Retrospective: 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Now, when kicking off DAR Sports Week, where could we start? As a NBA fan, there was one place to truly start and that was on the greatest team of all time: the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. At the present time, the Golden State Warriors are currently in prime position to challenge the record for the best season in NBA history, but regardless, the 95-96 Bulls are etched in history as the best team the NBA had seen. Now, some other teams could be seen as a stronger force in some areas, but the Bulls roster was full of depth, the coaching and the triangle offense was unstoppable, and they were able to put it all together to create something special.

The Bulls 1995-1996 Roster
-Michael Jordan 
-Dennis Rodman 
-Scottie Pippen 
-Toni Kukoc
-Luc Longley 
-Steve Kerr
-Ron Harper 
-John Salley
-Bill Wennington 
-Jason Caffey 
-Randy Brown
-Jud Buechler 
-James Edwards 
-Jack Haley 
-Dickey Simpkins 

The Bulls would begin their second 3-Peat run with a season opening win over the Charlotte Hornets 105-91, backed by Jordan's 42 points. The Bulls would implement all the right tools to continue their winning ways by blowing out the Boston Celtics in a 22 point blowout. As the season progressed through the month of November, the Bulls would start off 5-0 with Pippen and Jordan playing amazing in the first games, but the Magic would stop their undefeated run. The Bulls regrouped and continued to win, beating the Jazz, Spurs and Mavericks before losing for the 2nd time during the season to the Supersonics. The Bulls closed out November with a win against the Vancouver Grizzlies and started off December with a win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Bulls would eventually lose for the third time against the Indiana Pacers after a 13 game winning streak. Jordan would have what some consider an off night shooting percentage wise, yet he still finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, while Pippen contributed 26 points. The Bulls, even in a losing effort, were still playing top notch basketball. The Bulls would avenge the loss to the Pacers three days later and continued to roll on, starting up yet another win streak.

What truly stamped the greatness of this season was the Bulls going undefeated in the month of January, showing that they were no joke. The Bulls would only lose 3 games in February, and continue their run to be the first and only team to get over 70 wins in one season. Jordan during this stretch was playing great, but one fact that sometimes gets overlooked is the success of Scottie Pippen. Pippen on the regular would rack up a double-double or a triple-double on back to back nights, sometimes contributing more to the game than Jordan may have that night. When we look back on this 1995-1996 season, one has to recognize the greatness of Pippen and all his hard work and superb play throughout the season.

The Bulls suffered back to back losses in February, losing to the Nuggets and then to the Suns. The Nuggets game would see Jordan attempt to carry the team, as he finished the game with 39 points, but the Nuggets would win 105-99, despite Bill Wennington contributing 18 points and 11 rebounds in a solid effort. Pippen wasn't very effective this game, and that could have made the difference. After their 4th loss of the season, the Bulls would end up losing to the Suns 106-96, as Charles Barkley had an excellent game with 35 points and 16 rebounds. Jordan racked up 28 points, and Pippen nearly had a triple-double, but the Bulls would end up losing to the Suns to take their record to 41-5 at this time.

The Bulls would win another 7 straight games, before losing their 6th game of the season to the Miami Heat, as Rex Chapman was on fire for the Heat hitting 9 three pointers in the game, and finishing with 39 points to give the Heat a 113-104 victory. After another 6 game winning streak, the Bulls would have quite an embarrassing night getting blown out by the Knicks in NY, 104-72. They were now 54-7 and though that loss was truly crushing in essence, the Bulls would manage to rebound and start another 6 game winning streak. Coming into Toronto to take on the expansion team Raptors, the Bulls would suffer a defeat to become 60-8, after the Raptors walked away with the 109-108 close victory. The Bulls would go on yet another 6 game winning streak, that seemed like a pattern.

Going into a home game against the Charlotte Hornets, the Bulls were 66-8, and they were undefeated at home. Until this game. The Hornets pulled out a close victory 98-97 despite Jordan having an amazing game with 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. After 66-9, the Bulls would go on another 5 game winning streak, before suffering their final loss against the Pacers, then winning the final game of the season to finish out the year at 72-10, setting a NBA record. Of course, the Bulls would go into playoffs as the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the top team in the entire NBA.

For the season, Jordan would be the leading scorer in the NBA, with 30.4 PPG, while Pippen finished this season with a strong 19.4 PPG, while Toni Kukoc would contribute 13.1 PPG for the season. The Bulls would see Dennis Rodman average 14.9 rebounds per game on the year, and with everyone on the team playing as hard as possible, history was achieved. Now, completing the regular season at 72-10 is no easy task, but how would the Bulls fare in the playoffs? As we covered in a previous NBA Finals post, the Bulls would defeat the Sonics in a 6 game series to win the NBA Championship, and their path to the Finals was quite smooth.

The Bulls would start out the playoffs sweeping the Miami Heat, winning the first two games in huge blowout victories. That put a stamp on this Bulls team and showed they weren't playing any games in the postseason. The semifinals would see the epic Bulls vs Knicks rivalry continue, as the Bulls would once again have the Knicks number, defeating them in 5 games to advance to the Conference Finals against last year's Eastern Conference champions Orlando Magic. The previous year, after Jordan returned from retirement near the end of the season, the Bulls suffered a crushing defeat in the playoffs against the Orlando Magic. In the Conference Finals in this season, the Bulls would avenge this loss, sweeping the Magic right out of the playoffs, and setting up their date with destiny against the Sonics. The Bulls would complete the dream season after winning the NBA Finals and would end up beginning their 2nd 3-Peat to etch their names in history even more. Now, with the Warriors coming off of a great season that saw them go 67-15, and a possible chance to match or beat the Bulls record, one has to look back at the Bulls and see what got them to the point of making history. Having the greatest player of all time was truly the key, but the supporting cast also played a strong role, especially Pippen, Rodman and Kukoc. You can win games on the back of a star player, but what wins championships is solid teamwork, sound coaching, and the confidence displayed. There may never be another team quite like the 1995-1996 Bulls. Reflect on their greatness and pay homage.



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