Today in Sports History: June 16, 1996

On June 16, 1996, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls completed their historic 1995-96 season by clinching the NBA championship. The Bulls won a then-record 72 wins during the 1995-96 regular season. The Bulls cruised through the playoffs and advanced to the NBA Finals to win the first three games of the Finals series against the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp-led Seattle SuperSonics. They lost Game 4 and 5, but closed out the series in a Game 6 blowout. This Game 6 Bulls victory fell on Father’s Day of 1996 and Jordan emotionally dedicated the title to his father — as it was his first championship since his father’s passing. This 1996 title victory marked the fourth of an eventual six championships for Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls. 

Jordan and Pippen forged one of the greatest superstar duos of all time during their first run of three consecutive championships from 1990-91 – 1992-93, while playing under the brilliant Coach Phil Jackson, and his equally brilliant sidekick, Tex Winter. Jordan showcased himself as one of the most mind-blowing basketball players and athletes ever witnessed. Both he and Pippen had become eminent global wide figures while representing the United States “Dream Team” in the 1992 Olympics. Following the Bulls’ 1992-93 title, Jordan had an extraordinarily difficult summer. He tragically lost his father, and soon after, retired from the Bulls. Jordan decided to play baseball in the minor leagues, which was his father’s favorite sport. 

Even in Jordan’s absence, the Bulls had relative success in 1993-94, finishing 55-27 and they reached the second round of the playoffs. Late in the 1994-95 season, Jordan announced his return to the Bulls with the following words: “I’m Back.” For what was left of the 1994-95 season, Jordan did not wear the No. 23, his iconic Bulls jersey number, but rather the No. 45, the jersey number he had worn in the minor leagues. The Bulls fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway-led Orlando Magic. 

In the offseason of 1995, the Bulls traded for Dennis Rodman, one of the greatest defensive players and rebounders of all time, to accompany Jordan and Pippen, two of the greatest two-way threats of all time. Rodman had a competitive history with Jordan, Pippen, and the Bulls — Rodman had been part of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons teams that had frustrated them in the playoffs each year from 1988 – 1990. 

Jordan switched back to the jersey No. 23 in 1995-96 and had one of the most dominant NBA seasons of all time. Jordan won the MVP, the All-Star Game MVP, the Finals MVP, while leading the league in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs — an unbelievable feat he would achieve once again in 1997-98: “The Last Dance” season. In 1995-96, Jordan won his fourth of an eventual five MVPs, his fourth of a record six Finals MVPs, and his eighth of a record 10 scoring titles. Jackson was named Coach of the Year in 1995-96 and Bulls reserve Tony Kukoc was named Sixth Man of the Year. Everything clicked for the Bulls as they dominated the NBA and began their second run of three consecutive titles. The Jordan-led Bulls cemented their place in history as one of the most illustrious sports dynasties of all time.

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