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The NBA expanded once again, going from 27 to 29 teams as the league returned to Canada with the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies. Several long-standing records fell as two-time defending champion Hakeem Olajuwon passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leader in blocked shots. Jazz guard John Stockton, who led the league in assists for the ninth straight time to surpass Bob Cousy’s NBA-record streak, became the all-time leader in steals and assists, passing Maurice Cheeks and Magic Johnson, respectively.
Robert Parish took over as the all-time leader in games played and stretched his career to 20 years, only the second NBA player (after Abdul-Jabbar) to reach that plateau.
Johnson, coincidentally, returned to the NBA and played in the regular season and playoffs for the first time since 1990-91. He appeared in 36 games for the Lakers, and while he had some familiar Showtime-type moments in L.A. on the court, he clashed with his younger teammates.
Overall, the season belonged to the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t a perfect season for them — after all, they did lose 10 games in the regular season and three in their playoff run to the team’s fourth title in six years. But it came pretty close.
A rock star environment surrounded Michael Jordan (who was playing in his first full post-retirement season), Scottie Pippen, the newly acquired rebounding machine Dennis Rodman and the Bulls everywhere they went as they stormed through the league to an NBA record 72-10 regular season, shattering the 1971-72 Lakers’ mark of 69.
In his first full season since returning to the NBA, Jordan won his eighth scoring title to break Wilt Chamberlain’s record of seven and also came away with an elusive triple crown: the MVP awards for the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals.
While the spotlight shined extensively on the star trio, the Bulls were also recognized for the accomplishments of their supporting cast. Toni Kukoc was named Sixth Man of the Year while Phil Jackson was awarded the Coach of the Year.
In the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bulls went 11-1 (falling only to the Knicks in Game 3 of the East semis) and were back in The Finals for the first time since 1993. There they met the Seattle Sonics, who overcame years of disappointing postseason flameouts to reach their first Finals since 1979.
Although the Sonics showed resilience in winning Games 4 and 5 on their home court, they couldn’t stop the Bulls’ train. Chicago’s storybook season ended with it winning the franchise’s fourth championship in six seasons in an easy Game 6 victory as the Bulls returned to the top of the NBA.
Eastern Conference first round
Chicago defeated Miami (3-0)
Orlando defeated Detroit (3-0)
Atlanta defeated Indiana (3-2)
New York defeated Cleveland (3-0)
Western Conference first round
Seattle defeated Sacramento (3-1)
San Antonio defeated Phoenix (3-1)
Utah defeated Portland (3-2)
Houston defeated Los Angeles Lakers (3-1)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Chicago defeated New York (4-1)
Orlando defeated Atlanta (4-1)
Western Conference semifinals
Seattle defeated Houston (4-0)
Utah defeated San Antonio (4-2)
Eastern Conference finals
Chicago defeated Orlando (4-0)
Western Conference finals
Seattle defeated Utah (4-3)
Chicago defeated Seattle (4-2)
Points — Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (30.4)
Assists — John Stockton, Utah Jazz (11.2)
Rebounds — Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls (14.9)
Steals — Gary Payton, Seattle SuperSonics (2.9)
Blocks — Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets (4.5)
FG % — Gheorghe Muresan, Washington Bullets (58.4)
FT % — Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Denver Nuggets (93.0)
3PT % — Tim Legler, Washington Bullets (52.2)
Most Valuable Player — Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Rookie of the Year — Damon Stoudamire, Toronto Raptors
Defensive Player of the Year — Gary Payton, Seattle SuperSonics
Most Improved Player — Gheorghe Muresan, Washington Bullets
Sixth Man of the Year — Toni Kukoc, Chicago Bulls
Coach of the Year — Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls
All-Star Game MVP — Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
NBA Finals MVP — Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls