Within every sport there are the franchise years that will forever be strongly remembered on the great timeline. Bouncing around from sport to sport we are able to pick apart certain teams and phases within these teams that stand out with just the right amount greatness to be deemed timeless. In recent decades the 2004 core-club of the Boston Red Sox is a great example of this. When we look at the NBA and some of the greatness within it is pretty hard to look past the mid 1990s Chicago Bulls. Even today in 2016 they are compared to the great run of the Golden State Warriors and other teams of this caliber. Thinking back to the mid 90s surely brings us right into the realm of Michael Jordan. Now we all remember the October 6, 1993 announcement that he was retiring from the NBA. He attributed his decision in part to a lack of interest in the game and later disclosed that the murder of his father (in 1993) was weighing in pretty heavy and was a huge contributing factor to his decision. In case you missed this, Jordan's father was murdered at a highway rest area, in North Carolina, in July of 1993 by two teenagers. The two teenagers were caught by traced calls used from Michael's father's cell phone and the duo was convicted to life in prison. Michael Jordan was really close to his father and this obviously caused a major rift in the superstar's life. Of course, The added exhaustion from the amazing Dream Team run in the 1992 Olympics solidified Jordan's true feelings about the game. Jordan's announcement sent a major shock wave throughout the NBA, and all fans of the game in general, and the news spread quickly adorning the front page of newspapers and publications across the globe! But we are not here to talk about MJ's retirement...we are talking about one of the most exciting franchise moments in the history of the NBA...the Mid 1990s Bulls!
~So if Jordan was hanging up the shorts in 1993 how does he play into this "mid 90s" killer elite with the Bulls? Well the Bulls and Phil Jackson were on a mission. Well, we won't go into MJ's MLB career but you do remember that, right? In 1995 Jordan decided to quit Major League Baseball due to the impending strike. He then decided to surprise the then mediocre Chicago Bulls by announcing his "I'm Back" moment to the franchise and fans everywhere! On March 18, 1995, Jordan announced his return to the NBA with a two-word press release: "I'm back."...these words were heard across the world! The very next day, Jordan threw on jersey number 45 (his number with the Barons), because his famous #23 had been retired in his honor at the time of his retirement. He hit the hardwood with the Bulls to face the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, and scored a sweet 19 points. The game had the highest TV Nielsen ratings of a regular season NBA game since 1975! GAME ON!! So, despite his absence from the NBA for nearly a year and a half how did he do?? Well, he played pretty darn well making a game-winning jump shot against Atlanta in his 4th game back and then he scored 55 points in the next game against the NY Knicks at MSG on March 28, 1995!
Upon Jordan's return to the game Phil Jackson and Camp Bulls had to basically start from scratch to build a roster worthy of destroying all encompassing bodies. Dennis "The Worm" Rodman was the 3-man of the big three power forwards which consisted of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and The Worm! Jackson was quoted as saying, “We had to start over when Michael came back...We had to start with Toni (Kukoc), Scottie and MJ, and I wrote out a list of seven power forwards”. So sitting on top of Jackson's list was actually Derrick Coleman. Though Jackson thought: “The mentality was not there,” he said. “The skills were there, but he was in the middle of a long-term contract.” After missing out on their other options, the Bulls turned to Dennis Rodman...And the rest, as they say, is history!
“That was the best we could do,” Jackson said, laughing.
Turns out that Phil Jackson, as we all know, knew how to stack the deck! The world quickly found out that he was right...Dennis Rodman played a crucial role in the Bulls’ second "three-peat", leading the league in rebounding all three of those crucial years! The Chicago Bulls had attained Dennis Rodman in 1995 from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Will Perdue who was a monstrous seven-foot backup center! Sure the Spurs were looking to "rid" themselves of the eccentric baller due to his desire for a huge contract and "antics of distraction" but let's not forget that he made the NBA's all-defensive team and helped the Spurs achieve the league's best regular-season record (62-22). Dennis Rodman missed many practices and was given a paid leave of absence early in the season. He was benched during the playoffs on two occasions by Coach Bob Hill. Of course, the Spurs were eliminated by Houston in the WC finals, and Rodman made it quite obvious during the off season that he wanted out!
Phil Jackson called looked at the Rodman trade as a "risk-reward" proposition. Jackson said: "He's extremely individualistic and believes in his own individual nature. He likes to have freedom and the expression that he has. We think that's O.K. as long as it stays within the team confines of playing ball together." ---Quite obviously this was a pretty spectacular acquisition! Adding Rodman, the league's most dominant rebounder, to a lineup that already includes Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc made the Bulls a stronger contender... You cannot attain goals without putting a little risk into your decisions...two word: "THREE-PEAT"!!
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