“The Last Dance,” an ESPN documentary following Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, is set to premiere Sunday night. Basketball fans across the globe are eager to see behind-the-scenes footage of the Bulls’ dynasty. They won six titles and never lost an NBA Finals series, but the ’90s Bulls actually weren’t the most dominant dynasty the NBA has seen. Another team won nearly twice the number of rings Jordan’s Bulls won.
Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA for a decade
It wouldn’t be fair to Michael Jordan and the ’90s Bulls to brush over them without highlighting their dominance. Chicago owned the NBA for an entire decade.
From 1991-1998, the Bulls played in 136 postseason games. They won 101 of them. That gave Chicago an incredible .742 winning percentage just in the playoffs during their stretch run.
Their dominance in the postseason led to two separate three-peats. Jordan’s Bulls won NBA titles from 1991-93 and from 1996-98. The most shocking part about the Bulls dynasty might be how they didn’t win titles in ’94 and ’95. They were on such a level that failing to win a title seemed impossible at the time.
Still, six NBA championships in eight years is one of the most impressive stretches for any team in league history. The Bulls submitted their ballot for the NBA’s best dynasty after “The Last Dance” season in 1998, but they were denied in favor of a more dominant team from the 1950s and ’60s.
The Bill Russell-era Celtics were more dominant than the ’90s Bulls
It’s hard to argue with six rings in eight years. It’s even harder to argue with 11 rings in 13 years.
That’s right, Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics won 11 NBA titles from 1957-1969. They remain today not just the greatest dynasty in NBA history, but one of the greatest in all of American sports. The sports world has never seen anything similar to the Celtics’ dominance, and it never will again.
Russell was the main reason for Boston’s unbelievable run, but the Celtics actually had 13 other Hall of Famers don the green and white during their championship stretch. Sam Jones, John Havlicek, and Bob Cousy highlighted the impressive group. Boston was also led by legendary head coach Red Auerbach.
“We liked to play, we liked to win, and we liked to have fun,” Auerbach once said. “That’s what made it work for so long. You always hear all the crap about chemistry, but we really had it. We’d take summer vacations together. We’d visit each other’s houses. It was really a family.”
At one point, the Celtics had eight Hall-of-Fame players on their roster. The Bulls only had three throughout the ’90s. Four if you count Robert Parish, but he only played one of his 19 NBA seasons with the Bulls.
Is it fair to compare Jordan’s Bulls to Russell’s Celtics?
Just like in most sports arguments, the rings say it all. There’s no competing with 11 rings. Bill Russell can’t even wear all of his on his fingers at once. He has to use one of his toes.
Jordan’s six titles with Chicago is impressive in the grand scheme of the NBA, but Russell laughs at that number. He led the Celtics to nearly double the number of championships Jordan won. Although the rings might win the argument every time, it actually might not be fair to compare the two dynasties.
Russell’s Celtics played in a much smaller NBA. The league was made up of just eight teams for much of the Celtics’ dynasty. It’s far easier to win a title in a league of that size compared to the 27 teams the Bulls had to beat out. By comparison, it was about three times harder for the Bulls to win a title than the Celtics. Chicago had to win four playoff series’ every year while Boston just had to win two or three.
It’s easier to simply appreciate both dynasties for their respective greatness, but that’s no fun for argument’s sake. It might’ve been easier for the Celtics to get to the NBA Finals in the ’50s and ’60s, but you still have to win a seven-game series in the end. They did it 11 times in 13 seasons. That feat will never be replicated again in the NBA.