CHICAGO — While everyone knows about “The Last Dance” of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, there are likely not as many who know about what could be considered their first.
That would be the 1987-1988 season, when Michael Jordan officially arrived as a superstar in the NBA and the team took major steps towards becoming a contender. Of course, they weren’t there yet, because there were a few other teams that were competing for the NBA crown at that time.
“When The Game Was War: The NBA’s Greatest Season” by author Rich Cohen chronicles that campaign through the Bulls, Celtics, Lakers, and Pistons with a focus on each team’s star. That would be Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Isiah Thomas, each of whom would have a major impact in 1987-1988 and through the next two decades in the league.
During that season, the Bulls won 50 games while also capturing their first playoff series in the Jordan era, with the guard earning his first NBA MVP award along with his only league Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant made their debuts that season thanks to shrewd draft deals by Jerry Krause that brought both to Chicago. John Paxson continued to build chemistry with Jordan while the general manager was also able to start adding to the future dynasty.
That team, as they would in the coming years, would face a roadblock when the Pistons came up in the playoffs, losing in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals of 1987-1988. Leading that Detroit team was a native of Chicago who’d become villain No. 1 for the early Jordan-era Bulls – Isiah Thomas.
For Cohen, it was a performance by the All-Star guard that led to the writing of the book, which occurred in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. On the verge of clinching a championship at The Forum, Thomas suffered a serious ankle injury, yet managed to score 25 points in the third quarter and 43 in the game.
But it wasn’t enough as the Lakers hung onto win by one point and then beat the Pistons in Game 7 for the championship.
Cohen talked about all of these in an interview with Larry Hawley on WGN News Now, which you can watch in the video above.
You can purchase Cohen’s book “When The Game Was War: The NBA’s Greatest Season” by clicking here. The author is also in the Chicago area for a signing at “The Book Stall,” 811 Elm Street in Winnetka, on Tuesday, October 10 at 6:30 p.m.