, and the historical significance.
All eyes were on Michael Jordan as he prepared to inbound the ball with 14.4 seconds remaining in regulation of the 1993 NBA Finals’ Game 6. Jordan fed the ball to B.J. Armstrong, who promptly returned it. Jordan quickly pushed the ball across halfcourt and found Scottie Pippen, who flashed to the top of the key, an action known as the “blind pig.”
Pippen turned and drove to the basket, but the Phoenix defense collapsed and he sent the ball in Horace Grant’s direction as he slashed towards the basket from the baseline. In one fluid motion, Grant turned to his right and kicked the ball out to Paxson, waiting behind the three-point line in solitary. As the clock continued to count down – six… five… four… – Paxson caught the ball, lined up, and calmly drilled the biggest shot of his life.
“I think as a player you’re always ready,” said Paxson, whose 3 was Chicago’s tenth of the game. “If you’re on the floor, you better be ready. You aren’t going to go run and hide. To be on the floor in key situations in the game, I think again it was the fact that I had been there before, the trust factor. Do you have time to think about it? You better be ready or else you shouldn’t be out there.”
Winning back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992 established the Chicago Bulls as one of basketball’s elite teams. Capturing a third straight title in 1993 made history, as only two other NBA teams had done it at that point, none since the Boston Celtics in 1966.
But as the 1992-93 season got started, circumstances were hardly ideal for Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls. Jordan and Pippen, in addition to playing over 200 regular season and playoff games during the previous two seasons, didn’t have much of an opportunity to rest as they went straight from the NBA Finals win over the Portland Trail Blazers to join the Dream Team that dominated its competition and captured gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Furthermore, starting center Bill Cartwright and John Paxson both underwent offseason knee surgeries.
So as Pippen looked back on that third championship season with the 20th anniversary this week, he credited Bulls coach Phil Jackson for allowing their participation in camp to be limited as the players – he and Jordan in particular – took care of their bodies with another grueling run ahead.
“Phil was very good as far as monitoring us and watching our minutes,” recalled Pippen. “The Olympics made the ’92 season even longer for MJ and me, so our bodies had been through a lot and we knew it.
“Our focus was to build chemistry throughout the regular season,” added Pippen. “We knew we couldn’t win a championship in those 82 games. We just wanted to keep everyone healthy.”
Sam Smith: The Bulls’ third consecutive NBA championship wasn’t, perhaps, as famous as the first in 1991, or the fourth when the team won a season record 72 games. Championships may be a little like your children. You love them all, and it’s difficult to pick a favorite.
But that 1992-93 championship was special. That’s because it officially made the Bulls an NBA dynasty. Only three franchises in NBA history have won at least three consecutive championships, the Celtics, the Lakers, both in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and the Bulls. And when the Bulls finally did it in 1993—before doing it again in 1996, 1997 and 1998—no team had won three consecutive titles in almost 30 years, not since the great Celtics’ dynasty of the 1960’s. It’s often said if it’s worth doing, it should be hard.
The 1992-93 title was in many ways the most difficult after two grueling, if wonderful, seasons that followed the disappointments of the previous years against the Detroit Pistons. With the Dream Team Summer Olympics added for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, it had also become a drain on the players.
If 1992-93 was not artistic, it was gritty, which was just as meaningful for a team coming from Chicago. Here’s a look at the highlights of that 1992-93 championship season.
With the distance of two decades and the permanence of a pair of Chicago Bulls three-peats logged in the history books, it might seem like the team’s third title was a foregone conclusion.
But the road to becoming just the third team in NBA history to win three straight titles was incredibly long and bumpy, and ultimately helped to push basketball’s brightest star into a premature retirement.
Back on June 16, 1992, spirits were sky-high after a second straight title (and the first clinched at Chicago Stadium) and a virtual cruise to 82 wins (including a 67-15 mark in the regular season). At that annual rite of a summer celebration in Grant Park, reticent center Bill Cartwright made a promise: “We will be back!” Scottie Pippen took it a step further: “Let’s go for a three-peat!”
But Chicago’s central stars, Michael Jordan and Pippen, would leave Grant Park to embark on a mission with 1992’s Team USA Olympic “Dream Team,” ensuring they’d play basketball nearly non-stop for 21 straight months before potentially having the chance to defend their NBA title with the Bulls come the following June. On the other side of the velvet rope two other starters, Cartwright and guard John Paxson, had looming offseason knee surgeries on the horizon... continue reading.
In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Bulls' third championship, take a look back at the Sports Illustrated covers that Michael Jordan and Co. appeared on during the 1992-93 season. To view more of the archived Sports Illustrated covers, visit the SI Vault.
An overview of the 1992-93 Chicago Bulls
REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 57-25 (.695)
PLAYOFF RECORD: 15-4 (.789)
HEAD COACH: Phil Jackson
ASSISTANT COACHES: Johnny Bach, Jim Cleamons, Tex Winter
STARTERS: B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen
RESERVES: Stacey King, Rodney McCray, Ed Nealy, John Paxson, Will Perdue, Trent Tucker, Darrell Walker, Corey Williams, Scott Williams
REGULAR SEASON: Fourth straight 50-plus win season ... 31-10 home record marked sixth straight season of 30-plus Stadium wins ... 26-15 road record ranked second-best in the NBA and first in the Eastern Conference ... 26 road wins marked third straight year of plus-.500 road record ... finished first in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage at .363 and finished first in the league in fewest turnovers per game at 13.5.
PLAYOFFS: Won franchise’s third straight NBA title defeating Phoenix 4-2 in the NBA Finals ... swept Atlanta 3-0 in the first round and Cleveland 4-0 in Eastern Conference Semifinals ... defeated New York 4-2 in Eastern Conference Finals ... won the first two games of the NBA Finals at Phoenix, becoming the first team ever to open an NBA Finals series 2-0 on the road.
HONORS: Michael Jordan captured his seventh straight scoring title, which tied Wilt Chamberlain for most consecutive scoring titles ... Jordan named 1993 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, 1993 NBA East All-Star starter, All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team ... Scottie Pippen started for the 1993 East All-Stars, was on the All-Defensive First Team ... B.J. Armstrong led the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (63-139 3FG, .453) ... Horace Grant named to All-Defensive Second Team ... Bulls’ home sellout streak reached 294 games (includes regular season and playoffs - 242 and 52, respectively).
NOTES: Won the first two games of the Finals at Phoenix, becoming the first team ever to open a Finals series 2-0 on the road … Michael Jordan scored the second-most points in Finals history with 55 in Game 4 … Jordan also finished with the highest scoring average (41.0 ppg) in a single Finals series … Jordan also set the Finals record for most consecutive games of 40-plus points with four (Games 2-5).