Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan won five MVPs during his career. He’s tied with Bill Russell for the second-most MVPs in NBA history. Both basketball icons trail Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won six during his Hall of Fame career.
Jordan won four of his MVPs while being coached by the one and only Phil Jackson. The Zen Master, who won 11 championships as a coach with the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, was such a wizard that he actually predicted Jordan’s 1995-96 MVP campaign before the season started.
Phil Jackson before 1995-96 season: Michael Jordan will dominate the league
Before the start of the 1995-96 season, Jackson told legendary Bulls reporter Sam Smith that Jordan would have a spectacular campaign. There were questions about whether His Airness could be the best player in the world again after Chicago lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, but Jackson never had any concerns.
“I asked him if winning a scoring title is part of his challenge now. Michael said that wasn’t a driving force for him,” Jackson said. “We talked about minutes, and he saw himself in decreased minutes. Anyone with a normal eye could see Michael was fatigued at the end of games. Sometimes in the second half, he didn’t even have the energy he had in his previous career. But I see a guy coming back with a vengeance. I know he meets challenges with a terrific personal attack, and I think he’ll be at a level where he is a premier, dominant player who people at the end of the year will feel is an MVP candidate or choice for the MVP.”
Jordan trained vigorously during the summer of 1995 on the Space Jam set after losing against the Magic. He was motivated to quiet his naysayers, and it’s fair to say he accomplished his goal with flying colors.
Michael Jordan made Phil Jackson look smart
Not only did Jordan guide the 1995-96 Bulls to 72 wins, but he also won his eighth scoring title and fourth MVP. Black Jesus 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.
Jordan received 109 first-place votes for MVP in 1995-96. He played in all 82 games and scored at least 40 points nine times for the Bulls, who at one point won 18 games in a row. Jackson captured the Coach of the Year Award and was presumably eager to see how his group would handle the 1996 playoffs after having a historic regular season.
With Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way, the Bulls swept the Miami Heat in the first round of the 1996 postseason, beat the New York Knicks in the second round in five games, and got their revenge against the Magic by sweeping them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
All that was left for the Bulls was to defeat the Seattle SuperSonics in the Finals to cap off their dream season, and unlike the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors — who won 73 games — Chicago didn’t fold under pressure.
Bulls beat SuperSonics in six games
Jordan averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists against the SuperSonics in the 1996 Finals. Although he only shot 5-of-19 in Game 6, he got to the free-throw line 12 times and only missed once en route to his 22-point outing.
The Bulls defeated Seattle in six games for their fourth championship. Jordan won his fourth Finals MVP and officially completed his revenge season. The 1995-96 Chicago squad is widely recognized as the best team in NBA history since the 2015-16 Warriors lost the 2016 Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jordan finished his Bulls career with six championships and six Finals MVPs to go along with his five regular-season MVPs. Jackson helped MJ evolve from a scorer to a winner with the help of the triangle offense. The two basketball greats will always be linked since they had so much success in Chicago.