1996 NBA Finals
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2008)|
|Dates:||June 5 – 16|
|Announcers:||Marv Albert, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton|
|Announcers:||Brent Musburger and Jack Ramsay|
|Game 1: Dan Crawford, Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore|
|Game 2: Hue Hollins, Jess Kersey, Ed T. Rush|
|Game 3: Dick Bavetta, Hugh Evans, Steve Javie|
|Game 4: Joe Crawford, Mike Mathis, Bill Oakes|
|Game 5: Hue Hollins, Jess Kersey, Ed T. Rush|
|Game 6: Dick Bavetta, Hugh Evans, Steve Javie|
|Hall of Famers:||Michael Jordan (2009)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
Gary Payton (2013)
Phil Jackson (2007)
Tex Winter (2011)
|Eastern Finals:||Bulls defeat Magic, 4–0|
|Western Finals:||SuperSonics defeat Jazz, 4–3|
The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the 1995-96 NBA season of the National Basketball Association. The Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) of the Western Conference took on the Chicago Bulls (72–10) of the Eastern Conference, with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125 set in 1985. The series was played under a best-of-seven format.
Chicago won the series 4 games to 2. Michael Jordan was named Finals MVP.
Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Unstopabulls for NBA Entertainment.
- 1 Background
- 2 1996 NBA Finals Roster
- 3 Series summary
- 4 Aftermath
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 External links
In the playoffs, the Bulls lost only three games in four series, defeating Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, head coach George Karl and their Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals to win the NBA Championship. The Bulls won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, but the Sonics rallied back to win the next two at home. Eventually, the more experienced Bulls proved to be too much as the Bulls captured their fourth title (after a two-year hiatus). For his performance in the series against Seattle, Michael Jordan was named the Finals MVP.
Michael Jordan decided to return to basketball in 1995, after a short stint as a baseball player. Although he failed to lead the Bulls to the Finals in that year, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year and led the Chicago Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. Freshly motivated by the playoff defeat against the Orlando Magic, the Bulls trained aggressively in preparation for the 1995–96 season. By then most of the members of the first three-peat were gone, either through retirement (John Paxson, Bill Cartwright) or free agency and trades (Horace Grant, Scott Williams, Stacey King).
In the offseason, the Bulls lost B.J. Armstrong in the expansion draft, but Bulls general manager Jerry Krause pulled off a masterful deal by trading Will Perdue to the San Antonio Spurs for notorious rebounder Dennis Rodman, who had won the past four rebounding titles. Many doubted whether Rodman, who as a member of the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons teams of the late 1980s played a key role in the Jordan Rules defense the Pistons implemented during their fierce rivalry with the Bulls, will fit in with his former rivals. However, those questions were put to rest once the season began.
That year, strengthened by the addition of Dennis Rodman, the Bulls dominated the league. With a lineup of Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley, and perhaps the league's best bench in Toni Kukoč, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Jason Caffey, Bill Wennington, Dickey Simpkins and guard Randy Brown, the Bulls posted one of the best single-season improvements in league history and the best single-season record. They moved from 47–35 to 72–10. Jordan won his eighth scoring title, and Rodman his fifth straight rebounding title, while Kerr led the league in three-point shooting. Michael Jordan won the league's regular season and All-Star Game MVP awards.
Jerry Krause won the executive of the year award, Phil Jackson won the coach of the year award, and Toni Kukoč was the sixth man of the year. Both Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan made the all-NBA first team, and Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman all made the all-defensive first team, the only time three players from the same team had done so.
The Chicago Bulls had no problems during the playoffs. After demolishing Miami by over 15 points per game in the first round, they would go 4–1 against the Knicks in the semifinals to get revenge and sweep the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Seattle SuperSonics, coached by George Karl and led by All-Stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, emerged as contenders in the Western Conference by 1992. The Sonics broke through in the 1993 NBA Playoffs, pushing the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns to a seventh game in the conference finals. Then in the 1993–94 season, the Sonics finished atop the league with 63 victories. However, in the greatest playoff upset in NBA history, the Sonics lost 3 games to 2 to the eighth seeded Denver Nuggets, who finished 21 games behind Seattle in the West. Seattle would once again be upset in the first round of the 1995 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. By this time, Seattle had a formidable All-Star duo in Payton and Kemp, plus role players in Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins and Hersey Hawkins.
After two first round defeats, Seattle would make a major comeback in the 1996 season, finishing with a 64–18 record to lead the Western Conference, and setting the record for highest single-season win total in SuperSonics history. Seattle blew through Sacramento in the first round; 3 games to 1. It also had no problems with defending champion Houston Rockets, sweeping them. However, their playoff troubles re-emerged after dropping two games to the Utah Jazz to bring the series to 3–3. However, Seattle took game 7 and won what was one of the most exciting series of the 1996 playoffs. Seattle would finally play in its first NBA Finals since 1979.
|Seattle SuperSonics (Western Conference Champion)||Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference Champion)|
1st seed in the West, 2nd best league record
1st seed in the East, best league record
|Defeated the (8) Sacramento Kings, 3–1||First Round||Defeated the (8) Miami Heat, 3–0|
|Defeated the (5) Houston Rockets, 4–0||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (5) New York Knicks, 4–1|
|Defeated the (3) Utah Jazz, 4–3||Conference Finals||Defeated the (2) Orlando Magic, 4–0|
Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team (Which was one of the ten Bulls losses of the season):
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Road Team|
|Game 1||Wednesday, June 5||Chicago Bulls||107-90 (1-0)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 2||Friday, June 7||Chicago Bulls||92-88 (2-0)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 3||Sunday, June 9||Seattle SuperSonics||86-108 (0-3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 4||Wednesday, June 12||Seattle SuperSonics||107-86 (1-3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 5||Friday, June 14||Seattle SuperSonics||89-78 (2-3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 6||Sunday, June 16||Chicago Bulls||87-75 (4-2)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Seattle SuperSonics 90, Chicago Bulls 107|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 30–29, 29–26, 13–28|
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 32
Rebs: Gary Payton 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
|Pts: Michael Jordan 28
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 13
Asts: Ron Harper 7
|Chicago leads the series, 1–0|
Although Chicago was not playing well offensively, they were able to compensate with superb defense. Chicago was leading only by 2 at the end of the third quarter, however in the final quarter shots by Toni Kukoč and 2 key steals by Ron Harper clinched the Bulls a win.
|Seattle SuperSonics 88, Chicago Bulls 92|
|Scoring by quarter: 27–23, 18–23, 20–30, 23–16|
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 29
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 13
Asts: Payton, Schrempf 3 each
|Pts: Michael Jordan 29
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 20
Asts: Michael Jordan 8
|Chicago leads the series, 2–0|
Game two was started well for Seattle with a 27–23 first quarter lead. However Seattle would once again lose the lead before halftime. Despite Shawn Kemp's 29 points and 13 rebounds, Chicago triumphed with a final score of 92 to 88. In the victory, Dennis Rodman tied an NBA Finals record with 11 offensive rebounds.
|Chicago Bulls 108, Seattle SuperSonics 86|
|Scoring by quarter: 34–16, 28–22, 13–23, 33–25|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 36
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 10
Asts: Scottie Pippen 9
|Pts: Detlef Schrempf 20
Rebs: Brickowski, Payton 7 each
Asts: Gary Payton 9
|Chicago leads the series, 3–0|
The Sonics suffered a 22 point blow-out on their return to Seattle, giving the Chicago Bulls a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead.
|Chicago Bulls 86, Seattle SuperSonics 107|
|Scoring by quarter: 21–25, 11–28, 31–31, 23–23|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 23
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 14
Asts: Scottie Pippen 8
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 25
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 11
Asts: Gary Payton 11
|Chicago leads the series, 3–1|
Seattle did not want to suffer the ignominy of a sweep. Going into this game, the SuperSonics were looking to rebound from the deficit. They succeeded with a 107–86 win over the Bulls. The series would now go to five games. The Sonics were helped by the return of team captain Nate McMillan whose presence entering the game brought the KeyArena crowd to its feet.
|Chicago Bulls 78, Seattle SuperSonics 89|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–18, 24–25, 18–19, 18–27|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 26
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 12
Asts: Scottie Pippen 5
|Pts: Gary Payton 23
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
|Chicago leads the series, 3–2|
Seattle would once again deny the Bulls the championship, stretching the series to six games. Payton had this to say: "We feel great. We knew we could play with this team. It just took too long. We should have come with this a little earlier."  Shawn Kemp's performance in this game was considered by many to be his best in a Seattle uniform.
|Seattle SuperSonics 75, Chicago Bulls 87|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 20–21, 20–22, 17–20|
|Pts: Detlef Schrempf 23
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 14
Asts: Gary Payton 7
|Pts: Michael Jordan 22
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 19
Asts: Michael Jordan 7
|Chicago wins the series, 4–2|
Chicago won the series 4 games to 2 on Father's Day. The victory was partly due to the stellar performance of the Bulls power forward Dennis Rodman, who repeated his Game 2 performance of 11 offensive rebounds, tying his own NBA Finals record.
The 1996 NBA Finals would be the last Finals appearance of the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics would win the Pacific Division again in 1997 and 1998, but fell to the second round of the playoffs each time. The series was George Karl's only Finals appearance in his coaching career to date. In 2008, the Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. They would make the finals four years later after the move. This was also the last time a Seattle-based team played for a major professional sports championship until Super Bowl XL in 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In terms of overall sports leagues, the city would later enjoy three championships when the WNBA's Seattle Storm, a one-time SuperSonics sister team, won both the 2004 and 2010 WNBA Finals and the Seattle Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Bulls came close to winning 70 games for the second straight year, instead settling for a 69-win campaign in 1997. They won their second straight title over the Utah Jazz in six games of the 1997 NBA Finals. In the offseason that preceded Scottie Pippen became the only person to win NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice, playing for Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics.1 The Bulls would also defeat the Utah Jazz in 6 games in the 1998 NBA Finals.
- Smith, Sam (August 4, 1996). "DREAM TEAM'S SLEEPWALK ENDS WITH GOLD MEDAL". Chicago Tribune. p. 1.
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (June 2008)|
- Official website of the 1996 NBA Finals at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
- NBA.com's History of 1996 NBA Finals