Each title Jordan won came with its own unique challenge and was certainly difficult to win. However, His Airness believes the 1996 championship was the most trying one out of the six he won.
Michael Jordan: 1996 title was the most difficult one
In an interview with Australian Story executive producer Caitlin Shea, Jordan said the Bulls’ 1996 title was the most challenging one for him since he was coming off a second-round loss to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs and his critics questioned whether he could be Superman again.
“The ’96 was probably the toughest one because I was coming from a defeat in ’95 when I played baseball,” Jordan said. “Everyone thought I was a step slower. So, I had to prove myself and my father, the first time I actually done it without my father. So, all these emotions and all these different things are coming at me. To me, that was the most difficult if I had to pick of the six.”
Jordan retired from the NBA following his third title in 1993. His father was tragically murdered in the summer, and the MVP played baseball in 1994. MJ returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season, but as he told Shea, he was unable to get back on top right away.
Michael Jordan and Bulls lost to Magic in ’95 playoffs
Jordan and the Bulls faced the Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Chicago lost the series in six games, and Jordan was devastated about losing to Horace Grant, who was part of the Bulls’ first three-peat.
During the summer of 1995, pundits began to write off Jordan, calling him old and washed. The 10-time scoring champion used his loss to the Magic as motivation to reclaim his title as the best basketball player in the world. He had to transform his body from a baseball one to a basketball one and work on his hoop skills. Jordan accomplished these tasks on the Space Jam set, where the Jordan Dome was built.
The Bulls’ 1995-96 training camp is where Jordan brought his killer mentality to the team since he was in phenomenal shape again and angry about what happened in the Magic series. He not only challenged his teammates and demanded perfection, but Jordan also punched Steve Kerr in the face after the two got into it during a practice session.
Once Jordan got his teammates to understand his aggressive nature and what it took to win on a consistent basis, the Bulls never looked back.
Bulls went 72-10 and won title in 1995-96
Jordan may consider the ’96 championship the toughest ring he obtained. However, from the outside looking in, it didn’t appear to be that way.
The Bulls went 72-10 during the 1995-96 season. Jordan won his fourth regular-season MVP by averaging 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while playing in all 82 games. Chicago only lost one game in the ’96 Eastern Conference playoffs and swept the Magic in the conference finals. Jordan got his revenge against Orlando, and he needed four more wins to complete his vengeance season.
The Seattle SuperSonics stood in Jordan’s way of capturing his fourth title. Gary Payton and Co. lost the first three games of the ’96 Finals, but they won Games 4 and 5 and had solid momentum heading into Game 6 at the United Center. However, the Bulls won the sixth game by 12 points, clinching their fourth championship in six years.
Jordan averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists against the SuperSonics en route to winning his fourth Finals MVP. His comeback season was complete, and based on his comments to Shea, the campaign was more mentally and physically draining than people knew.