Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Golden State Warriors Continue Pursuit of 73 Wins as 1995-96 Chicago Bulls Watch & Comment

The Chicago Bulls in the 1990's were virtually unstoppable. The type of dynasty that fans of other teams get sick of, because they seemed to hog all of the success there for quite a while. They would routinely stomp on the hopes and dreams of several teams repeatedly during the playoffs, including the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Caveliers, and the Utah Jazz. No one could touch them, as they piled up six titles in an eight year span to establish a level of dominance in the modern era that nobody has even come close to matching since that Bulls dynasty was taken apart following their 1998 championship. Even the two years that they did not win it are often called into question, as those were the two years when Michael Jordan had retired from basketball, and when he came back towards the end of that second year, he was far from his usual self physically and mentally.

But then came that 1995-96 season, when Jordan prepared himself for a full return. The Chicago Bulls were loaded with talent on both the offensive and defensive sides. They had Michael Jordan, one of the most complete basketball players in history, if not the most complete player. They had Scottie Pippen, who was also one of the lead scorers, but was excellent at stealing and defending in his own right. And Dennis Rodman was one of the best defenders of his day, also if not of all time. They had Toni Kukoc, who had been a superstar in Europe, and brought his considerable offensive talents to the Bulls, contributing strongly with that 1995-96 Bulls team (and all three of the titles runs that that team would enjoy). 

Already, that makes it quite the loaded field, and there were other great contributors on that team as well. Ron Harper added some offensive explosiveness. Luke Longley was not the best center of all time, but he filled his role admirably as that year's Bulls set records left and right that season. Current Golden State coach Steve Kerr was a solid scorer. And there were other guys more regularly on the bench who could fill in when needed. 

Let us not forget that Phil Jackson was the coach, and that he is now the most decorated professional basketball coach in history, with 11 NBA championship rings in 13 NBA Finals appearances with the Bulls and the Lakers. He lost a couple of Finals with the Lakers, but never with the Bulls, who won every single Finals appearance that they qualified for in the 1990's, when Chicago easily earned "Team of the Decade" honors.

Yes, that team was loaded, through and through. And as strong as some of their seasons had been, and as good and complete as they were, that 1995-96 season would be the peak of their success and dominance. Consider that no team had ever before managed a 70-win season, and some believed it to be nary impossible. The Bulls managed to win 72 games during the regular season, and capped that off with a 15-3 mark in the postseason, to boot. 


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