2021 NBA Finals

Shaq's debut, 'Jurassic Park' and more: It's been 28 years since Suns reached The Finals

Back in 1993, the NBA Finals were an MJ vs. Barkley affair in a world (and NBA) that was markedly different.

The Phoenix Suns dominate the LA Clippers in Game 6 to clinch their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1993.

The last time the Phoenix Suns made The Finals, Devin Booker was not yet born, Chris Paul was an 8-year-old, coach Monty Williams was still playing in college at Notre Dame and Suns GM James Jones was a 12-year-old.

Phoenix is back in The Finals for the first time since 1993, when then-MVP Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle were the stars of the team. To reach The Finals, the Suns escaped the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7 of the West finals, 123-110, behind a 44-point, 24-rebound game from Barkley.

In The Finals, the Suns would fall to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in Game 6, thanks in large part to a clutch 3-pointer from John Paxson in the final seconds.

For now, Phoenix must await the end of the Eastern Conference finals to find out if it will play the Atlanta Hawks or Milwaukee Bucks for the title.

Just how different was the world the last time the Suns were in The Finals? Here’s a quick look at what life was like in 1993:

The 1992-93 NBA season

In Game 6 of the 1993 Finals, John Paxson hit a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left to lift the Bulls to a third consecutive NBA title.

Before the 1992-93 season began, several players were set to make their debut after being drafted. Future Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal (No. 1 overall, Orlando) and Alonzo Mourning (No. 2, Charlotte) played their first season in 1992-93, while seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry (No. 11, Houston) and future NBA mainstays like P.J. Brown (No. 29, New Jersey), Latrell Sprewell (No. 24, Golden State) and Jim Jackson (No. 4, Dallas) also hit the scene.

Three days after the 1992 Finals ended, Phoenix announced it was trading Jeff Hornacek, starting forward Tim Perry and backup center Andrew Lang to Philadelphia for Barkley. Immediately, the Suns were in a position to challenge for the NBA title. They won a league-best (and franchise record) 62 games. John Stockton and Dennis Rodman, each becoming constants among the league’s statistical leaders, once again led the NBA in assists and rebounds, while Jordan collected his seventh straight scoring title.

On Nov. 6, 1992, No. 1 overall pick Shaquille O’Neal made his NBA debut with the Orlando Magic.

The Bulls coasted through the regular season with 57 wins and won a thrilling East finals against the New York Knicks to reach The Finals. From there, Chicago won Games 1 and 2 in Phoenix, while the Suns won Game 3 and 5 on the road to force their eventual Game 6 loss.

This season also marked the end of the road for several future Hall of Famers as Maurice Cheeks, Kevin McHale and Bernard King all retired after 1992-93.

Pop culture & more from 1993

  • Bill Clinton is sworn into office on Jan. 20, 1993, becoming the 42nd President of the United States after he defeated George H.W. Bush.
  • Although not one of the top-grossing movies in 1993, “Groundhog Day” hits theatres on Feb. 12, 1993. The movie becomes a cult classic and the phenomenon of “Groundhog Day” enters the pop culture lexicon and has lived on ever since.
  • The top 5 movies in 1993: “Jurassic Park” (earned $338.9 million), “The Fugitive” ($176.4M), “The Firm” ($158.3M), “Sleepless in Seattle” ($126.6M) and “Mrs. Doubtfire” ($109M).
  • The top 5 singles in 1993: “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston; “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team; “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by UB40; “That’s the Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson; “Freak Me” by Silk
  • Three years before the movie “Space Jam” hits theatres, Michael Jordan stars in a commercial for his latest Air Jordans (the Air Jordan VIIIs) with Bugs Bunny.
  • Dark Horse Comics releases a one-shot comic of Barkley fighting with Godzilla, a play off of Barkley’s 1992 Nike commercial in which he squared off in a game of basketball with the infamous monster in the streets of downtown Tokyo. (Later that year, Barkley would host “Saturday Night Live” and, in a skit, plays basketball against Barney — the purple dinosaur and star of a children’s show).

  • On May 20, 1993, the beloved TV sitcom “Cheers” airs its final episode — the third and final part of a three-part series finale. The episode, titled “One For The Road”, is watched by 80.4 million households in the United States which is the second-most watched finale in television history.
  • Teen dramedy “Saved By The Bell” airs its final episode on May 22, 1993. The show and the characters aren’t off the air for long as “Saved By The Ball: The College Years” and “Saved By The Bell: The New Class” each debuted months later in 1993.
  • One of the most popular shows of the 1990s, “The X-Files”, debuts on Sept. 10, 1993. The show ran until May 19, 2002, spanning 202 episodes and upon its conclusion was the longest-running science fiction series in U.S. television history.

  • A quartet of future pop culture icons hit the scene in 1993 as a part of the cast of “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”, which aired from 1989-1996. In 1993, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears joined the cast.

Then and now: What things cost (in the U.S.) in 1993 and in 2021

A quick look at what the national average price was for items in 1993 compared to 2021

1993 average price Item 2021 average price
$1.17 Gallon of regular gas $3.09
$2.50 Gallon of whole milk $3.60
$0.92 1 dozen large eggs $1.17
$0.29 First-class stamp $0.58
$30,439 Median household income $79,900
$16,829 Cost of a new car $40,472

Notable sports events in 1993

  • Alabama defeats Miami, 34-13, in the 1993 Sugar Bowl to claim the college football national championship. The game is a matchup of undefeated teams and in winning, the Crimson Tide snapped the Hurricanes’ 29-game win streak and kept Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta under wraps.
  • The Dallas Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, dominating the Buffalo Bills 52-17. This was the third of Buffalo’s four straight Super Bowl bids but the Bills couldn’t stop Troy Aikman. The Cowboys’ quarterback was 22-of-30 for 273 yards and threw four touchdowns in Dallas’ romp en route to Super Bowl MVP honors.
  • The Montreal Canadiens best the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the series 4-1. This was Wayne Gretzky’s last Stanley Cup Final appearance of his career (and his lone one with the Kings) and he was solid in L.A.’s Game 1 win notching two assists. However, Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy was stellar in the series, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Final (.929 save percentage).
  • Back-to-back championships were en vogue in 1993, it seems. In MLB, the Toronto Blue Jays won their second straight World Series when Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run in Game 6, for an 8-6 victory. Before the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title in 2019, the Blue Jays’ win in 1993 marked the last time a Canadian team won a U.S. professional league title.

  • In college basketball, North Carolina beat Michigan 77-71 in the 1993 NCAA men’s national championship game. The game is well known for then-Michigan star Chris Webber calling a late timeout when the Wolverines did not have one, which drew a technical foul that helped the Tar Heels seal their title.

  • In the UEFA Champions League, Marseille of France defeated Italy’s AC Milan 1-0 for their first UEFA Champions League title. This marked the first time a French team won the UEFA title and no French team would reach the championship round until Paris Saint-Germain did so in 2020.
  • At Wimbledon, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graff continued their dominance as each won Single’s Championships. Sampras defeated Jim Courier 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-3 to win the first Wimbledon men’s title between a No. 1 and No. 2 player in 12 years. Graff defeated Jana Novotna 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 6-4 to win her third straight Wimbledon title and fifth overall.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.