Friday, June 17th, 2011 at 3:12 pm  |  27 responses

The First Ride

The Chicago Bulls’ run of dominance began with the ’91 NBA title.

#chicago bulls

In the first round, Chicago swept the Knicks, then laughed off Barkley and the Sixers in the quarterfinals—setting the stage for the most pivotal series in the careers of every player and coach for that Bulls squad.

PERDUE: The biggest thing I remember was the physicality of how they played the game and how you just…you weren’t afraid of it, but you knew by the time the game was over—regardless of how many minutes you played—you were going to be spent, possibly bruised. They had this way with the rules. It’s like the speed limit. Even if the speed limit is 55, you still go 65 and the thinking is, “Well, if I don’t get caught, is it really illegal?” The Pistons really pushed the envelope.

SCOOP: This was a big series for Michael, but it might have been bigger for Scottie. He had to get past the Pistons. That haunted him. Detroit picked on him, thought that he was the mentally weak link. It wasn’t just the Jordan Rules, know what I’m sayin’?! More importantly, it was the Pippen Rules! Get inside his head, because he doesn’t have the pedigree of these other guys—that’s how they went at it.

PIPPEN: Yeah, there was some pressure. I had the migraine thing in Game 7. I probably let people down and people were disappointed. It was going to take some time to erase those scars. Getting past the Pistons was going to help turn that corner.

The Bulls took the first two games in Chicago and headed to Detroit up 2-0.

TELANDER: I think Jordan realized, “They don’t have anybody anywhere remotely like me.” And then the rest of the team finally realized, “We just have to play our positions and play really hard and then this crazy motherfucker will lead us to the Promise Land.”

FALK: There was no wall you could erect or Jordan Rules you could implement to keep him from winning that ring. The Pistons were finding that out.

After the Bulls take Game 3 in Detroit (on their way to a sweep), MJ called the Pistons dirty and unsportsmanlike. The Pistons responded by walking off the court before the final buzzer of Game 4.

HODGES: We realized that the reason they had to rough us up is because they couldn’t get over our athleticism. Michael, Scottie, Horace running all over the court—that scared them, so they tried to bully us. But all that was over. Everybody got tougher. Detroit had been thugging us out. We had to say, “Fuck that! Let’s go. Let’s keep jumping over these muthafuckas.” And when we got in there, they knew what time it was. That’s why, after we swept them, they walked off. They knew the team they’d been punking had just punked them, and they couldn’t handle it.

SCOOP: Once we got through the Pistons, in our minds, the Finals was easy. We didn’t look at anyone else as a challenge, especially because of the way we beat Detroit. A sweep? On their floor? Man, you could have thrown the Western Conference All-Stars at us and we’d have thought the title was ours.

TELANDER: When people think back on that year, a lot of folks remember them getting over the Pistons Hump, but that Finals was a big deal, too. Magic was The Man, but he had a funky game. He ran with his ass sticking out, had a weird set shot. The League and the world were ready for a change. If Jordan were to beat Magic, you knew it would signal a huge switch and change in the culture of basketball. #michael jordan

Although all the build-up concerned the two MJs, the key move—the X-factor—was Phil and assistant coach Johnny Bach’s decision to put Pippen on Magic. After the Lakers stole home court advantage in Game 1, Pippen put Magic in the trick bag, and, ultimately, the Bulls had their first title.

PIPPEN: I knew that all the hoopla was built around Magic and Michael, but the reality was that Magic was not the match-up for Michael. That’s how the fans and media wanted it, but we knew it wouldn’t be beneficial for Michael to spend his time on Magic. I wanted that challenge, so I took it.

HODGES: Before the Finals started, Scottie said, “I might not score a bucket, but I guarantee you that Magic’s gonna be tired as hell by the time I get through hounding his ass.” You know, that move Michael made when he switched to the left hand for the layup—that was the highlight. But, man, Scottie had Magic spinning like a top.

HODGES: That previous summer, we said that we weren’t gonna feel like that as a unit again, so everybody went home and got in their thing. When we came back, anybody could have coached us. We used to have to cut practices short—they were so intense. I challenge any team to beat that ’91 crew.

SCOTT WILLIAMS (‘90 First-round pick, MJ’s fellow Tar Heel): That was the start of something special. Now, we weren’t only the team with the biggest star in the world, we were the champs, too. It snowballed from there. From that point on, we were like the Stones or U2 or The Jackson 5. It’d be like 2 a.m. on a snowy night in Cleveland and people would be waiting for us to get off the bus so they could get our autographs…well, they were waiting for Michael and Scottie—but you get the point.

SCOOP: I was in The Chi for the ’91 run. Let me tell you something: The. City. Lost. Its. Mind! People spilling into the streets, yelling out windows, waving flags, honking horns. Mayhem. I remember this one girl was riding passenger side in a car, basically sitting all the way outside the vehicle on the door. The car was going maybe 20 mph or so. Anyway, something happened and the girl fell off the car, on her face! I mean, she cracked her skull. The girl got right back up, blood streaming all down her face and everything and got right back to celebrating. We were like, “What are you doing?! You cracked your face open!” She was like, “I don’t care! We the champs!” It was bugged out. But that’s how it was for almost the next 10 years with the Bulls. Euphoria.

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  • http://Philosophervision@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen saved Michael Jordan’s legacy by Pippen guarding Magic…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    The Best Ever.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I was seven years old when I would chill with my pops and watch the Bulls that season.
    I had always heard of the Bulls and Michael Jordan, and had caught glimpses of the Bulls on tv before that, but that was the first season I started to actually sit down, pay attention to the tv, and watch the full games.
    My dad had been a point guard on his team back in Mexico so he had always loved basketball, and he loved that I was getting into it.
    That season was magical. It not only made me fall in love with the Bulls, it subsequently made me fall in love with basketball, which eventually made me fall in love with SLAM Magazine, which is the reason I am here today typing this while I should be working. Lol.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    Damn….I was 21 when I watched Mike take his first title home. Thanks for that, Enig.


    The ’91 Conference Finals was my 1st b-ball experience ever. I was only 11 @ the time. When the Finals came. I instantly became a Bulls fan. And I didn’t appreciate the defense that Pip did on Magic until much much later n life. I became a Bulls fan cuz of MJ. And only when he left the 1st time, did I truly c how gr8 Scottie was. From that point on, even when MJ came back, I was a die-hard Pip fan. Damn! Can’t believe its been 20 years. Its crazy. Nice memories tho.


    Its funny. I used 2 think those ol skool title shirts were dope. So 90′s. Haha!

  • All Day

    “Magic was The Man, but he had a funky game. He ran with his ass sticking out, had a weird set shot”…Telander went in on Magic!!!

  • All Day

    That was around the time when MJ, Pip, and Horace Grant used to rock those ugly ass Zooba pants!!!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I was 4, but I still remember the first title. I remember “the move” (the layup on worthy where he switched hands, for no real reason) and one of my uncles trippin out like he just saw man fly.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    The greatest perimeter defender of all time was a huge reason for the bulls success over the 90s. Without him, no way MJ gobbles up 6 rings and PJax walks around with a fist full of loot.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Least you got to celebrate the ‘chip with an alcoholic beverage, E.
    I got to celebrate with a quick “OK, I let you watch the game, now get your ass to bed” from pops.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Great stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.l.brewer3 BlackPhantom

    Great article. It sucks that I wasn’t alive then…

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Scoop using “we” to discuss the Bulls was mildly amusing.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ 1982

    GREAT article. To my knowledge, no teams have been as revered as the MJ Bulls, and for good reason.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    BlackPhantom makes us ALL feel old.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.l.brewer3 BlackPhantom

    Man, y’all are lucky. I’m growing up in an age of mass ignorance. Sports were better back then, Music back them is a million times better than now.

  • doyouwantmore

    Sorry, but Scoop Jackson doesn’t write about basketball. He uses basketball to write about Liberalism.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Yeah, music was WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY better back then, for sure!
    At least you recognize that, BP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.l.brewer3 BlackPhantom

    Shoot man. Y’all had Tupac and Biggie as the biggest mainstream rappers, now it’s freakin’ Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. That’s probably why I listen to alot of different stuff. But coming back to basketball, I started watching in ’99. Kobe and Shaq were pretty cool to me, so I became a Lakers fan. I still am a die-hard Lakers fan, and Kobe Bryant is my all-time favorite player, but I know who the best is. It’s MJ- no doubt in my mind- I’ve studied highlights. And I gotta say he’s the best, based on that and his stats. But I can’t really call him my favorite all-time player, because the only time he played while I was old enough to understand basketball’s concept….he was with the Wizards(even though he was still very good in my opinion).

  • robb

    I remember that day very well, it was one day after my 10th birthday and it was the best present I got along with my black/infrared Air Jordan VI, I wore those that day. Yeah, I was in that bandwagon too, as a kid MJ was like a superhero to all of us.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Cosign Blackphantom at 4:22 pm :)

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    and about the music thing, we still have Pac and Biggie, music never dies you know.

  • Ka

    Gotta agree with the sentiment, you fall in love with the bulls cuz of mj, but pippen was the heart/soul of the team, you rooted for his success post jordan hoping hed get that 1 ring sans mj.

  • marlon

    I was in 2nd Yr High School when i first saw the bulls win their 1st championship. My most memorable part of that series is when michael switches hands from right 2 left against the lakers at chicago & stole the ball against magic & incredibly tight ropes the sideline 4 the breakaway lay-up in LA. up 2 now i still have those videos at home.

  • dahon

    it was one of the defining moment of my life. all of my friends are rooting for the lakers back then…i felt like winnning the championship with them..sad though, after that series, magic announced that he has HIV… and then the USA dream team wooohoo……….the best time ever :)

  • blakos

    Great article