Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Dissecting the 1990s Chicago Bulls Part 1

Dissecting the 1990s Chicago Bulls
By Rick Olivares

By April 20, The Last Dance, the 10-episode documentary of the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season will be on Netflix for all to watch.

During this lockdown, I took the time to watch all seven documentaries of the Chicago Bulls (the six championships and the 1988 video, Higher Ground) and all 35 games they played in the NBA Finals of the 1990s. That took me a little over three days to finish. After that, my brain was mush. 

It did, however, refresh my memory, validate some notions, and dispelled others.

Let me share a few of them.

Who needs rivals when the NBA was littered with stars and legends?
It was said that the Bulls had no true rival in the way the 1980s Boston Celtics were defined by their Los Angeles Lakers counterparts and vice versa. I beg to disagree. The Eastern Conference was the best in the NBA at that time. It wasn’t until the new millennium that we saw the balance of power shift to the West.

From 1947-1998, the East won 32 times while the West took home the Larry O’Brien trophy 21 times.

Since the new millennium, its reversed. The West has won 13 while the East bagged the trophy seven times.

The Bulls’ nemesis included the Cleveland Cavaliers (helped by Magic Johnson anointing them as the “team of the future” in the 1990s), the Detroit Pistons, the New York Knicks, and the Miami Heat. 

When the Lakers won five NBA titles in the 80s, they defeated Boston twice, Philadelphia twice, and Detroit once.

The Bulls went through some very good teams beating the Lakers in 1991, the Portland Trailblazers in 1992, and the Phoenix Suns in 1993. The took two years off before taking down the Seattle Supersonics in 1996 and the Utah Jazz twice from 1997-98. Five opponents. They defeated all challengers that had Hall of Famers and Dream Team members.

The Lakers had Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Vlade Divac. Portland had Clyde Drexler while the Suns had Charles Barkley. Seattle had Gary Payton while the Utah Jazz had the duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Of the coaches they faced in the Finals, Utah’s Jerry Sloan made it to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach (not as a player for the Bulls). If you want to include the play-offs during Chicago’s 90s dominance, you can add Detroit’s Chuck Daly, Cleveland’s Lenny Wilkens, New York’s and Miami’s Pat Riley as Hall of Fame coaches.

The Bulls got huge contributions from draft day picks and trades.
In the 1980s, the acquisition of the Boston Celtics of former Los Angeles Clipper and Portland great Bill Walton propelled them to the 1986 title. The next year, the Lakers countered by grabbing Portland star Mychal Thompson who was an integral part of back to back titles from 1987-88. When Detroit won it in 1988-89, they tabbed the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Aguirre. 

The Bulls built the first three-peat team with draft picks and draft day trades.

Their draft picks included Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong, Stacey King, Will Perdue, and Scott Williams. Scottie Pippen arrived on a draft day trade. 

The second three-peat wave saw draft picks Toni Kukoc, Jason Caffey, Dickie Simpkins, and Jack Haley join Jordan and Pippen as players acquired through the draft. Of course, the second wave saw key free agents like Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Randy Brown, and Jud Buechler come in.

In contrast, the Lakers’ draftees included Johnson, Worthy, Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper, and AC Green. Byron Scott arrived on a draft day trade. Nixon was there for the first two titles before he was traded. 

Boston’s draftees included Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell, Danny Ainge, Greg Kite, and Sam Vincent.

The 2017-18 NBA champions Golden State Warriors had only two players come up via the draft in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

This is of course not to put down trades or free agent acquisitions that are vital to any ball club’s success. But knowing whom to select through the draft pays off without initially having to pay big bucks. The Warriors’ trio of Curry, Thompson, and Green have been huge selections for G-State that has seen them massively successful in recent years.

Rodman should have been the 1996 NBA Finals MVP.
I thought Dennis Rodman should have been the 1996 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
Preposterous? Not really. The Finals MVP has no particular criteria. It depends on the votes of 11 designated members of the NBA media.

We all know Jordan was awarded the trophy. In my opinion, Rodman should have at the very least been given co-MVP awardee. The least, okay? He could have been named so.

Here’s why.


Of the Bulls’ four wins, here is how we break it down.

Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 6
28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

36 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals


10 points & 20 rebounds

9 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block

Rodman won two games for the Bulls and his contributions were significant especially during crunch time. The Supersonics themselves from head coach George Karl to Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate pointed out to media that Rodman was the MVP of the series. 

So that is why at the very least, Rodman should have been co-MVP.

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