The short answer is: no.
But NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh pontificated about the very nature of placing asterisks on NBA champions in his most recent column. In the piece, he pegs reasons that every NBA champion could be argued as illegitimate, in light of recent discourse around how the winner that emerges from the NBA’s Disney bubble will be perceived. (It’s all, of course, in good fun.)
But because we’re still a tad touchy about even sarcastic Bulls slander, here’s a rundown of the dynasty-era teams’ inclusions in Haberstroh’s article, with rebuttals attached:
1998 NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls def. Utah Jazz 4-2
Haberstroh: “MJ pushed off.”
Rebuttal: “Everybody says I pushed off — bulls**t. His (Bryon Russell) energy was going that way I didn’t have to push him that way.” — Michael Jordan, Episode 10 of “The Last Dance”
“Russell was already stumbling away. That hand on his backside was the equivalent of maître d' showing someone to their table.” — Bob Costas, Ep. 10
That’s all I need to hear.
1997 NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls def. Utah Jazz 4-2
Haberstroh: “Voters got bored and gave Karl Malone the MVP and thereby gave life to Michael Jordan’s vengeful loins. Also, Scottie Pippen grabbed the rim. Tarnished title.”
Rebuttal: If we learned anything from “The Last Dance,” it’s that Jordan was going to find unnatural motivation no matter what. Maybe the Bryon Russell revenge comes a year early; maybe he feigns a tale of Greg Ostertang cutting him in line at Jewel. I don’t know.
And, yes, Scottie clearly gripped the rim amid a decisive play in the decisive Game 6 of the series, causing — yikes — basically the entire stanchion to shake. Goaltending should have been called. But that layup came off the backboard like a cinderblock and Shandon Anderson had missed everything on a wide open reverse four-and-a-half minutes earlier! Roll the (entire) tape!
Moreover, what evidence do we have today that suggests Utah was going to hold on to a two-point lead with roughly 28 seconds to play at the United Center in Game 6 of an NBA Finals? Very little, in my estimation.
1996 NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls def. Seattle Super Sonics 4-2
Haberstroh: “Adding the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies this season diluted the overall talent pool for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to feast on. But the real reason for this asterisk is two-time All-Defense member Nate McMillan’s back. If it doesn’t turn to mush, this is Sonics in six, not the Bulls. The franchise isn’t the only thing stolen from Seattle.”
Rebuttal: No disrespect at all intended here, but you can’t convince me the subtractions of Rodney Dent (Magic), Greg Anthony (Knicks), Dontonio Winfield (Super Sonics), Blue Edwards (Jazz) or anyone else plucked in the 1995 expansion draft drastically swung title fates in 1996 — even if a diluted talent pool did help the Bulls stack 72 regular season wins. And as for McMillan: the Bulls led that Finals 3-0 at one point, lest we forget, and finished those playoffs 15-3. The final score was hardly as close as the actual competition.
1993 NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls def. Phoenix Suns 4-2
Haberstroh: “Voters got bored (again) and gave Charles Barkley the MVP and thereby gave life to MJ’s vengeful loins. Jordan inexplicably finished third in MVP that year. The real voter fraud that no one is talking about.”
Rebuttal: Jerry Krause liking Dan Majerle’s game was enough.
1992 NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls def. Portland Trail Blazers 4-2
Haberstroh: “Arvydas Sabonis, arguably the best basketball player in the world not named Michael Jordan at the time, was in his prime playing for Real Madrid instead of the Blazers who had drafted him in 1986. If Sabas didn’t wait until 1995 to join the NBA, this is a very different 1992 Finals battle between the Blazers and Bulls. Call it the Arvydas Asterisk.”
Rebuttal: Alright, I actually might have to concede this one. Arvydas Sabonis slander — or anything that resembles it — will never be tolerated on these pages.
1991 NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
Haberstroh: “Lakers’ top scorer James Worthy and top shooter Byron Scott both got hurt and couldn’t play the decisive Game 5 of the NBA Finals. What could have been?”
Rebuttal: By Game 5, the Bulls were coming off three consecutive victories by an average margin of 14.7 points with Worthy and Scott in the lineup. And Scott shot 27.8% from the field and 20% from 3-point range in those Finals. As our friends over at NBC Sports Bay Area know, a 3-1 lead is the most dangerous lead in basketball, but color me skeptical on this one.
Credit where credit is due: Haberstroh did invoke Jordan in asterisk-ing the Rockets' titles in 1994 and 1995 (in '94, Haberstroh writes, Jordan was playing baseball; in '95, golf). Hard to argue there.