Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals in six games, the only postseason series the Hall of Famer lost from 1991 to 1998. After the series, pundits said MJ lost a step and was no longer the best player in the NBA following his baseball stint.
Not only did Jordan use the naysayers as motivation in the summer of 1995, but he also predicted that the Bulls would win the championship in 1995-96 despite other contenders having younger stars.
In typical Black Jesus fashion, he hit his prediction out of the park.
Michael Jordan before 1995-96: I think we’re gonna win it all
Before the 1995-96 season began, Jordan sat down with Cheryl Raye-Stout for an extensive interview, and he told the legendary Chicago reporter that the Bulls would win the ’96 championship as long as the group stayed connected.
“I think we’re gonna win it all as long as we all think together and we stay together and connect on the basketball court,” Jordan said. “As soon as we disconnect, if we’re not connected when we walk out on the basketball floor, there’s going to be a lot of frustration. Especially for me, because I want to win so bad. I don’t really have to be here. I made the move away, then I came back because I felt we could still win. I still wanted to play the game of basketball. I just want everyone to have those same motivational feelings. You don’t get to play this game that long, and if you don’t give it 110 percent, and if you get wrapped up into making all that money, when the money’s gone, the memories, you can’t bring them back. The championships: You will remember those forever and ever, even if you don’t have a dollar in your wallet.”
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season and averaged 26.9 points in 17 games. However, he was unable to lead Chicago past the Magic, who had a lethal Big Three of Horace Grant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Penny Hardaway.
While filming Space Jam in the summer of 1995, the Bulls superstar trained at the Jordan Dome and was ready for battle in 1995-96. There’s a reason he told Stout that Chicago would win it all in 1995-96. Jordan was physically and mentally ready to destroy the league after getting humbled by the Magic, and he accomplished that goal.
Michael Jordan won fourth MVP in 1995-96, led Bulls to 72 wins
Jordan averaged 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 1995-96. He won his eighth scoring title and fourth regular-season MVP while leading the Bulls to an incredible record of 72-10.
In the 1996 Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bulls defeated the Miami Heat and New York Knicks in the first and second round, respectively. To Jordan’s delight, the Magic were Chicago’s opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 10-time scoring champion presumably had Orlando on his mind the entire time he trained at the Jordan Dome since he took every loss personally.
The Bulls demolished the Magic, winning the series in four quick games. Jordan put up 29.5 points per game and shot an efficient 52.0% from the field. He was now four wins away from fulfilling his prediction to Stout, and the five-time MVP wasn’t going to let the Seattle SuperSonics stop him.
Bulls beat SuperSonics in six games
Jordan told Stout before the 1995-96 season began that the Bulls would win the ’96 championship, and he backed up his words by leading Chicago to a six-game series win over Seattle in the Finals. The 14-time All-Star won his fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP on Father’s Day. It was an emotional day for Jordan, who cried in the locker room since he tragically lost his dad in 1993.
The NBA’s all-time leader in points per game, Jordan finished his career with six rings and six championships. While each title was special, the fourth one had to mean a lot to Jordan since it was his first ring without his dad, and he was an underdog after coming up short the previous season.