In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Chicago Bulls win their first NBA Championship, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The Bulls won the final four games of the NBA Finals after dropping Game 1. The Bulls win the finale in Los Angeles 108-101 as Scottie Pippen leads the way with 32 points. Michael Jordan wins the NBA Finals MVP, as the Bulls begin a dynasty that would define the NBA for the next decade, winning six championships in eight years.
There was a time where Michael Jordan was viewed as a player who could not win the big game. He was viewed as a lone star who could win countless scoring titles and make countless highlights but could not win a championship. As a result, the Bulls were bounced from the postseason in the first round in Jordan's first three seasons. The Bulls could not get past the Detroit Pistons in the next three seasons, losing in the second round in 1988 and falling in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990.
After losing to the Pistons in a hard-fought seven-game series, the Bulls came into the 1990/91 season with a new determination. Scottie Pippen had developed into an All-Star, giving the Bulls the much-needed second option. The Bulls posted a record of 61-21, best in the Eastern Conference for coach Phil Jackson. The Bulls swept the New York Knicks in the first round and needed five games to beat the Philadelphia 76ers, setting up another showdown with Detroit. The matchup was a mismatch, as the Bulls erased three years of frustration with a four-game sweep, as the Pistons left the bench in the final minute in a moment of shame.
The Los Angeles Lakers were expected to be a team in decline. With Mike Dunleavy replacing Pat Riley, the Lakers finished third in the West at 58-24. In the playoffs, the Lakers hit their stride, sweeping the Houston Rockets, beating the Golden State Warriors in five, and taking down the Portland Trail Blazers in six. The Blazers had posted the best record in the NBA in the regular season and were the favorites to win the NBA Championship.
The headliners were Magic versus Michael as the first NBA Finals on NBC had the sizzle and the star power. Game 1 at Chicago Stadium was as good as advertised, with Jordan leading all scorers with 36 points. However, the Lakers got 22 points from Sam Perkins, a former teammate of MJ at North Carolina, including a big bucket in the final seconds to give Los Angeles a 93-91 win. After their loss in Game 1, Phil Jackson changed up the defense and had Scottie Pippen guard Magic Johnson. The move paid off as the Bulls crushed the Lakers 107-86 as Jordan began to take command with 33 points, including a play when he changed hands in mid-air on a dunk.
At the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, the Bulls began to show they are the superior team, with a 104-96 overtime win in Game 3. Down late, the Bulls tied the game with a 20-7 run in the fourth quarter. In overtime, Michael Jordan outscored Los Angeles 6-4, finishing with 29 points as the Bulls took control of the series. The Bulls would take a 3-1 series lead with a 97-82 win in Game 4, as Jordan continued to dominate. Scottie Pippen led all scorers with 33 points in Game 5, as John Paxton had 20 points, with ten points coming in the final six minutes as the Bulls closed the series with a 108-101 win.