The Michael Jordan-led Bulls of the 90s was one of sports’ most iconic dynasties. They simply dominated their opponents like no other in both the regular and post-season. The 90s era Bulls brought everything a sports fan could ever ask for in terms of star power, iconic moments, and off-the-court drama. This list will pay homage to the top five greatest Chicago Bulls teams of all-time. I base this assessment on each team’s regular season and post-season records, iconic moments, and level of competition they faced.
#5 1990-1991 Bulls
Regular Season Record 61-21
Post-Season Record 15-2
NBA Finals: (Won 4-1) vs. Lakers
The Bulls very first title run as an organization had to make the list. For so long, the Bulls had lived behind the shadows of the 76ers, Lakers, Pistons, and Celtics of the 80s. Furthermore, Michael Jordan was seen as an elite scorer but incapable of putting his team over the championship hurdle. Jordan had failed twice against the menacing Pistons and questions rose of whether this franchise was cursed. Questions also emerged on whether Jordan and head coach Phil Jackson could truly work well together. This season silenced all criticism.
Playing all 82 games on 37.4 minutes per game, Jordan led the team in points and steals. He was an assassin on offense and an immovable wall on defense who found a way to elevate his play to even greater levels than previously imagined. His right-hand man Scottie Pippen provided another capable perimeter defender and shot creator. This was the season Pippen truly became recognized as a star in the NBA.
With so much to prove, the Bulls triumphed in the regular season finishing at a lightning pace of 61-21. They cruised to 1st place in their division and set the tone for the playoffs with a 31-point victory against the Knicks in game 1 of the first round. After a sweep of the Knicks in the first round and a gentlemen’s sweep of the 76ers in the second round, the Bulls faced the rival Pistons in their final roadblock to the NBA finals. Much skepticism surrounded this series, but the Jordan-led Bulls shut it down quickly with their sweep over the Pistons. Heading into the finals against the Kareem-less Lakers, it seemed that Jordan and Bulls finally got over their last hurdle. With a convincing finals performance and victory, there was no looking back for Jordan and the Bulls in the 90s.
#4 1997-1998 Bulls
Regular Season Record 62-20
Post-Season Record 15-6
NBA Finals: Won (4-2) Utah Jazz
The 1997-1998 season was the last championship of the Jordan-era. However, this season was very unique in the controversy and off-the-court antics that transpired. I still ask the question of how they managed to win this season given all the drama that happened behind closed doors. Nevertheless, this was a team that told the world that no matter what was thrown their way, the Bulls were still the best.
A lot of internal turmoil happened this season. Moreso, this turmoil was generated by the front office general manager Jerry Krause. First, Krause was against paying superstar Scottie Pippen who had grown tired of being severely underpaid and wanted to go to a team that would appreciate what he brought to the table. Second, Jerry Krause and Phil Jackson didn’t have the greatest relationship, a relationship that soured to a seemingly unrepairable level. The relationship got to a point where Krause stated that he wouldn’t bring Jackson back even if the Bulls went 82-0. Talk about inner turmoil.
In addition, Dennis Rodman had a mid-season crisis that led him to go to Vegas to party in the middle of the season. However, while all of these distractions could have halted this team’s post-championship momentum, Jordan and the Bulls handled their business on the court. Finishing with a record of 62-20 and a post-season record of 15-6, the Bulls convincingly destroyed their competition, completing a second three-peating ending the Bulls run on a high note. It was the end of a dynasty in Chicago that produced some of the greatest moments in sports history.
Dennis Rodman departing for a mid-season Vegas bender with Carmen Electra is such a scene. #TheLastDance
— Alex Zaia (@zaiaalex) April 27, 2020
#3 1996-1997 Bulls
Regular Season Record 69-13
Post-Season Record 15-4
NBA Finals: Won (4-2) Utah Jazz
The top three Bulls teams on the list are some of the greatest basketball teams constructed in NBA history. These three teams dominated the competition like few others. The “worst” of the three was the 1996-1997 Bulls who finished with a 69-13 regular-season record and a 15-4 post-season record. In the first of two finals victories against the Jazz, the Bulls proved that they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Coming off the 72-win season, expectations were very high for Jordan and the Bulls.
However, they exceeded expectations once again. The Iron-man himself, Michael Jordan, led the team 29.6 points per game while playing all 82 games and averaging 38 minutes per game. In an all too familiar scenario, Scottie Pippen was right behind, averaging 20 points per game while also playing all 82 games and averaging 38 minutes per game. Dennis Rodman’s presence on the boards, Steve Kerr’s three-point shooting, and Toni Kukoc’s all-around presence rounded out the rotation.
The regular season was a cakewalk for this squad as teams again failed to adapt to the triangle system Phil Jackson had implemented. The first three rounds of the postseason were no different. They swept the Washington Bullets in the first round and produced gentlemen’s sweeps over the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. Their greatest challenge was the sturdy Utah Jazz team led by John Stockton and Karl Malone. In one of the most infamous games of all-time, game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan was suffering heavily from flu-like symptoms. In a miraculous fashion, Jordan somehow lifted himself to compete. In the end, he took over the game with a brilliant 38-point performance destroying the Jazz’s confidence in the process. The Bulls finished the series in their next outing crumbling the Jazz psyche in the process. If Jordan didn’t play the flu-game, the Jazz could have easily taken control of the series. This series cemented Jordan as the greatest of all-time. The second championship in their second three-peat, the Bulls truly looked unstoppable.
#2 1991-1992 Bulls
Regular Season Record 67-15
Post-Season Record 15-7
NBA Finals: Won (4-2) Portland Trailblazers
The 1991-1992 season was the peak of the first three-peat Bulls. Finishing the season with a 67-15 record and a 15-7 post-season record including a championship against the Portland Trailblazers, the Bulls were the beacon of offensive efficiency. The Bulls had a great mix of young, prime, and veteran players. Their starting five was well balanced with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, and Bill Cartwright playing distinct roles. But what really made this team click was their consistency in showing up to play. Outside of Bill Cartwright, hardly anyone on the starting lineup or bench missed significant time with injury. Leadership was there with Paxson and Cartwright while Michael Jordan was entering his prime and arguably his peak athletic performance. Finishing with 39 points and 2.3 steals per game, Jordan was a monster on both sides of the court. With Pippen still growing as a player, many questioned whether the Bulls could be stopped.
This Bulls squad finished the season with 67 wins and 15 losses. In the playoffs, the Bulls faced a little bit of trouble, most notably, against the New York Knicks who had Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. However, Michael Jordan showed up when it mattered the most. In-game 5 with the series tied at 2-2, Jordan scored 37 points with clutch basket after clutch basket in the fourth quarter. In-game 7, Jordan carried the Bulls on his back with a 42-point performance and a commanding victory. With a slight difficult NBA Finals against the Trailblazers, the Bulls won in six, helping to cement Jordan’s legacy as a clutch player that showed up at the most pressure-filled moments.
This was the greatest season of the first three-peat. It gave fans a great regular season performance by the Bulls, but questions about whether they could win again in a stacked Eastern Conference. These playoffs were the most difficult for any Jordan-led team with many close games and iconic performances. I truly appreciated Jordan’s emergence as a clutch performer with championship DNA, rather than just an elite player.
#1 1995-1996 Bulls
Regular Season Record 72-10
Post-Season Record 15-3
NBA Finals: Won (4-2) Seattle Supersonics
When assessing the Bulls all-time great teams, I had to put the 72-10 team as number one on the list. These Bulls were on a whole different level of greatness. Fans and analysts speculated how these Bulls would perform given Michael Jordan’s comeback. Many feared the time away from the game would make Jordan too rusty to perform at a high level. On the other hand, others believed this the perfect scenario to give the Bulls more championships as they performed quite well without Jordan. The acquisition of Dennis Rodman provided even more speculation as well as questions on whether the league had finally figured out the triangle.
These questions quickly dissipated. Early in the season, the Bulls showed that they were the greatest team of all-time. The first superteam, the 1995-1996 Bulls clicked on all cylinders. They were a nightmare on defense with Rodman, Jordan, and Pippen as all-defense candidates. Jordan and Pippen also held their own on offense. Guys like Steve Kerr and Toni Kukoc provided clutch 3-point shooting. Phil Jackson had maximized the potential of the triangle offense. These Bulls looked unstoppable.
The Bulls finished the season with a 72-10 record, the best regular-season record in NBA history until the Warriors took the crown in 2016. The playoffs were also a cakewalk as they only lost one game heading into the NBA finals against the Supersonics. While the Shawn Kemp-led Sonics provided a bit of a challenge, fans never viewed Jordan and the Bulls as in a position to lose the series. Overall, this season solidified the Jordan as the greatest of all-time.
NBA on NBC Finals promo featuring the Bulls vs Sonics (1996) pic.twitter.com/4Ho223Zxmy
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) October 22, 2018