Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

MJ Played Against and Beat Better Competition

The debate between Jordan & James continues to heat up. The focus now is on the competition they faced.

Almost since the moment the clock hit triple zeros in game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, the LeBron James versus Michael Jordan conversations have only intensified. And it’s not going to change any time soon. So if you’re annoyed and tired of the topic, no matter whose side you’re on, get used to it. Unless you plan on avoiding the litany of debate shows on ESPN and Fox Sports.

The latest chapter is a hypothetical about how and when LeBron will take over as the Greatest Of All Time from MJ.

Case in point, last week Fox Sports One NBA Analyst Chris Broussard said on Fox Sports’ “Undisputed with Skip and Shannon”, that it will happen if James wins the next two NBA Championships, for a Cavs three-peat, giving him five total championship rings. The prevalent thought is that he would’ve beaten a better more talented team in the Golden State Warriors with four perennial all-stars. Assuming the Dubs make it to the Finals four consecutive season as well. Broussard, as well as Shannon Sharpe, said MJ “didn’t beat anyone” to win his titles, and that the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons and “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers were old and worn out by the time those Chicago Bulls teams reached their peak. I think that’s as ridiculous of a hot take as I’ve ever heard.

If I were on the show, I would’ve fired back… “were the Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed & Ben Wallace-led Pistons who had played in five consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, winning one (2004), before losing to the ’07 Cleveland Cavs old?”

The previous variable used to compare the two use to be that LBJ accomplished more at a younger age than MJ, which I always thought was dumb because one came straight out of high school, while the other played three years of college ball. The only fair comparison would be years of service which I did back in 2013. So now in order to prop James’ legacy up, people want to diminish the competition Jordan faced.

Not only did those 90’s Bulls beat very good teams in the Finals, they also beat top competition in the Eastern Conference playoffs to get to the championship round. Something LeBron hasn’t had to do in his six-year Eastern Conference title runs, aside from playing against the big four in Boston of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

Here’s a look at the team’s, Jordan’s Bulls had to conquer on their title runs…

After sweeping the 39-43 Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks in three games, The 1991 Bulls beat the Charles Barkley-led Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the conference semifinals. Then they swept the 50-32 Isiah Thomas-led, two-time defending NBA World Champion Detroit Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals. Waiting for them was the 58-24 Magic Johnson-led and five-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers who just happened to beat the team with the best record in the Association that season, the 63-19 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers in six games. Of course, we all remembered what happened in the Finals. Bulls over Lakers in five, and if it weren’t for a last second jumper by Jordan that rimmed out in game one, they would’ve swept the team of the ’80’s.

The 1992 Bulls team challenged the 70-win mark finishing the season at 67-15. After sweeping the young Miami Heat 3-0 in the first round, The Bulls went to a grueling seven games with Patrick Ewing’s 51-31 Knicks in the conference semifinals. Chicago lost home court advantage in game one, before coming back to win the series. In the conference finals they faced a 57-25 Cleveland Cavaliers team with All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. The Bulls beat the Cavs in six.

In the Finals they faced the 57-25 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers, who brought back their key nucleus from the same team that had the NBA’s best regular season record the year before and had lost in the 1990 NBA Finals. Some of those names; Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Danny Ainge who won two titles with Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics in the 1980’s. It took those Bulls six games and a 15-point 4th-quarter comeback to win the series.

In 1993 the Bulls went into the playoffs as the second seed. They swept their first two rounds 3-0 over the 43-39 Dominique Wilkins-led Atlanta Hawks, and 4-0 over the 54-28 Cleveland Cavaliers who had three All-Stars in Price, Daugherty and Larry Nance. In the Conference Finals they met up again with the Knicks who had the second best record in the NBA at 60-22 and the number one seed in the East. Chicago dropped the first two games in Madison Square Garden, you may remember the stories that Jordan had went over to gamble in New Jersey in between those first two games. However, the Bulls charged back from the 0-2 deficit to beat their nemesis in six games.

In the Finals they faced the 62-20 Phoenix Suns, with the League Most Valuable Player in Charles Barkley. Most say this is the best team the Bulls faced in their six Championship seasons. The Suns had three All-Stars in Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle. They also had that Danny Ainge guy. Chicago never trailed in the series and was up 3-1 after four-games, it took them a John Paxson three-pointer with just over 3 seconds in the 4th-quarter to win the series 4-2 for their first three-peat.

Flash forward three years and the 1995-96 season and the Bulls set the single season record at 72-10. In the playoffs they swept the 42-20 Miami Heat of Alonzo Mourning and coached by their old foe from New York, Pat Riley. In the second round they faced another familiar foe in the Knicks who were 47-35 in the regular season. Chicago beat New York 4-1 in a physical series without Sixth Man of the Year Toni Kukoc for two games. In the Conference Finals they faced the 60-22 defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic, led by All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, and won the series in four games.

In the Finals they defeated the 64-18 Seattle Supersonics with All-Stars Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf, coached by George Karl who is the fifth winningest coach in NBA history. The Bulls went up 3-0, and dropped games four and five at Key Arena, before winning the series in game six back in the United Center.

In the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals they faced the 64-18 and 62-20 Utah Jazz led by future Hall of Famers Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan. The Bulls won each series 4-2 to capture titles five and six for their second three-peat. But look at the teams they faced in the two playoffs before the finals.

In the ’97 playoffs they swept a young 44-38 Washington Bullets team with Chris Webber and Juwan Howard 3-0 in the first round, next the 56-26 Atlanta Hawks with Dikembe Mutombo, Christian Laettner and Steve Smith 4-1, before knocking off the 61-21 Miami Heat with Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn and Dan Majerle, 4-1.

In the ’98 playoffs they swept the 43-39 New Jersey Nets 3-0 in the first round, defeated the 51-31 Charlotte Hornets led by All-Star Game MVP Glen Rice 4-1, before winning an epic seven game series against Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose and the 58-24 Indiana Pacers coached by Larry Bird.

So as you can see, not only did Jordan’s teams beat historically great competition in the Finals, they also beat the other marquee teams in the league at that time.

It’s baffling to me that many are trying to diminish Jordan’s legend in an attempt to bolster James’ legacy. If you haven’t figured it out, I am on the Jordan side of these debates, but I can admit his “Airness'” legacy has grown “Paul Bunyon-like” in the nearly two decades since his last championship with the Bulls. But to say his competitors were far inferior than the ones LBJ faces is absurd. There are more teams in the Association now then when Jordan was in his prime, which means the talent is more spread out across the league. However you try to slice it, MJ played against better comp.

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NBA’s All-Time Mount Rushmore

This past summer in an interview with Sports Illustrated, 3-time and reigning NBA Champion LeBron James acknowledged Michael Jordan is his motivation. He said “My motivation…is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.” James went on to say being considered one of the greats is cool, but implied he’d like to be considered one day THE best. While those who are witnessing LBJ, that didn’t see MJ and other greats in their prime, already say he’s the G.O.A.T. But his buddy, and former teammate Dwayne Wade recently told ESPN “It’s impossible” for him to catch MJ, and “the only thing he can do is tie it.” While I agree with D-Wade, I have to say LeBron has already moved into the upper echelon of NBA all-time greats. I even consider him on the League’s all-time Mount Rushmore, and these are the others that join him.

MJ is the most influential, and skilled NBA player of all-time. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Without a doubt, Michael Jordan. His “Airness” was 6-0 in NBA Finals winning the Most Valuable Player award each time, but that’s just the beginning of the resume.

5-times he was NBA MVP (1988,1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 10-times he made first team All-NBA, 9-times he was selected All-NBA defensive 1st-team, and in 1988 he won the Defensive Player of the Year award. The 1985 Rookie of the year is a 10-time scoring champion, he’s the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, and when he retired in 2003, his 32,292 points was second all-time. His per game average of 30.1 is still first all-time. 3-times he led the league in steals (1988, 1990, 1993), and his 2,514 steals is third in League history. 14-times he was selected to the NBA All-Star team where he won the game’s MVP award 3-times, and twice won the slam dunk contest. He is a member of the NBA’s 50th anniversary team.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the most under-appreciated and overlooked great EVER! He can make a case that he’s the greatest player to play the game on every level.

Abdul-Jabbar’s “Skyhook” is the most unguardable move in history. Photo Credit: Getty Images

“Cap” won 3 New York City Catholic high school championships at Power Memorial high while leading them to a 71 game winning streak, 3 NCAA titles at UCLA which included a record of 88-2, and 6 NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. In addition to his championship rings, he won NBA Finals MVP twice (1971, 1985). In his twenty seasons, Abdul-Jabbar won League MVP 6-times (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980), 10-times he was selected 1st-team All-NBA, 5-times selected 2nd-team All-NBA, 5-times All-Defensive 1st-team, 6-times All-Defensive 2nd-team and he led the NBA in block shots 4 seasons (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980). The NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38, 387) led the League in scoring twice and was a 19-time All-Star. He’s also the third leading rebounder in NBA history (17,440). In twenty seasons, his teams made the playoffs 18 times, got out the first round 14 times, and made the Finals 10 times. In 1997 he was selected to the NBA’s 50th anniversary team. This is just his NBA resume. His entire basketball career back to high school would be this entire post.

Magic Johnson along with Larry Bird are credited with saving the NBA from the doldrums of tape delay and decreasing popularity linked to ramped drug use among players and on court fighting.

Magic led to Lakers to 8 NBA Finals appearances during the 1980’s. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Magic won 5 titles in 8 NBA finals appearances, including his rookie season in 1980, when he also won his first of 3 Finals MVP awards (1982, 1987). 3-times he won League MVP (1987, 1989, 1990), 9-times he was selected 1st-team All-NBA, once 2nd-team (1982). Four times he led the NBA in assists and is the NBA’s All-time playoff assists leader (2,346). When he retired the first time in 1991, he was the NBA’s all-time leading assists man, he’s now fifth (10,141). Twice he was the NBA’s steals leader (1981,1982) and is currently 20th all-time, but was in the top 5 when he retired. Johnson is a 12-time NBA All-Star and twice won the game’s MVP (1990, 1992). He is a member of the NBA’s 50th greatest players team.

Lastly, LeBron James. If I did this list  two seasons ago when LBJ was still in South Beach, I would’ve had Larry Bird in this spot. But, James has solidified himself as the greatest small forward in history.

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LeBron James has lifted himself into the upper tier of NBA greats. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Since he’s still on the course, and the other guys on this list are in the clubhouse sipping on Arnold Palmers and smoking cigars, I won’t go through his entire resume like I did with the others. But, I must state just how impressive it is that James has led his teams to 6 consecutive NBA Finals appearances (Miami 4, Cleveland 2). And since everyone wants to compare 23’s, not even MJ did that! Even LBJ’s biggest haters can’t deny his overall impact. Both the Cavaliers and Heat missed the playoffs the season after he left via free agency, even though they boasted the same rosters minus him. His current career averages of 27.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assist per game are only matched by the names of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Larry Bird. Enough said, he’s one of the top four greats to ever play this game.

For those who will ask where is Boston Celtics great Bill Russell? My reply is “He’s my Halle Berry of the NBA.” What do I mean? When people ask me who are my top five celebrity crushes, I never say Halle Berry, because she has her own list. You want early 90’s Halle? You know from “Strictly Business”, “Boomerang” or “Flintstones”? How about “Swordfish”, “X-men” or “Die Another Day” Halle? Then there’s this 50-year old version that makes most 30-year old’s look like they’re aging in dog years. You get my point? That’s the way I feel about Mr. Russell. He has his own Mount Rushmore. You can have the rookie version that led the Celtics to a Championship in 1956-57 while averaging 14.7 ppg and 19.6 rpg, or the won that led them to 8 consecutive titles while winning 5 League MVP’s, or the won that led them to a title as player/coach in his final professional season. Take your pick. Hands down Mister Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history, so he gets his own mountain. Matter of fact, he should be the logo, he won more championships (11) than the current logo man Jerry West lost (8).

The following four men are on my honorable mentions: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan

It’s Only a Uniform, but, Get Back to Your Roots

Sunday the St. Louis Rams lost 37-27 to the New York Giants in an ugly game in their last game at the Edward Jones Dome for the 2014 season. But, there was a beautiful sighting on the field for nostalgic sports fans. During the game, the current Rams team wore replica uniforms donned by the 1999 Super Bowl Championship team lead by Head Coach Dick Vermeil, NFL MVP Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk; also known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The classic royal blue and yellow jerseys were replaced beginning with the 2000 season for the current Navy Blue and Old Gold flavor. It was great to see those classic uniforms from the 19??-1999 back on the field and even though I’m not a Rams fan I wish they would stick with that color scheme and jersey.

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The Rams wore these uniforms to honor the ’99 Super Champions. Courtesy:StLouisRams.Com

Some franchises should never change their uniforms or color schemes for any reason; like my Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Yankees and even the Los Angeles Lakers. In this day where pro sports leagues encourage teams to change up their style often in order to move merchandise, this show of respect by the Rams organization to their past got me to thinking, what other throwbacks should return, but FOR GOOD.

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During the throwback craze of the early 2000s, this was one of the more popularly worn amongst the kids.

Atlanta Hawks. The old Pac Man logo has returned to center court and the shorts, albeit modified, but I miss the old red and gold color scheme. The NBA already has three other teams rocking some shade of red and blue, so I never understood why the Hawks made that switch in 2007-2008. At that time the New Jersey, now Brooklyn Nets were also donning their red and blue.

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This 80’s Pac Man logo is back, but with modifications.

When teams go through losing periods as Atlanta did at the turn of the century, they quickly try to distance themselves from the stench of losing by doing something drastic with the uniforms, but what they fail to realize is they also tend to cut out the part of the past that was memorable, like the Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb led teams of the 80s and early 90s.

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Brady and the Pats rocked the throwbacks to celebrate their days in the AFL.

New England Patriots. Those AFL jerseys they’ve sported the last couple of years to celebrate the former league with the Minuteman on the side of the helmet hiking the ball are unique. Sure the Pats have had more success with their hockey-Ish style logo and color scheme, but it’s been a while since they won it all, maybe they could use a little rebranding.

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His “Airness” only donned this jersey his rookie season, making it one of the more popular amongst his and Bulls fans.

Chicago Bulls. The Bulls jerseys haven’t changed much. The color scheme has always been black and red and the diamond on the side of the shorts with the Bull logo in it is still there, but it’d be great to see the cursive Chicago return to the chest of the road uniforms. Most remember a young Michael Jordan soaring over his foes in this uniform during his 1984-85 rookie season, then they disappeared except the occasional NBA Hardwood Classic nights the league puts on to sell more merchandise. The NBA is king of using new uniforms to drain the wallets of their fans. Example: Christmas Day sleeved jerseys and this upcoming Christmas edition with the first names on the lower back.

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It doesn’t get more Miami than this teal, the new orange dominant color scheme is too much.

Miami Marlins. The uniforms they’ve been wearing since 2012 when they moved into their new stadium, Marlins Park are as ugly as the turnout to the games. Only one team in South Florida should be able to rock out dominate orange jerseys, that’s “The U”, even if they aren’t close to resembling the dominant college football program those of us that grew up in the 1980s remember. Although many weren’t a fan of the teal, silver and black jerseys they wore as the Florida Marlins, they did win two World Series Championships wearing them.

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The Bucs sported these uniforms from 1976-1995.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I know they went away from the creamsicle and Bucco Bruce logo because it was synonymous with their losing past which included the first 0-14 season in NFL history. But, these news ones they have are more atrocious. Digital clock numbers with the pewter helmets that reflect like a mirror? As Cris Carter would say “C’Mon Man!” I’m not saying they have to bring back the exact same uniforms from the 70s-mid 90s, but some reincarnation of them, especially Bucco instead of the flag with the skull would be better.

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These uniforms ARE Houston.

Houston Texans. Now this is a tricky one for me, because the Texans only have had one uniform and color scheme since entering the NFL as an expansion franchise in 2000 they don’t have another option or do they? The Texans were awarded to Houston to fill the loss of the Oilers when they moved to Tennessee in 1998, and while the Titans got to keep the Oilers franchise records, they rebranded the team with new uniforms and different color way.

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The powder blue uniforms are as legendary in Houston as their former Hall of Fame QB, Warren Moon.

The Texans should take the baby blue, white and red colors and rebrand themselves in an attempt to reconnect to the city’s more successful pro football past, while moving away from the perennial struggle they’ve had while wearing their navy blue, battle red combination. Just look at the buzz—pun intended!—Charlotte has had bringing back the Hornets.

What are some other classic uniform designs or team color ways you think should return?