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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

1984 Changed the History of the Bulls

Por Jack Leyva

Houston and Portland, in 1984, let Michael Jordan go in the draft. This decision is one they should have regretted every day of their history. From that moment on, the National Basketball Association (NBA) would never be the same. Jordan, a 21-year-old boy at the time, was selected by the Chicago Bulls and signed his contract with the franchise on September 12, 33 years ago. Since then, the most fantastic basketball player that has ever existed, provided the Illinois team with a special power and with his help they won 6 titles in the nineties. It could have been even better if Jordan, after his father’s murder in 1993, hadn’t decided to quit basketball and played baseball for two years.

But let’s go back to 1984: that year, the Rockets selected the Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon, who would become one of the great pivots in the history of basketball, with two rings, an MVP and 12 All-stars game. The Blazers chose Sam Bowie, a promising college player that could never achieve the same level in the NBA due to multiple injuries. Not one of them thought about signing up Jordan. The Bulls did it and shortly one the most fabulous dynasties of the sports universe would emerge. This reconstruction process, headed by Jerry Reinsdorf and the general manager, Jerry Krause, had Jordan as the main player of the team, which would bring about great results. The impact that he had on the Bulls and the NBA was immediate. The Chicago team went from the tenth to the seventh position in the East Conference and they won more games than in their three previous campaigns. Individually, Michael would be Rookie of the Year.

However, in six seasons, despite of being always in the play-offs, they never made it past the decisive games. From 1985 to 1987, they couldn’t even get to the first round of the post- season, defeated by Milwaukee and then twice by the magnificent Celtics, with Larry Bird at the top of his game. In 1988 they won their first series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but then they lost again with the Pistons from Detroit. With that team they would live one of the tensest rivalries in the NBA history. The Pistons would defeat them in the Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990, a fact that was frustrating for Michael, who had already won an MVP. Nothing lasts forever and after some negative moments facing the Pistons, in 1991, with Phil Jackson as head coach, The Bulls won 4-0 in the Conference Finals and then defeated the Lakers to win their first NBA crown. Thanks to Michael’s electricity and virtuosity, the Bulls won over 57 consecutive games in three seasons and in two of them they surpassed the barrier of the 60 games. In each one of these campaigns, until the year of 1993, Michael and the Bulls became invincible. Other players, like Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen also contributed.

In the summer of 1993, Michael decided to try to play baseball but he only made it to the Minor Leagues, unsuccessfully. The Bulls still had a very potent team but they were not the same without their star player and they couldn’t even make it to the finals that year. In 1995, Jordan would come back to the Chicago team. With Michael leading and Pippen still a very lethal player, a very eccentric but phenomenal Dennis Rodman and the Croatian Toni Kukoč, the Bulls won three seasons in a row. They would not only win the NBA title but they would also break the Lakers’ record of 69 consecutive wins with 72 of their own. It would take more than twenty years for it to be broken by the Golden State Warriors. In the period of time in which he played for the Bulls for the second time, Jordan won two times the MVP and was also the MVP in each one of the three finals in which he played. After the season of 1998, Phil Jackson’s contract expired, there was no certainty about the fact that Pippen and Rodman were staying as part of the team and the league was facing a strike. With all these things in mind, Jordan decided to retire again and the Bulls could never achieve their old splendor. In the six years that would come, they couldn’t even make it to the post seasons and so far, they have never again disputed an NBA final.