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1996 NBA Finals

1996 NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls Phil Jackson 4
Seattle SuperSonics George Karl 2
Dates June 5 – 16
MVP Michael Jordan
(Chicago Bulls)
Television NBC (U.S.)
Announcers Marv Albert, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton
Radio network ESPN
Announcers Brent Musburger and Jack Ramsay
Game 1: Dan Crawford, Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore
Game 2: Hue Hollins, Jess Kersey, Ed T. Rush
Game 3: Dick Bavetta, Hugh Evans, Steve Javie
Game 4: Joe Crawford, Mike Mathis, Bill Oakes
Game 5: Hue Hollins, Jess Kersey, Ed T. Rush
Game 6: Dick Bavetta, Hugh Evans, Steve Javie
Hall of Famers Bulls:
Michael Jordan (2009)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
Gary Payton (2013)
Phil Jackson (2007)
Tex Winter (2011)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
Eastern Finals Bulls defeat Magic, 4–0
Western Finals SuperSonics defeat Jazz, 4–3
NBA Finals

The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the 1995-96 NBA season of the National Basketball Association. The Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) of the Western Conference took on the Chicago Bulls (72–10) of the Eastern Conference, with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125 set in 1985. The series was played under a best-of-seven format.

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

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

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

This was the 50th NBA Finals played.


In the playoffs, the Bulls lost only three games in four series, defeating Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, head coach George Karl and their Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals to win the NBA Championship. The Bulls won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, but the Sonics rallied back to win the next two at home. Eventually, the more experienced Bulls proved to be too much as the Bulls captured their fourth title (after a two-year hiatus). For his performance in the series against Seattle, Michael Jordan was named the Finals MVP.

Chicago Bulls

Michael Jordan decided to return to basketball in 1995, after a short stint as a baseball player. Although he failed to lead the Bulls to the Finals in that year, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year and led the Chicago Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. Freshly motivated by the playoff defeat against the Orlando Magic, the Bulls trained aggressively in preparation for the 1995–96 season. By then most of the members of the first three-peat were gone, either through retirement (John Paxson, Bill Cartwright) or free agency and trades (Horace Grant, Scott Williams, Stacey King).

In the off-season, the Bulls lost B.J. Armstrong in the expansion draft, but Bulls general manager Jerry Krause pulled off a masterful deal by trading Will Perdue to the San Antonio Spurs for notorious rebounder Dennis Rodman, who had won the past four rebounding titles. Many doubted whether Rodman, who as a member of the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons teams of the late 1980s played a key role in the Jordan Rules defense the Pistons implemented during their fierce rivalry with the Bulls, would fit in with his former rivals. However, those questions were put to rest once the season began.

That year, strengthened by the addition of Dennis Rodman, the Bulls dominated the league. With a lineup of Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley, and perhaps the league's best bench in Toni Kukoč, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Jason Caffey, Bill Wennington, Dickey Simpkins and guard Randy Brown, the Bulls posted one of the best single-season improvements in league history and the best single-season record. They moved from 47–35 to 72–10. Jordan won his eighth scoring title, and Rodman his fifth straight rebounding title, while Kerr led the league in three-point shooting. Michael Jordan won the league's regular season and All-Star Game MVP awards.

Jerry Krause won the executive of the year award, Phil Jackson won the coach of the year award, and Toni Kukoč was the sixth man of the year. Both Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan made the all-NBA first team, and Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman all made the all-defensive first team, the only time three players from the same team had done so.

The Chicago Bulls had no problems during the playoffs. After demolishing Miami by over 15 points per game in the first round, they would go 4–1 against the Knicks in the semifinals to get revenge and sweep the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Seattle SuperSonics

The Seattle SuperSonics, coached by George Karl and led by All-Stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, emerged as contenders in the Western Conference by 1992. The Sonics broke through in the 1993 NBA Playoffs, pushing the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns to a seventh game in the conference finals. Then in the 1993–94 season, the Sonics finished atop the league with 63 victories. However, in the greatest playoff upset in NBA history, the Sonics lost 3 games to 2 to the eighth seeded Denver Nuggets, who finished 21 games behind Seattle in the West. Seattle would once again be upset in the first round of the 1995 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. By this time, Seattle had a formidable All-Star duo in Payton and Kemp, plus role players in Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins and Hersey Hawkins.

After two first round defeats, Seattle would make a major comeback in the 1996 season, finishing with a 64–18 record to lead the Western Conference, and setting the record for highest single-season win total in SuperSonics history. Seattle blew through Sacramento in the first round; 3 games to 1. It also had no problems with defending champion Houston Rockets, sweeping them. However, their playoff troubles re-emerged after dropping two games to the Utah Jazz to bring the series to 3–3. However, Seattle took game 7 and won what was one of the most exciting series of the 1996 playoffs. Seattle would finally play in its first NBA Finals since 1979.

Road to the Finals

Main article: 1996 NBA Playoffs
Seattle SuperSonics (Western Conference Champion) Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference Champion)
Western Conference
# Team W L PCT GB
1 c-Seattle SuperSonics 64 18 .780
2 y-San Antonio Spurs 59 23 .720 5
3 x-Utah Jazz 55 27 .671 9
4 x-Los Angeles Lakers 53 29 .646 11
5 x-Houston Rockets 48 34 .585 16
6 x-Portland Trail Blazers 44 38 .537 20
7 x-Phoenix Suns 41 41 .500 23
8 x-Sacramento Kings 39 43 .476 25
9 Golden State Warriors 36 46 .439 28
10 Denver Nuggets 35 47 .427 29
11 Los Angeles Clippers 29 53 .354 35
12 Dallas Mavericks 26 56 .317 38
13 Minnesota Timberwolves 26 56 .317 38
14 Vancouver Grizzlies 15 67 .183 49

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

Regular season
Eastern Conference
# Team W L PCT GB
1 z-Chicago Bulls 72 10 .878
2 y-Orlando Magic 60 22 .732 12
3 x-Indiana Pacers 52 30 .634 20
4 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 47 35 .573 25
5 x-New York Knicks 47 35 .573 25
6 x-Atlanta Hawks 46 36 .561 26
7 x-Detroit Pistons 46 36 .561 26
8 x-Miami Heat 42 40 .512 30
9 Charlotte Hornets 41 41 .500 31
10 Washington Bullets 39 43 .476 33
11 Boston Celtics 33 49 .402 39
12 New Jersey Nets 30 52 .366 42
13 Milwaukee Bucks 25 57 .305 47
14 Toronto Raptors 21 61 .256 51
15 Philadelphia 76ers 18 64 .220 54
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 series

Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team (Which was one of the ten Bulls losses of the season):

Starting Lineups

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame ‡
Chicago Position Seattle
Ron Harper PG Gary Payton
Michael Jordan SG Hersey Hawkins
Scottie Pippen SF Detlef Schrempf
Dennis Rodman PF Shawn Kemp
Luc Longley C Ervin Johnson

1996 NBA Finals Roster

1996 Chicago Bulls