Let’s face it, “The Last Dance” has millions upon millions of people feeling nostalgic about Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. For the younger viewers of the ESPN docuseries, they’re getting a great history lesson about one of the best dynasties in sports history.
As someone who grew up during the Jordan era, I’ve been absolutely captivated by “The Last Dance” thus far. It’s brought back some great memories of those incredible Bulls teams while also bringing new stories to light. So I figured I’d go back and take a closer look at each of Chicago’s championship runs of the 1990s and make some sort of attempt to rank them.
I’m sure those reading will have plenty to say about the order and I’m completely prepared for that as any discussion involving this dynasty is usually a good one. So here it is, my personal ranking of the six NBA titles won by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
The Chicago Bulls completed their first three-peat in 1993
It’s hard enough to win two championships in a row in any sport, let alone three. But that’s exactly what Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls set out to do in the 1992-1993 NBA season.
The Bulls’ 57-25 record in the regular season was the worst of any of the team’s title seasons and they were in real danger of not even making it to the NBA Finals that year. They found themselves in an 0-2 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks but Scottie Pippen led the way with 29 points in a Game 3 victory. Jordan scored 54 points in Game 4 to tie the series and then put on an incredible show in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, posting 29 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds in the victory. The Bulls closed out the series in Chicago in Game 6.
Facing a very good Phoenix Suns team that included NBA MVP Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan posted the highest scoring average of his NBA Finals career in 1993, putting up an incredible 41 points per game. With time winding down in Game 6, John Paxson hit a three-pointer to give Chicago a one-point lead. One Horace Grant block later and the Bulls had their first three-peat.
Michael Jordan finally achieved his dream of winning an NBA title in 1991
This was a tough call. I really wanted to put the 1990-1991 season higher on the list but I decided to go with it here. I think the most special part of this season, as Michael Jordan himself said in “The Last Dance,” was that this was the year that the Chicago Bulls finally got past the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference. They’d come up short for years and finally conquered the “Bad Boys” in the 1991 conference finals in a 4-0 series sweep.
The Bulls were 61-21 in the regular season and Jordan won his second NBA MVP trophy. After sweeping the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, Chicago then beat Charles Barkley’s Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the conference semis before knocking off Detroit. That set up a matchup against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, the franchise’s first appearance in the title series. After dropping Game 1, the Bulls won the next four to clinch their first championship. The sight of Michael Jordan crying and hugging the trophy with his father right next to him remains one of the most iconic images of the decade.
“The Last Dance”
As the 1997-1998 campaign began, Phil Jackson knew it was his last year in Chicago and dubbed the season “The Last Dance.” Michael Jordan made it clear that he would not play for another coach and Scottie Pippen was ready to bounce as well. So there was certainly a lot of pressure to win this last run. Naturally, Chicago pulled it off.
The team struggled early in the season with Pippen on the shelf for the first 35 games with a foot injury but still managed to go 62-20. Before his crazy trip to Las Vegas, Dennis Rodman filled in nicely as Jordan’s sidekick and others like Toni Kukoc and Luc Longley stepped up as well. After breezing through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Bulls got all they could handle from Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals but prevailed in seven games, setting up a Finals rematch with the Utah Jazz.
After dropping Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Bulls won the next three but couldn’t close the series out in Chicago as the Jazz eked out a two-point in Game 5. But Michael Jordan made sure that the series wouldn’t get past Game 6, putting up 45 points, including that final shot, to win his and the Bulls’ sixth title in eight years.
Jordan and the Bulls shrugged off Clyde Drexler and the Blazers in 1992
The 1991-1992 season was the best of the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat. After losing two of their first three games, they won 36 of their next 39 and finished with a 67-15 record in the regular season. Michael Jordan won his second consecutive MVP and his sixth straight scoring title, averaging 30.1 points per game. Scottie Pippen also had the best year of his career up to that point, averaging 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.0 assists.
After losing just 15 games in the regular season, the Bulls actually did lose seven games in the postseason, the most of any of their title runs. After sweeping the Miami Heat in the first round, they engaged in an epic battle with the New York Knicks but beat them 4-3 in the conference semis. They beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in six in the conference finals to set up a matchup with Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Finals.
At that time, many people were saying that Clyde Drexler was Jordan’s equal and MJ took that personally. He went out in Game 1 of the Finals and put on one of the greatest performances in history and the Bulls coasted from there, winning the series in six games to clinch their second straight title.
‘The Flu Game’ highlights the Bulls’ win over the Utah Jazz in 1997
A year after making history (more on that in a moment), the Chicago Bulls finished the 1996-1997 season with a 69-13 record. They averaged an NBA-high 103.1 points per game that year, led by Michael Jordan’s 29.6 average, which gave him the ninth scoring title of his career.
The Bulls ran into very little trouble in the Eastern Conference in the postseason. They swept the Washington Bullets in the first round and beat the Atlanta Hawks in five games in round two. They faced the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and dispatched them in five games as well to set up their first championship matchup with Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the Utah Jazz.
While many people remember Michael Jordan hitting a game-winner on Bryon Russell to close out his Bulls career in 1998, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he hit a buzzer-beater over him in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals. The Bulls took Game 2 in Chicago as well but the Jazz won the first two meetings in Utah to tie the series. In Game 5, Michael Jordan put on one of the most legendary performances in history, putting up 38 points in what’s become known as “The Flu Game” to give the Bulls a 3-2 series lead. Chicago closed out the series in Game 6 for the middle title of their second three-peat.
Michael Jordan led the greatest team of all time in 1995-1996
People can talk all they like about the Golden State Warriors and their 73-9 season in 2015-2016 but that team didn’t win an NBA title. The 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls that went 72-10 in the regular season did.
After a disappointing loss to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs, Michael Jordan was more determined than ever. In his first full season back in the NBA, Jordan, who obviously still had Scottie Pippen by his side, now had Dennis Rodman on his team and the trio led the Bulls to more wins than any other team in NBA history up to that point. They started the season with an incredible 41-3 record and never looked back.
The Bulls continued their dominance in the postseason. They swept the Heat in the first round, dominated the Knicks in five in the second round, got revenge on the Magic with a sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then capped things off with a 4-2 series win over the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals. The Bulls finished the season with an overall record of 87-13 and began their second three-peat.