Pretenders to the Throne
It was the summer of 2016, and the Golden State Warriors were about to make history. They were up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, against a Cavs team that seemed resigned to its fate. With one victory in the next three games, the Warriors would cap off their record setting season with their second NBA title. And with that title, they could surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the greatest team ever.
But it never happened. When the Warriors lost the next three games, they also lost the chance to be the best team ever. That title still belonged the 1995-96 Bulls, who did manage to top off their record setting regular season with a Finals trophy. Let’s take a look back at that immortal team.
A Player for All Time and a Team for the Ages
The Bulls came into the 1995-96 season chomping at the bit. They had a well stocked team and fans were hungry to take back what they thought was rightfully theirs — an NBA title. Michael Jordan had returned from baseball at midseason the year before, and with rebounding monster Dennis Rodman coming aboard everything was falling into place.
Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, and supersub Ron Harper rounded out a roster that fit together perfectly. Led of course by Jordan, the Bulls ripped through the competition in the regular season. They started off the campaign with 37 straight wins at home, en route to 39-2 record at the United Center. Their 33 road wins were an NBA record at the time, as were their 72 total wins.
It was more of the same in the playoffs. They steamrolled the Miami Heat 3-0 and the Knicks 4-1 in the first two rounds. Then they swept Shaquille O’Neal and his Orlando Magic 4-0 in the conference finals. This set up an interesting Finals matchup with a Seattle team that had won 64 games during the regular season.
Although Gary Payton’s Sonics put up token resistance, they were no match for Jordan, Pippen, and the rest of the Bulls. Chicago won the series 4 games to 2, with Jordan playing out of his mind in an effort to retake his NBA throne. The title was the beginning of the Bulls’ second threepeat of the decade and made the 1995-96 Bulls team the greatest ever.