Sports fans of the ’90s can’t forget the decade-long powerhouse that was the Chicago Bulls. The team won six championships between 1991 and 1998, with the two "three-peats" being separated by only one year of relative failure, where they were knocked out of the second round of the ’93-94 playoffs by the New York Knicks (who in turn lost the championship to the Houston Rockets).
The Bulls’ roster in the 1990s featured all-star players and a coaching staff led by the legendary
Phil Jackson. Of course, the player whose name and number is synonymous with the ’90s-era Chicago Bulls is Michael Jordan, who made his name in basketball wearing the iconic number 23 jersey. After a short period of retirement where the team’s success suffered, Jordan returned to basketball sporting the number 45 (his brother’s number in high school). Superstitious fans speculated that Jordan’s number change was responsible for a less-than-stellar performance, and whether or not that was true, Jordan switched back to the famous number 23 in their 1995 series against Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. However, the switch in uniform numbers proved fruitless as the Bulls ultimately succumbed to defeat in that series.
Also on the 90s roster was Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. While Pippen was a phenomenal player throughout the 90s, he stepped up specifically during Jordan’s retirement and led the team as best he could. Pippen was awarded All Star MVP in 1994 and though he could not lead the team to another championship, he is still widely regarded as one of the best and most agile players in basketball, known specifically for his unbelievably long wingspan.
The Bulls made a particular name for themselves, not only by winning championships, but by being a team branded by personality. Jordan is famous for donating to and participating in the activities of many charities, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Scottie Pippen was a personable character who could be spotted around Chicago on a regular basis. The colorful Dennis Rodman was an over-the-top showman, appearing at local bars in drag and always making the news for his most recent antics. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 90s-era Chicagoan who hadn’t been to a game or even met a member of the Bulls. The team was a Chicago legacy.
It wasn’t all good, however. Riots had erupted after the first two championship victories, but none were so devastating as the 1993 explosion where two young people were killed from gunshot wounds. Excitement over the Bull’s third victory in a row sparked riots across the city of Chicago. The final score was 99-98 against the Phoenix Suns, and thousands of city residents celebrated the close-call win by shooting off guns, vandalizing public and private property, and looting. Cars were overturned, many police officers were injured, and over 700 citizens were arrested for their behavior.
After the second three-peat ended in ’98, the Bulls struggled to regain the success they found with Jordan, Pippen and Jackson throughout their careers. Despite that, the Bulls’ legacy as the ultimate basketball champions of the ’90s lives on in the memories of Chicagoans and fans around the world.