The 1990s Chicago Bulls will always be known as Michael Jordan’s team, but the truth is he had some very good teammates. While Jordan was the guy that made the offense run, a pair of Bulls provided Chicago with the defense that made 6-0 in the NBA Finals possible.
Scottie Pippen Arrives
It was Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals when Scottie Pippen’s greatest began to shine on the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Chicago had lost Game 1 at home and faced a must-win Game 2 against a Los Angeles Lakers team that had won five of the previous 11 NBA titles.
Jordan, an All-NBA defender, spent Game 1 defending the Lakers’ Magic Johnson, who managed a triple-double to lead Los Angeles to the win. After just eight minutes of Game 2, it appeared Chicago was in trouble once again.
Jordan would pick up his second foul, so Bulls coach Phil Jackson put Pippen on Johnson. Pippen and the Bulls forced a shot-clock violation on the first possession. The next time down the floor, Johnson took Pippen into the post but ended up taking a wild shot that missed badly. With the Bulls crowd on its feet, the entire climate of the ’91 NBA Finals began to shift.
The Lakers would not win another game that series. The Lakers scored more than 96 points only once in the series and that was in the deciding Game 5 won by Chicago, 108-101.
Rodman Shuts Down the Mailman
The greatness of Dennis Rodman is best viewed in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. Rodman was given the task of shutting down one of the greatest players of all-time – Karl Malone. He was the second best player in the league at the time. Malone had won the NBA MVP in ’97 and finished second to Jordan in ’98.
In the ’97 Finals, Rodman held Malone below his season scoring average in all four Chicago victories. He was also a big part of holding the Mailman to just 44 percent shooting from the field. Malone made 55 percent of his shots during the regular season.
The ’98 Finals were more of the same. The dominance of Rodman, Pippen, and the rest of the Bulls defense was evident in a Game 3 Chicago victory. The Bulls won 96-54 holding the Jazz to an NBA-record low for points.
The Bulls might have been Jordan’s team, but the Chicago dynasty was reached its peak with the play of Pippen and Rodman.