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The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1995–96 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) played the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls (72–10), with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125, set in 1985 between the Los Angeles Lakers who won 62 games and the Boston Celtics who won 63 games in the past regular season. The series was played under a best-of-seven format. This was the first championship in the Chicago Bulls second three-peat.[1]

1996 NBA Finals
1996nbafinals.jpg
TeamCoachWins
Chicago Bulls Phil Jackson 4
Seattle SuperSonics George Karl 2
DatesJune 5–16
MVPMichael Jordan
(Chicago Bulls)
Hall of FamersBulls:
Michael Jordan (2009)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
SuperSonics:
Gary Payton (2013)
Coaches:
Phil Jackson (2007)
Tex Winter (2011)
Officials:
Dick Bavetta (2015)
Eastern FinalsBulls defeat Magic, 4–0
Western FinalsSuperSonics defeat Jazz, 4–3
NBA Finals

Chicago won the series 4 games to 2. Michael Jordan was named NBA Finals MVP.

NBC Sports used Ahmad Rashād (Bulls sideline) and Hannah Storm (SuperSonics sideline).

Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Unstoppabulls for NBA Entertainment.

This was the 50th NBA Finals played.

BackgroundEdit

Chicago BullsEdit

The Bulls were coming off a season where they lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Orlando Magic. Heading into the upcoming season, Chicago was no longer the same team as they were in their most recent championship season of 1993, having lost key members of their first three-peat core in John Paxson who retired, while Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, B. J. Armstrong, Stacey King, Will Perdue, and Scott Williams left via free agency.

In their place was a new core of players such as Luc Longley, Toni Kukoč, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper, Jud Buechler, Bill Wennington and Randy Brown. But perhaps their biggest addition to the team was Dennis Rodman, a nine-year veteran who had been a rebounding champion for four straight years, and whose controversial lifestyle has been well-documented.

The end result of this ensemble was perhaps the greatest regular season of any team in NBA history at the time, as the Bulls won a then-record 72 games. They continued to gain momentum in the playoffs, beginning with a sweep of the Miami Heat in the first round, followed by a five-game defeat of the New York Knicks in the second round. The conference finals was a rematch of the previous season's series with the Orlando Magic, but it was a no-contest, as the Bulls swept the Magic to gain entry into the Finals.

Seattle SuperSonicsEdit

The SuperSonics were led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, with George Karl as head coach. The team was considered a perennial title contender throughout the mid-1990s, but the closest they came to reaching the finals was in 1993, when they lost to the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.

Two straight first-round exits followed, including the stunning 1994 loss to the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets. Motivated by a successive string of early playoff losses, Seattle finished the 1996 regular season with a franchise-record 64 wins.

Seattle began its playoff run with a four-game win over the Sacramento Kings, followed by a sweep of the defending champion Houston Rockets. They then beat the Utah Jazz in seven games in the western finals to advance to its first NBA championship round since 1979.

Road to the FinalsEdit

Seattle SuperSonics (Western Conference champion) Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference champion)
Western Conference
# Team W L PCT GB GP
1 c-Seattle SuperSonics * 64 18 .780 82
2 y-San Antonio Spurs * 59 23 .720 5 82
3 x-Utah Jazz 55 27 .671 9 82
4 x-Los Angeles Lakers 53 29 .646 11 82
5 x-Houston Rockets 48 34 .585 16 82
6 x-Portland Trail Blazers 44 38 .537 20 82
7 x-Phoenix Suns 41 41 .500 23 82
8 x-Sacramento Kings 39 43 .476 25 82
9 Golden State Warriors 36 46 .439 28 82
10 Denver Nuggets 35 47 .427 29 82
11 Los Angeles Clippers 29 53 .354 35 82
12 Minnesota Timberwolves 26 56 .317 38 82
13 Dallas Mavericks 26 56 .317 38 82
14 Vancouver Grizzlies 15 67 .183 49 82

1st seed in the West, 2nd best league record

Regular season
Eastern Conference
# Team W L PCT GB GP
1 z-Chicago Bulls * 72 10 .878 82
2 y-Orlando Magic * 60 22 .732 12.0 82
3 x-Indiana Pacers 52 30 .634 20.0 82
4 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 51 31 .622 21.0 82
5 x-New York Knicks 47 35 .573 25.0 82
6 x-Atlanta Hawks 46 36 .561 26.0 82
7 x-Detroit Pistons 46 36 .561 26.0 82
8 x-Miami Heat 42 40 .512 30.0 82
9 Charlotte Hornets 41 41 .500 31.0 82
10 Washington Bullets 39 43 .476 33.0 82
11 Boston Celtics 33 49 .402 39.0 82
12 New Jersey Nets 30 52 .366 42.0 82
13 Milwaukee Bucks 25 57 .305 47.0 82
14 Toronto Raptors 21 61 .256 51.0 82
15 Philadelphia 76ers 18 64 .220 54.0 82
1st seed in the East, best league record
Defeated the (8) Sacramento Kings, 3–1 First Round Defeated the (8) Miami Heat, 3–0
Defeated the (5) Houston Rockets, 4–0 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (5) New York Knicks, 4–1
Defeated the (3) Utah Jazz, 4–3 Conference Finals Defeated the (2) Orlando Magic, 4–0

Regular season seriesEdit

Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team:

1996 NBA Finals rostersEdit

Chicago BullsEdit

1995–96 Chicago Bulls roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY-MM-DD) From
G 0 Brown, Randy 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1968–05–22 New Mexico State
G/F 30 Buechler, Jud 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1968–06–19 Arizona
F 35 Caffey, Jason 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 255 lb (116 kg) 1973–06–12 Alabama
C 53 Edwards, James 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1955–11–22 Washington
F 54 Haley, Jack 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 240 lb (109 kg) 1964–01–27 UCLA
G 9 Harper, Ron 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1964–01–20 Miami (OH)
G 23 Jordan, Michael (C) 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1963–02–17 North Carolina
G 25 Kerr, Steve 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1965–09–27 Arizona
G/F 7 Kukoc, Toni 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1968–09–18 Croatia
C 13 Longley, Luc 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) 265 lb (120 kg) 1969–01–19 New Mexico
G/F 33 Pippen, Scottie (C) 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 218 lb (99 kg) 1965–09–25 Central Arkansas
F 91 Rodman, Dennis 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1961–05–13 SE Oklahoma State
F 22 Salley, John 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1964–05–16 Georgia Tech
F 8 Simpkins, Dickey 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 248 lb (112 kg) 1972–04–06 Providence
C 34 Wennington, Bill 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1963–04–26 St. John's
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  •   Injured

Seattle SuperSonicsEdit

1995–96 Seattle SuperSonics roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY-MM-DD) From
G/F 2 Askew, Vincent 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1966–02–28 Memphis
F/C 34 Brickowski, Frank 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 240 lb (109 kg) 1959–08–14 Penn State
F 1 Ford, Sherell 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1972–08–26 Illinois
G 33 Hawkins, Hersey 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1966–09–29 Bradley
C 50 Johnson, Ervin 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1967–12–21 New Orleans
F/C 40 Kemp, Shawn 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1969–11–26 Trinity Valley CC
G/F 10 McMillan, Nate 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 195 lb (88 kg) 1964–08–03 North Carolina State
G 20 Payton, Gary 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1968–07–23 Oregon State
F/C 14 Perkins, Sam 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1961–06–14 North Carolina
F/C 55 Scheffler, Steve 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 250 lb (113 kg) 1967–09–03 Purdue
F/C 11 Schrempf, Detlef 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 214 lb (97 kg) 1963–01–21 Washington
G 3 Snow, Eric 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1973–04–04 Michigan State
G/F 25 Wingate, David 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1963–12–15 Georgetown
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  •   Injured

Series summaryEdit

Game Date Away Team Result Home Team
Game 1 Wednesday, June 5 Seattle SuperSonics 90–107 (0–1) Chicago Bulls
Game 2 Friday, June 7 Seattle SuperSonics 88–92 (0–2) Chicago Bulls
Game 3 Sunday, June 9 Chicago Bulls 108–86 (3–0) Seattle SuperSonics
Game 4 Wednesday, June 12 Chicago Bulls 86–107 (3–1) Seattle SuperSonics
Game 5 Friday, June 14 Chicago Bulls 78–89 (3–2) Seattle SuperSonics
Game 6 Sunday, June 16 Seattle SuperSonics 75–87 (2–4) Chicago Bulls
All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC−4).

Game 1Edit

June 5
9:00 et
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Seattle SuperSonics 90, Chicago Bulls 107
Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 30–29, 29–26, 13–28
Pts: Shawn Kemp 32
Rebs: Gary Payton 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
Pts: Michael Jordan 28
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 13
Asts: Ron Harper 7
Chicago leads the series, 1–0
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 24,544
Referees:
  • No. 43 Danny Crawford
  • No. 17 Joey Crawford
  • No. 15 Bennett Salvatore

Although Chicago was not playing well offensively, they were able to compensate with superb defense. Chicago was leading only by 2 at the end of the third quarter, however in the final quarter shots by Toni Kukoč and 2 key steals by Ron Harper clinched the Bulls a win.

Game 2Edit

June 7
9:00 et
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Seattle SuperSonics 88, Chicago Bulls 92
Scoring by quarter: 27–23, 18–23, 20–30, 23–16
Pts: Shawn Kemp 29
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 13
Asts: Payton, Schrempf 3 each
Pts: Michael Jordan 29
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 20
Asts: Michael Jordan 8
Chicago leads the series, 2–0
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 24,544
Referees:
  • No. 42 Hue Hollins
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush

Game two started well for Seattle with a 27–23 first quarter lead. However Seattle would once again lose the lead before halftime. Despite Shawn Kemp's 29 points and 13 rebounds, Chicago triumphed with a final score of 92 to 88. In the victory, Dennis Rodman tied an NBA Finals record with 11 offensive rebounds.

Game 3Edit

June 9
7:30 et
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Chicago Bulls 108, Seattle SuperSonics 86
Scoring by quarter: 34–16, 28–22, 13–23, 33–25
Pts: Michael Jordan 36
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 10
Asts: Scottie Pippen 9
Pts: Detlef Schrempf 20
Rebs: Brickowski, Payton 7 each
Asts: Gary Payton 9
Chicago leads the series, 3–0
KeyArena, Seattle, Washington
Attendance: 17,072
Referees:
  • No. 27 Dick Bavetta
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 29 Steve Javie

The Sonics suffered a 22-point blow-out on their return to Seattle, giving the Chicago Bulls a seemingly insurmountable 3–0 series lead.

Game 4Edit

June 12
9:00 et
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Chicago Bulls 86, Seattle SuperSonics 107
Scoring by quarter: 21–25, 11–28, 31–31, 23–23
Pts: Michael Jordan 23
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 14
Asts: Scottie Pippen 8
Pts: Shawn Kemp 25
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 11
Asts: Gary Payton 11
Chicago leads the series, 3–1
KeyArena, Seattle, Washington
Attendance: 17,072
Referees:
  • No. 17 Joey Crawford
  • No. 13 Mike Mathis
  • No. 21 Bill Oakes

Seattle did not want to suffer the ignominy of a sweep. Going into this game, the SuperSonics were looking to rebound from the deficit. They temporarily succeeded with a 107–86 win over the Bulls. The series would now go to five games. The Sonics were helped by the return of team captain Nate McMillan whose presence entering the game brought the KeyArena crowd to its feet.

Game 5Edit

June 14
9:00 et
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Chicago Bulls 78, Seattle SuperSonics 89
Scoring by quarter: 18–18, 24–25, 18–19, 18–27
Pts: Michael Jordan 26
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 12
Asts: Scottie Pippen 5
Pts: Gary Payton 23
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
Chicago leads the series, 3–2
KeyArena, Seattle, Washington
Attendance: 17,072
Referees:
  • No. 42 Hue Hollins
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush

Seattle would once again deny the Bulls the championship, stretching the series to six games. Payton had this to say: "We feel great. We knew we could play with this team. It just took too long. We should have come with this a little earlier."[2] Shawn Kemp's performance in this game was considered by many to be his best in a Seattle uniform.

Game 6Edit

June 16
7:30 pm
Recap at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 1996)
Seattle SuperSonics 75, Chicago Bulls 87
Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 20–21, 20–22, 17–20
Pts: Detlef Schrempf 23
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 14
Asts: Gary Payton 7
Pts: Michael Jordan 22
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 19
Asts: Michael Jordan 7
Chicago wins the series, 4–2
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 24,544
Referees:
  • No. 27 Dick Bavetta
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 29 Steve Javie

Chicago won the series 4 games to 2 on Father's Day. The victory was partly due to the stellar performance of the Bulls power forward Dennis Rodman, who repeated his Game 2 performance of 11 offensive rebounds, tying his own NBA Finals record.

Player statisticsEdit

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game
Chicago Bulls
Player GP GS MPG FG% 3FG% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Randy Brown 6 0 8.2 .500 .500 .500 0.3 0.9 0.7 0.0 2.8
Jud Buechler 6 0 5.6 .222 .000 .000 0.0 0.2 0.7 0.0 0.7
Ron Harper 6 4 19.3 .375 .308 .917 2.3 1.7 0.7 0.3 6.5
Michael Jordan 6 6 42.0 .415 .316 .836 5.3 4.2 1.7 0.2 27.3
Steve Kerr 6 0 18.8 .303 .182 .857 0.9 0.8 0.2 0.0 5.0
Toni Kukoč 6 2 29.5 .423 .313 .800 4.8 3.5 0.8 0.3 13.0
Luc Longley 6 6 28.3 .574 .000 .727 3.8 2.2 0.6 1.8 11.7
Scottie Pippen 6 6 41.3 .343 .231 .708 8.2 5.3 2.3 1.3 15.7
Dennis Rodman 6 6 37.5 .486 .000 .579 14.7 2.5 0.8 0.2 7.5
John Salley 5 0 3.0 .000 .000 .000 0.2 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bill Wennington 6 0 7.0 .667 .000 .500 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.0 2.9
Seattle SuperSonics
Player GP GS MPG FG% 3FG% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Vincent Askew 4 0 15.5 .222 .200 1.000 2.5 0.5 0.5 0.0 1.8
Frank Brickowski 6 3 11.3 .222 .200 .000 2.0 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.8
Hersey Hawkins 6 6 38.3 .455 .273 .923 3.5 1.0 1.2 0.2 13.3
Ervin Johnson 3 3 6.7 .333 .000 .000 2.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 1.3
Shawn Kemp 6 6 40.3 .551 .000 .857 10.0 2.2 1.3 2.0 23.3
Nate McMillan 4 0 12.8 .429 .600 1.000 2.8 1.5 0.5 0.0 2.8
Gary Payton 6 6 45.7 .444 .333 .731 6.3 7.0 1.5 0.0 18.0
Sam Perkins 6 0 31.7 .377 .235 .810 4.7 2.0 0.5 0.0 11.2
Steve Scheffler 4 0 2.0 .000 .000 .000 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Detlef Schrempf 6 6 39.7 .443 .389 .875 5.0 2.5 0.5 0.2 16.3
Eric Snow 6 0 1.5 .000 .000 .000 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
David Wingate 6 0 8.0 .500 .500 1.000 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.5

QuotesEdit

  • "The Chicago Bulls have won the 1995-96 NBA championship." - Marv Albert on final call in Game 6 on NBC - June 16, 1996
  • "...fourth in 6 years. After a 2-year absence, the Chicago Bulls have regain the NBA throne." - Brent Musberger on final call in Game 6 on ESPN Radio - June 16, 1996

AftermathEdit

The 1996 NBA Finals would be the last Finals appearance of the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics would win the Pacific Division again in 1997 and 1998, but fell to the second round of the playoffs each time. The series was George Karl's only Finals appearance in his coaching career to date. In 2008, the Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. They would make the finals four years later after the move.

This was also the last time a Seattle-based team played for a major professional sports championship until Super Bowl XL in 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks would go on to handily defeat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 and lose to the New England Patriots the following year in Super Bowl XLIX. In terms of overall sports leagues, the city would later enjoy five championships when the WNBA's Seattle Storm, a one-time SuperSonics sister team, won the 2004, the 2010 and the 2018 WNBA Finals, and MLS's Seattle Sounders FC won 2016 MLS Cup and 2019 MLS Cup.

The Bulls came close to winning 70 games for the second straight year, instead settling for a 69-win campaign in 1997. They won their second straight title over the Utah Jazz in six games of the 1997 NBA Finals. In the off-season that preceded Scottie Pippen became the first person to win NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice, playing for Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics.[3] The Bulls would also defeat the Utah Jazz in six games in the 1998 NBA Finals.

The Bulls' combined 87 wins in the regular season and postseason would stand as an NBA record until the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, coached by former Bull Steve Kerr, broke it with 88 total wins (thanks to the first round using a best-of-7 format instead of the best-of-5 in 1996), including a 73-9 regular season mark. However, the Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, failing to repeat as champions after beating the same Cavaliers in the previous Finals. The Warriors (with the addition of Kevin Durant, who had played for the Sonics in their final season in Seattle and for the Thunder until he became a free agent in 2016) and Cavaliers met for the third consecutive time in the 2017 NBA Finals, which the Warriors won in five games.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-09. Retrieved 2018-09-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2006-03-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Smith, Sam (August 4, 1996). "DREAM TEAM'S SLEEPWALK ENDS WITH GOLD MEDAL". Chicago Tribune. p. 1.

External linksEdit