Ranking The 90s Bulls Dynasty

Intractably, it seems, audience are preternaturally drawn, as a moth to a flickering flame, to assemblages of announced greatness. Transcendence incarnate, teams or personalities that appear superhuman in their resolve, their unfettered audacity, their markedly pronounced aptitude for weathering any tempest, regardless of its voracity.

It is even more remarkable to view a set of protagonists mature, to watch them fail, only to return aggrieved but not beaten, integrating lessons installed from defeat, culminating in the acquisition of the ultimate prize. It is glorious to behold, like watching a youthful adolescent incrementally calibrating his purpose in life, intrepidly walking a novel path toward earned prosperity.

The 90s Bulls Dynasty presented all these hallmarks. Initiated by the perspicacious drafting of Michael Jordan in 1984 with the third selection, the Bulls proceeded through an initially tumultuous run in the 80s. Overshadowed by Showtime in Los Angeles and Bird’s Celtics in the East, the Bulls were a precocious, yet young group that required constant adjustment to eventually flourish. Bird’s shattered back, however, eventually crumbled, as did the Celtic dynasty. Magic contracted HIV and Kareem’s age finally bettered his enduring skyhook, condemning the Lakers to mediocrity and irrelevance. The Pistons, a late 80s mini-dynasty, proved fleeting. From the wreckage emerged the Bulls, now equipped with an additional superstar, Scottie Pippen; and a stellar supporting cast to buttress Jordan’s gifts, were primed for dominance.

And dominate, they did. It is challenging to distinguish between different ascensions of greatness. What should one most predominantly consider? The sheer dominance of a team? The average margin of victory? Contextual circumstances that proved inhibitory, like the dilapidation associated with age, obstinate management, or critical roster uncertainty – That were nevertheless overcome? Ultimately, we’re using the term “greatness” as crucial article of consideration. Hence, here are, in descending order, the greatest Bulls’ teams of their 1990s dynasty.

6. 1992-1993

Video courtesy of YouTube, Michael Jordan vs Charles Barkley SiCK Duel 1993 Finals Game 2 – Barkley WIth 42 Pts, MJ With 42!

Regular-season record: 57-25

The 92-93 iteration of the Bulls were intent on winning a three-peat, an accomplishment only the Celtics the Lakers could previously herald. By this time, Michael Jordan had unequivocally established himself as the most talented player on the planet, and the all the essential supporting cogs were humming with fluidity to supplement his grandiose talent.

Still, the Bulls encountered stiff resistance during their third consecutive extended playoff run. In the Eastern Conference Finals, they trailed Patrick Ewing’s Knicks 2-0, before mounting an audacious comeback. In the Finals, they were opposed by league MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, a team salivating at the opportunity to upend the Bulls’ fever dream. Alas, they failed to do so, as the Bulls proved their durability and resolve, crowning themselves as owners of a three-peat.  

5. 1991-1992: Ranking The 90s Bulls Dynasty

Video courtesy of YouTube, Michael Jordan Full Highlights 1992 Finals G1 vs Blazers – 39 Pts, 11 Assists, Sick 1st Half

Regular-season record: 67-15

Much of evaluating these Bulls’ teams is a perfunctory exercise. They are all greatness, we’re simply squabbling over valuations. The 1991-1992 Bulls were a dominant team, arguably the most formidable of Jordan’s first three championship squads. They cruised to a regular season record of 67-15 and evoked no legitimate challenger.

They concluded the season, in what would become typical fashion, as NBA champions. They faced an overmatched Portland Trailblazers team in the Finals, led by Clyde Drexler, who Jordan was determined to absolutely humiliate. Clyde “The Glide” was commonly compared to Jordan as a player of comparative talent, an untruth that Jordan thoroughly dismantled during the culminating series.

Contrasted against several of the Bulls’ other squads, however, the 1991-1992 Bulls struggled in the Playoffs, posting a respectable, but not spectacular record of 15-7. They remained an offensive juggernaut, as four of the Bulls starters shot above 50% during the season. Jordan won the MPV in non-disputatious fashion.

Still, there wasn’t any seminal moments during this particular Bulls’ title run. Their greatness was almost robotic, too easily taken for granted. It doesn’t fully equate to some of the memories crafted in ensuing seasons.   

4. 1996-1997

Video courtesy of YouTube, Michael Jordan FAMOUS FLU Game, Game 5 Highlights vs Jazz 1997 Finals – 38 Pts, EPIC CLUTCH SHOT

Regular-season record:  69-13

By 1996, the Bulls had already unleashed their furor over their dismantling at the hands of the Magic during their playoff loss in 1995. Upon re-asserting their dominance in the 1996 Finals, it was understandable that they might decelerate in their ensuing season, while attempting a second repeat. However, their steel did not splinter with heightened expectation, they again thrived.

The 1996-1997 Bulls won 69 games, leading the league in points per game and organizing a stout defense that stifled opponents. They did not shift to cruise control in the playoffs, either, accumulating a postseason record of 15-4 en route to their 5th title of the Jordan era. Their postseason antics also consisted of the legendary “flu game,” where Jordan allegedly ate a tampered slice of pizza that severely upset his stomach during the Finals series against the Utah Jazz. It proved inconsequential, as Jordan still scored 38 points in a deafening victory.

The reign of the Bulls comfortably continued, though internal issues would come to define their “Last Stand,” the final season of Jordan’s career as a Bull, in 1997-1998.

3. 1990-1991: Ranking The Bulls Dynasty

Video courtesy of YouTube, Michael Jordan 1st Championship, Game 5 Highlights vs Lakers 1991 Finals – 30 Pts, 10 Ast, UNREAL

Regular-season record: 61-21

One could easily fashion an argument asserting that the 1990-1991 Bulls are the least formidable of the Bulls teams during Jordan’s first three peat. Nevertheless, this was the team, at last, that finally crossed the figurative finish line.

Since Michael Jordan was drafted in 1984, the Bulls were viewed as a talented pretender, implacable but without the appropriate supplemental talent necessary to propel Jordan’s franchise to the upper echelons of the NBA. The Bulls languished discontentedly in the shadow of the Celtics, the 76ers, and then the “Bad Boy” Pistons in the East. They were regarded as unworthy, not of championship material.

Jordan, however, thrived on disrespect, perceived or genuine. His resolve carried a collection of talented, but disparate parts, past the bellicose Pistons in 1991. Uncrowned in anti-climactic fashion, the Pistons infamously refused to exchange handshakes after the Bulls emerged victorious in the Eastern Conference, knowing their fledgling dynasty was now but dust in the wind, a trifle of the past.

The Bulls defeated the Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals, demonstrably proving their bonafides. Jordan ardently caressing the Larry O’ Brien trophy, after years of obtrusive obstacles preventing its attainment, remains engraved in the minds of every adamant NBA fan. The legend, already born, could now preen; his reign over the NBA was only beginning, his mastery at last made manifest to anyone with the eyes to notice it.

2. 1997-1998

Video courtesy of YouTube, Did Jordan Pushoff on Russell? An in Depth Analysis

Regular-season record: 62-20

Phil Jackson labeled the 1997-1998 Bulls squad as the organization’s “Last Dance.” For reasons that are still inscrutable, GM Jerry Krause was determined to dismantle the 90’s Bull dynasty after the 1998 season. Prior to the season beginning, he had already pledged that Phil Jackson would not be the head coach for the Bulls after 1998. Michael Jordan would not play for any coach, excepting Phil Jackson; ergo, Jordan would also be leaving the Bulls, or retiring. Krause continued to dangle Pippen as a trade asset for younger players or draft, in anticipation of a premature “rebuild.”

It was a team mired in instability precipitated by the personal insecurities of Krause. The logic he was operating under was unsound, inculcated by an underserved hubris that he was, in fact, the exclusive progenitor of the Bulls’ greatness. He wasn’t, as he was soon to discover, after the Bulls quickly deteriorated under his machinations.

Regardless of the off-court drama, the 1997-1998 Bulls persevered. Through injuries, through internal strife, they remained obdurate in making their last dance a memorable one. In the Finals, they were opposed by the Utah Jazz, who they defeated 4-2. In the concluding game of the series, in astonishing and frankly poetic fashion, Jordan commandeered a close game, making it his own in the final minutes. He stole a ball from a befuddled Karl Malone in the post, walked up the court, waited patiently for the seconds to dwindle; then aggressively pivoted to the free throw line, bluntly pushed-off against a frantic Bryon Russell, and dramatically sunk a jump shot, his follow-through ethereally hanging in the air.

His Airness and the Bulls took home their sixth and last title; leaving NBA fans mesmerized, in transfixed awe.   

1. 1995-1996: Ranking The Bulls Dynasty

Video courtesy of YouTube, Unstop-A-Bulls | The Chicago Bulls 1995-96 Championship Season

Regular-season record: 72-10

The most dominant Bulls team of the 90s, and arguably in league history, was the 1995-1996 Bulls. Reeling from the previous season, where they had been upset by the Orlando Magic in the NBA Playoffs, the 1995-1996 Bulls were in a vindictive mood. They were staunchly attempting to establish unequivocal point: When rested, healthy, with Jordan in “basketball-shape,” no team was their equal.

Thus, the Bulls cruised to a record of 72-10, a level of dominance unseen until the 2015-2016 Warriors. In the playoffs, it was more of the same, as the Bulls scorched every opponent in mechanical fashion, posting a playoff record of 15-3 and effectively announcing the beginning of another three-peat. The point was made: Disrespect Michael Jordan at your own peril.

All hail the Bulls.