The Phoenix Suns had won 50 or more games for four straight seasons from 1988-92 under veteran coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. They made a major leap in 1988 by getting point guard Kevin Johnson in a trade with Cleveland and signing free agent Tom Chambers away from Seattle. With the development of young guards Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle and a deep roster, the Suns seemed assured of being in the playoff picture for years to come. But just making the Playoffs wasn't what the Suns had in mind.
Three days after the 1992 Finals ended, Phoenix announced it was trading Hornacek, starting forward Tim Perry and backup center Andrew Lang to Philadelphia for superstar Charles Barkley, who was about to star on the Dream Team that would win the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.
Immediately, the Suns were in a position to challenge for the NBA title. They won a league-best (and franchise record) 62 games, survived a first-round scare against the Lakers, then defeated San Antonio to meet Seattle in the Western Conference finals. The SuperSonics, a 12-deep unit with no top star that boasted a pair of young phenoms in Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, pushed the Suns to seven games before losing in Phoenix.
Bulls guard Michael Jordan had been warned by Dream Team teammate Magic Johnson of the tough goal he was setting before the season even began.
"If they (the Bulls) thought winning two in a row was hard," Magic said, "they'll find out that winning three in a row will be the hardest thing they ever do."
John Stockton and Dennis Rodman, each becoming constants among the league's statistical leaders, once again led the NBA in assists and rebounds, respectively. Not to be outdone, Jordan racked up his seventh straight scoring title, tying him with Wilt Chamberlain.
The Bulls coasted through the regular season with 57 wins, but lost the homecourt advantage to New York, which surged to a 60-22 record. After the Bulls and Knicks easily advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, the two teams split the first four games with the home team winning each time. Chicago won a pivotal Game 5 in New York and closed out the Knicks back in Chicago in Game 6.
Chicago won the first two games in Phoenix, prompting predictions of a sweep, but the Suns showed some resiliency. They stormed back in Game 3, claming a 129-121 win in a triple-overtime thriller marked by the 3-point shooting of Dan Majerle. Jordan poured in 55 points in Game 4 to give Chicago a 3-1 series edge, but Barkley showed his MVP mettle in Game 5. He had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists as Phoenix won 108-98 to send the series back to Arizona.
But, as usual for the Bulls in The Finals during Chicago's reign in the 1990s, Jordan dominated when it mattered. He had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Game 6 and a late 3-pointer from John Paxson clinched a 99-98 win complete Chicago's first three-peat. Jordan etched his name in the NBA history book once again, averaging a Finals-record 41.0 points a game in the series.
Eastern Conference first round
New York defeated Indiana (3-1)
Chicago defeated Atlanta (3-0)
Cleveland defeated New Jersey (3-2)
Charlotte defeated Boston (3-1)
Western Conference first round
Phoenix defeated L.A. Lakers (3-2)
Houston defeated L.A. Clippers (3-2)
Seattle defeated Utah (3-2)
San Antonio defeated Portland (3-1)
Eastern Conference semifinals
New York defeated Charlotte (4-1)
Chicago defeated Cleveland (4-0)
Western Conference semifinals
Phoenix defeated San Antonio (4-2)
Seattle defeated Houston (4-3)
Eastern Conference finals
Chicago defeated New York (4-2)
Western Conference finals
Phoenix defeated Seattle (4-3)
Chicago defeated Phoenix (4-2)
Points -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (32.6)
Assists -- John Stockton, Utah Jazz (12.0)
Rebounds -- Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons (18.3)
Steals -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (2.8)
Blocks -- Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets (4.2)
FG % -- Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns (57.6)
FT % -- Mark Price, Cleveland Cavaliers (94.8)
3PT % -- B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls (45.3)
Most Valuable Player -- Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns
Rookie of the Year -- Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic
Defensive Player of the Year -- Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
Most Improved Player -- Don MacLean, Washington Bullets
Sixth Man of the Year -- Clifford Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers
Coach of the Year -- Pat Riley, New York Knicks
All-Star Game MVP -- Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Finals MVP -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls