Now that “The Last Dance” has concluded, it’s time to get back to your regularly scheduled sports debate programming.
This round — which three-peat-catalyst Bulls team was better: the 1990-91 squad that brought Chicago its first ever basketball title, or the 1995-96 group that won 72 regular season games and romped its way to the Bulls’ fourth chip in six years?
On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Will Perdue (a member of the first three-peat) and Randy Brown (the second) sunk their teeth in to debate their sides of the equation. We broke it up into five crucial categories, with Kendall Gill judging each round and eventually picking a winner:
Which Michael Jordan was better?
Which Mike was best? The dynamic wunderkin that set the league on fire for the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, or the sage veteran re-entering the game after hiatus, with three championship notches already in his belt?
Interestingly, each of these seasons represent pivot points in Jordan’s career. In 1990-91, Jordan was fresh off a summer of intense (even for him) training to build muscle mass after being battered by the Bad Boy Pistons in the playoffs for the second consecutive year. He similarly poured rigorous training hours into the summer of 1995 after falling to the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals shortly after returning from his first retirement.
So, whichever Jordan you choose is an especially hungry one. The stats (31.5 ppg, 53.9% shooting) were a tad gaudier and the legs were a bit fresher in 1990-91, but by 1995-96 Jordan had firmly established himself as the ultimate winner. As he said in “The Last Dance,” he had reached his optimal capacity, mental and physically, by the end of the second three-peat. Pick your poison.
Which third piece was better: Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman?
A tale of two forwards. Both were invaluable to their respective teams in different ways, which makes this comparison fascinating.
The 10,000-foot view: Grant brought more scoring (12.8 ppg in ‘90-91) and midrange shooting, but Rodman is perhaps the most tenacious rebounder (15 rpg in ‘97-98, his seventh consecutive rebound title) of the modern era. Both brought defensive fortitude, but Rodman was more versatile. Rodman brought more off-court distractions than Grant, but as Brown notes in the podcast, there’s a positive spin: In some ways, Rodman’s antics actually took some media pressure off Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
And of course, Grant being carried off the UC floor by his Magic teammates after toppling the Bulls in ‘95 in part spurred Jordan to maniacally gear up for the 1995-96 season. In that respect, you could call Grant a crucial contributor on both teams.
Tougher Finals opponent: 1991 Lakers or 1996 Sonics?
Another ‘What do you value?’ question.
The Lakers were on the last legs of their dynasty, but still boasted all-time greats in Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Vlade Divac. The Sonics were a younger squad, but had won 64 games that regular season, had Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton at the peak of their powers with a host of savvy role players (Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins, etc.) in tow.
Neither team took the Bulls past six games. After falling in Game 1 at Chicago Stadium, the Bulls rattled off four straight to complete a gentleman’s sweep of the Lakers in ‘90; in ‘96, the Sonics fell down 3-0, then stole two in garbage time before eventually losing in six. Jordan “had no problem with The Glove.”
Who had the better bench?
1990-91: Randy Brown, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington
1991-92: B.J. Armstrong, Craig Hodges, Cliff Levingston, Will Perdue, Scott Williams
Can’t lose with either of these options. But Kukoc — nearly a Hall-of-Famer, and winner of Sixth Man of the Year in ‘95-96 — has the potential to tip the scales.
Which team would you want to party with more?
I’ll save this one for the show.
To hear Perdue and Brown’s arguments on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, listen here or via the embedded player above.
Bulls Talk Podcast