Michael Jordan and Bulls Didn’t Start 1995-96 Season Trying to Win 72 Games, but Once They Got Within Reach, They Went for It: ‘It Was Not Something We Started Out the Season Trying to Achieve’
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had a historic 1995-96 season. They went 72-10 in the regular season and won the 1996 championship over the Seattle SuperSonics. The 72 wins are the second-most victories in a season. Only the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73) won more games.
Although the Bulls were motivated to have a stellar campaign in 1995-96 after losing to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, Jordan admitted that the team never had a goal of winning 70-plus games.
Michael Jordan on 72 wins: It was not something we started out the season trying to achieve
Jordan told SLAM Magazine in 1996 that he and his Bulls teammates never set out to win more than 70 games in 1995-96. However, once the number got within reach, they went for it.
“It was not a goal,” Jordan said. “It was not something we started out the season trying to achieve. But when it got within reach, we wanted to do it. Don’t forget, we didn’t start out the season saying we were going to win 70 games. We started out the season saying we’re going to win a championship. This team has a lot of confidence. We have a good rhythm to the way we play. We believe we can win every game we step out on the court to play. We know how to focus on games, especially when we didn’t do well the game before.”
Three members of the Bulls won awards in 1995-96 thanks to the 72 wins: Jordan, Toni Kukoc, and Phil Jackson. All in all, it was a special year for Chicago.
Michael Jordan won MVP, Toni Kukoc won Sixth Man, Phil Jackson won Coach of the Year
Jordan won his fourth regular-season MVP in 1995-96. He averaged 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting 49.5% from the field and 83.4% from the free-throw line. His Airness also won his eighth scoring title.
Kukoc took home the Sixth Man of the Year Award by averaging 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 26.0 minutes per game. The talented lefty shot 40.3% from beyond the arc and scored at least 20 points 14 times.
Arguably the best coach in NBA history, Jackson only won one Coach of the Year Award, which is surprising since his teams never had a below .500 record in the regular season. The Zen Master, who won 11 championships with the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, was the mastermind behind Chicago’s 72-10 record. The Bulls were first in the NBA in points per game (105.2) and third in points allowed per game (92.9).
Behind Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls defeated the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and Magic in the 1996 Eastern Conference playoffs. While the SuperSonics, led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, were a tough out for Chicago, the team ultimately finished off the memorable season by winning the Finals in six games.
1995-96 Bulls did what 2015-16 Warriors couldn’t do
The 2015-16 Warriors may have won more games than the 1995-96 Bulls, but they didn’t finish their season the right way. The Dubs lost the 2016 Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers by becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead in the Finals.
Meanwhile, Jordan and the Bulls beat the SuperSonics in 1996. Although they lost Games 4 and 5 in Seattle after taking a 3-0 series lead, Chicago took care of business in Game 6 at home.
An emotional Jordan cried in the locker room after winning his fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP since he won the title on Father’s Day. His father was tragically murdered in the summer of 1993, so MJ was thinking about his late dad.
The Bulls may not have set out to make history in 1995-96, but Jordan’s group started and finished the season with flying colors.