During his legendary run with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan won six championships and six Finals MVPs. Many basketball pundits consider him the greatest player in NBA history since he went undefeated in the Finals, won five regular-season MVPs and 10 scoring titles.
Jordan’s mentality was to win at all costs, and that attitude helped him capture six titles in an eight-year span. In the famous Last Dance docuseries, the basketball icon said he was frustrated he and his Bulls teammates didn’t get the chance to win their seventh championship in 1998-99 since general manager Jerry Krause said at the beginning of the 1997-98 season that Phil Jackson wouldn’t return as head coach after the ’98 playoffs concluded.
What’s fascinating about that comment is that before Jordan won his first championship in 1991, he told one of the best coaches in NBA history he would have had a fulfilling career even if he didn’t win an NBA title.
Michael Jordan didn’t make his first Finals until his seventh season
Jordan made the playoffs every year with the Bulls. However, during his first couple of seasons, he struggled to lead Chicago on deep postseason runs.
The Bulls won their first playoff series in the Jordan era in 1988. They defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round in five games thanks to Jordan’s game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 5 over Craig Ehlo. The good times didn’t roll on for too long, though, as Chicago lost to the Detroit Pistons in the second round in five games.
The “Bad Boy” Pistons had Jordan’s number. They eliminated him in the playoffs three consecutive seasons, including twice in the Eastern Conference Finals. It wasn’t until the ’91 conference finals when His Airness got past Detroit to reach his first Finals. The Bulls swept the Pistons, setting up a duel with Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.
But before he defeated the Pistons, Jordan sat down with legendary coach Pat Riley, who was working for NBC at the time. During the interview, the five-time MVP had a surprising comment about championships.
Michael Jordan told Pat Riley his career would have been fulfilling without a title
Shockingly, Jordan told Riley in 1991 that his NBA career would have been fulfilling even if he never captured a championship. The 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year told the former Lakers coach that he could never call his career a disappointment.
“It would be disappointing that I never won, but my career would never ever be disappointing because of the success I’ve gone through, with the friends that I’ve met, experiences that I’ve been through,” Jordan said.” The game would still be as fun and remembered for me even if I never win the world championship. I would much rather win, but if I don’t, I’m not going to look back on my career and say it was tarnished because I never won a world championship.”
This was a surprising quote from Jordan. He’s arguably the most competitive athlete in sports history and hated to lose. However, it did take place before he won his first title, so it’s likely his perspective changed after the Bulls defeated the Lakers in the ’91 Finals.
The Bulls won six championships from 1991 to 1998
Jordan led the Bulls to six championships in the ’90s. He took down the Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Utah Jazz (twice).
In 35 Finals games, Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He never lost two games in a row and never played in a Game 7.
Jordan finished his NBA career with averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 boards, and 5.3 assists in 1,072 games with the Bulls and Washington Wizards. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.