Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Toni Kukoc made their debut as a Big Three on March 19, 1995. It was MJ’s first game back out of retirement, and he struggled mightily, shooting 7-of-28 from the field for 19 points in a seven-point loss against the Indiana Pacers.
The Chicago Bulls went 13-4 to finish the 1994-95 season after Jordan returned. They defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1995 playoffs but lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round.
There were some pundits who thought Jordan, Pippen, and Kukoc wouldn’t be able to work together as a trio after the Bulls lost to the Magic, but His Airness always had confidence that things would work out.
Michael Jordan: This threesome can be very powerful
Before the 1995-96 season, Jordan told Cheryl Raye-Stout that he, Pippen, and Kukoc would be a powerful threesome once the playoffs started despite the Bulls losing to the Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals.
“When you have good basketball players playing all together, it looks great when everybody’s clicking,” Jordan said. “The Celtics were very good examples of that. When we’re out there, and we’re clicking, it’s great. When we’re not clicking, there’s something out of sync. I think it’s more so Toni than Pippen and myself because we’ve played together. We have to be in a compromising situation here: Somehow, we have to bring his game to meet our game. He has to understand that, too, to push himself on days that he doesn’t want to push so that we don’t lose the continuity of this threesome because this threesome can be very powerful going into the playoffs. Quite frankly, myself, Pippen, and Grant were the same way in the years we won championships. Whenever that was disrupted, we lost that connective-ness. Somehow, we have to maintain that to win it all.”
Jordan, Pippen, and Kukoc put up good numbers against the Magic. However, they didn’t have the cohesiveness to win the series, which motivated the Bulls stars to take their games to another level in 1995-96.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc were incredible after Magic series
The Bulls were a hungry group following their defeat to the Magic. Led by Jordan, Pippen, and Kukoc, they had a historic run from 1995-96 to 1997-98.
In 1995-96, the Bulls won 72 games and defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the Finals. Jordan won the regular-season MVP and Finals MVP, Pippen made the All-Star team, and Kukoc won the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
During the 1996-97 season, no one on the Bulls won a league award, but the team once again got the championship, this time against the Utah Jazz. Jordan won his fifth Finals MVP, Pippen captured his fifth title, and Kukoc won his second ring.
The 1997-98 season was the last year of the dynasty. Jordan took home his fifth regular-season MVP and sixth Finals MVP after the Bulls defeated the Jazz again. Following the conclusion of the season, His Airness retired, and Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, Kukoc remained in Chicago for another year and a half before getting traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000.
Jordan’s bond with Pippen and Kukoc was strong in Chicago, so much so that he welcomed his former teammates into basketball royalty.
Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were presented into Hall of Fame by MJ
Jordan, who made the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, presented Pippen in 2010 and will do the same for Kukoc on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Bulls majority governor Jerry Reinsdorf will join the 10-time scoring champion during Kukoc’s induction.
Kukoc enjoyed a decorated international career, winning three EuroLeague titles, a FIBA World Championship, and EuroBasket MVP. Jordan, Pippen, Kukoc, Reinsdorf, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, Tex Winter, and Jerry Krause now represent the dynasty Bulls in the Hall of Fame. The organization won six championships in the ’90s and clearly had great basketball minds across the board.