It started in 1990 and by June of 1991 the NBA was forever changed. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals. It was the first Finals appearance for one Michael Jordan and it would be the last for the Lakers’ Magic Johnson. One era was ushering in; another was on its way out. In between was a league on the rise.
The Decade of Mike
Drafted in 1984, it took a few years to build a team around the greatest player of the ‘90s. In the ’90-’91 season, Jordan would win his second regular season MVP and then lead the Bulls to the first of three straight NBA titles. He also won the NBA Finals MVP after averaging 31.1 points, 8.4 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Jordan, of course, would lead the Bulls to six NBA championships during the decade and would become a sports and cultural icon. All of the future NBA greats will forever be compared to Jordan.
The Dream Team
It was the greatest basketball team ever put together. The best players from the NBA, including Jordan, Johnson, Larry Bird, and more assembled to wreak havoc on the world. A full eleven players from the 1992 U.S. Olympic team roster are now in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Dream Team won its first game by 68 points and went on to crush each and every opponent including Croatia in the gold medal game. Charles Barkley was the team’s leading scorer averaging 18.0 points a game. Jordan averaged 14.9 points and Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, and Clyde Drexler all averaged in double figures for the tournament.
Rise of the New Stars
As the ‘90s came to an end, Jordan would lead the Bulls to their sixth and final championship in 1997-98. As his NBA career neared completion, a bevy of new stars arose to continue the rise of the league’s popularity. Shaquille O’Neal was drafted by Orlando in 1992 and players like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant all took the NBA by storm in the 1990s. They all were part of the rise of the league in the 1990s.