CHICAGO – When reflecting on the Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s, many often look to the “Last Dance” – and that’s to be expected.
The ESPN ten-part series on the dynasty with the same name brought back plenty of memories of the team’s sixth and final title in the 1997-1998 season.
But as many people focus on the end of that era with a sixth championship, it’s important to remember how it began seven years earlier with the first. That moment turns 30 on this Saturday when the dynasty really began on a Wednesday night in Inglewood, California.
On June 12, 1991, the Bulls defeated the Lakers 108-101 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the Great Western Forum to win their first league championship.
It was the completion of a long journey of buidling the team team that began with the drafting of Jordan in 1984. There were first round losses, then three-straight eliminations at the hands of the Pistons, but finally the right supporting cast was able to compliment “His Airness” to produce a run to a title.
Phil Jackson’s team went 15-2 in the playoffs – including a sweep of Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals – to complete what would end up being their most decisive march to a title. The 1995-1996 Bulls went 15-3 en route to the first championship of their second three-peat.
While Jordan helped to lead the Bulls throught the season, he got help from his teammates in that clinching game. Scottie Pippen led the Bulls with 32 points, just ahead of Jordan’s 30 for the evening, but it was John Paxson who officially sent the Lakers to elimination.
John Paxson scored ten points in the final four minutes to break open a close game, with Jordan finding him a number of times for the open shot. The veteran guard finished with 20 points on the evening, with his last stretch finally ending the team’s 25-year championship drought.
Larry Hawley remembered the moment in WGN News Now’s “Throwback Thursday” on June 10th – two days ahead of the anniversary. He talked with WGN-TV sports director Dan Roan along with veteran sports reporter Cheryl Raye-Stout about what they remembered about the clinching moment at the Great Western Forum.
Click on the video above to watch.