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I

 

INTRODUCTION

Chicago Bulls, professional basketball team and one of eight teams in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Bulls play in the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, and wear jerseys of black, white, and red.

II

 

NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The Bulls began NBA play in 1966, and in the mid-1970s the team won more than 50 games in four consecutive seasons. The arrival of guard Michael Jordan in the mid-1980s marked the beginning of a new period of success for Chicago, culminating in three straight NBA titles (1991-1993). Jordan retired in 1993, but after he returned to the Bulls in 1995, the team won three more NBA championships—in 1996, 1997, and 1998. The 1995-96 team, which also included forwards Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, compiled a 72-10 win-loss record, the NBA’s best ever. Chicago is one of five franchises to have won consecutive NBA titles. The others are the Los Angeles Lakers (first while located in Minneapolis and then again once the team moved to Los Angeles), the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, and the Houston Rockets.

III

 

FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Bulls began NBA play in the 1966-67 season. The team registered a 33-48 win-loss record, the best ever for an NBA expansion team, and qualified for the playoffs. Before the 1968-69 season, Chicago hired Dick Motta, who had previously coached at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Stressing a defensive approach, Motta guided the Bulls to the playoffs for six straight seasons, from 1969-70 through 1974-75.

In his third year in the NBA, Motta received the coach of the year award for guiding the Bulls to 51 wins during the 1970-71 season. For the next three years the Bulls recorded over 50 wins a season, and in 1974 the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks. (Chicago moved to the Eastern Conference in 1980.) A second appearance in the conference finals followed in 1975, but Chicago lost to the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series.

In the nine years from the 1975-76 season through the 1983-84 season, the Bulls had limited success, recording only two winning marks, qualifying for the postseason only twice, and winning only one playoff series. The top player during this stretch was center Artis Gilmore.

A 27-55 win-loss record during the 1983-84 season gave Chicago rights to the third pick in the 1984 NBA draft. The Bulls selected Michael Jordan, who had an instant impact on the team. During the 1984-85 season he won the NBA rookie of the year award, averaging 28.2 points per game and helping the Bulls reach the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Chicago reached the playoffs again in 1986 and 1987. In all three years, however, the Bulls lost in the first round.

Chicago strengthened its roster in the 1987 NBA draft, selecting forward Horace Grant and trading for the draft rights to Scottie Pippen. The two players helped the Bulls improve to 50-32 during the 1987-88 season and advance to the conference semifinals, where they lost to the Pistons.

The Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990 but fell to the Pistons both years. Before the 1989-90 season, Chicago promoted Phil Jackson from assistant coach to head coach. Jackson stressed a team-oriented defense and a complex offense that made the most of Jordan and Pippen’s scoring talents. In his second season (1990-91), Jackson led the club to the NBA Finals, where the Bulls captured the franchise’s first NBA championship, defeating the Lakers in five games. In 1991-92 the Bulls won 67 games and defeated the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In the NBA Finals they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. Jordan won the most valuable player (MVP) award for both the regular season and the NBA Finals, and he led the league in scoring with 31.2 points per game.

With a lineup that featured Jordan, Grant, Pippen, guard B. J. Armstrong, and center Bill Cartwright, the Bulls won their third consecutive championship in 1993, defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games. The Bulls became one of only three teams to win three or more consecutive NBA titles. (The other two are the Minneapolis Lakers, who won titles from 1952 through 1954, and the Boston Celtics, from 1959 through 1966.)

Before the 1993-94 season Jordan announced his retirement from basketball. Without Jordan the Bulls remained a Central Division powerhouse as Pippen, with rookie forward Toni Kukoc, led the franchise to a 55-27 record. In the postseason the team fell to the Knicks in the conference semifinals. Jordan rejoined the Bulls late in the 1994-95 season and helped the club advance to the conference finals, where it lost to the Orlando Magic.

Before the 1995-96 season the Bulls signed forward Dennis Rodman, who had been the league’s leading rebounder for four consecutive seasons. The trio of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman powered the Bulls to 72 wins, breaking the NBA record for the most wins in a single season. (The previous record of 69 was held by the 1971-72 Lakers.) The Bulls defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals, four games to two, to capture the club’s fourth NBA championship. The Bulls posted a 69-13 record during the 1996-97 season behind the team’s top scorers, Jordan and Pippen. Rodman, Kukoc, and center Luc Longley provided rebounding and outstanding defense to complete a team that dominated the Eastern Conference. In the playoffs Chicago swept the Washington Bullets, then defeated the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. In the NBA Finals, the Bulls bested the Utah Jazz, 4 games to 2, to capture their fifth championship in seven seasons.

Chicago finished the 1997-98 regular season with a 62-20 record. The Bulls then bested the New Jersey Nets, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Indiana Pacers to advance to the NBA Finals against the Jazz. In the championship series, the Bulls again defeated the Jazz, 4 games to 2, and Jordan was named the series MVP. Shortly after the victory, Jackson, who had coached the club to six NBA championships, announced he was leaving the team to pursue other interests.

Before the start of the lockout-shortened 1999 season, the Bulls’ top players departed from the team and the club entered a rebuilding phase. Jordan retired, and then the club traded Pippen to the Houston Rockets and Longley to the Phoenix Suns. Rodman became a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bulls finished the 1999 season with a record of 13-37 and failed to make the playoffs.