February 2, 1996, was an emotional day for Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. It was his second game back from his HIV illness, and he faced Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls entered the game with an incredible record of 40-3. Meanwhile, the Lakers were only 25-18. Since Jordan and Magic were close friends, they presumably looked forward to playing against each other for the first time since Game 5 of the 1991 Finals.
However, it was Pippen who stole the show, both on and off the court.
Scottie Pippen went off for 30 points vs. Magic Johnson and Co.
The Bulls easily defeated the Lakers by a final score of 99-84. Pippen scored a game-high 30 points in 33 minutes while shooting 12-of-21 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. The superstar small forward also grabbed four rebounds and five assists.
Pippen outplayed Jordan and Magic. MJ put up 17 points, while Magic finished with 15. The Bulls improved to 41-3 with the win and won their 18th game in a row.
Jordan and Magic met with the media together postgame to discuss the game and the latter’s NBA comeback. Meanwhile, Pippen spoke to reporters from the Bulls’ locker room and delivered some hot soundbites.
The Bulls never led by fewer than 13 points in the second half and were up by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter. Pippen, the player of the game, was so unimpressed by the Lakers that he destroyed Magic’s teammates during his postgame media session.
Scottie Pippen on Magic Johnson: “He’s not around the same guys”
Magic won five championships and three Finals MVPs with the Lakers before getting HIV. Against the Bulls in 1996, the Hall of Famer put up 15 points and three assists while shooting 6-of-13 from the field. Pippen was impressed by what he saw from a 36-year-old Magic, who was rusty, but he knew the Lakers as a team weren’t the Lakers of old.
“Magic is pretty much the same,” Pippen said. “He’s not around the same guys, and they have a way to go before they can be considered contenders. We felt like that we had found that flow in the game. We had found some loopholes in their defense where we could score, and we were able to eventually pull away from ’em.”
The 1995-96 Bulls wound up winning 72 regular-season games. They defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the Finals, giving Jordan and Pippen four rings. Meanwhile, the 1995-96 Lakers finished 53-29 and lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Magic then retired from the NBA for good in the summer.
It’s unfortunate Magic missed four seasons due to HIV. Had the 12-time All-Star not gotten sick, the Bulls and Lakers could have met in multiple Finals instead of just the one they matchup up in back in 1991. That was a great series to watch from start to finish, well, at least for Chicago fans.
Bulls and Lakers played fun Finals in 1991
The Bulls had homecourt advantage in the 1991 Finals. However, they lost Game 1 by two points, and most pundits predicted the Lakers would win the series.
However, Jordan and Pippen had other ideas.
Bulls coach Phil Jackson put Pippen on Magic in Game 2. The Lakers icon had four turnovers against Pippen, one of the best defenders in NBA history. The Bulls won by a final score of 107-86 and never looked back, winning the next three games as well to capture their first championship in franchise history.
Jordan won Finals MVP after averaging 31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. Meanwhile, Pippen finished the series with averages of 20.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 2.4 steals.
Jordan, Pippen, and Magic became teammates on the Dream Team in the summer of 1992. They won the gold medal together and will forever be linked.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference