The Chicago Bulls made history in the '90s, as the dynamic duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen guided this team to six NBA championships in the '90s. Though the dynasty ended nearly 20 years ago, many celebrate the dominance of Jordan and the Bulls today. There was nothing like it.
That's because there wasn't much parity in the NBA from the '50s to the '80s. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and the other few icons completely took over games and championships with ease. But the Bulls had to defeat powerhouse after powerhouse and legend after legend en route to their six NBA championships.
No other dynasty in NBA history had to deal with so many insanely dominant Hall of Famers like Chicago did. For the most part, they pushed through just about every superstar in their way. Here is a look at 15 NBA legends that were denied a championship ring by Jordan and the Bulls dynasty.
15 Shawn Kemp
The Seattle SuperSonics were among the league's best teams in the '90s, but most people will credit their success to none other than Gary Payton. It's easy to forget that there was another star in The Emerald City named Shawn Kemp.
Kemp, a six-time All-Star, averaged 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his career. As a SuperSonic, he averaged over 17 points per game in five different seasons. Kemp had a great year in 1995-96, scoring 19.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game -- leading Seattle to a 64 and 18 record.
Seattle faced the 72-win Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Despite losing the first three games, the SuperSonics rallied for victories in the next two games to stay alive. However, Jordan and the Bulls polished off Seattle in six games -- winning their fourth title since 1991.
14 Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway played with the Golden State Warriors from 1989-1996, but was traded to the Miami Heat during the 1995-96 campaign. Being traded to a contender, Hardaway was finally set up to win a championship. All Miami had to do was find a way to get through Jordan's feisty Bulls.
A five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA Second Team member, Hardaway averaged 17.2 points and 10 assists per game during his 28 games with Miami in 1995-96. The Heat qualified for the postseason and faced Chicago in the first round of the postseason.
To the surprise of no one, Miami wasn't able to put up much of a fight against the 72-win Bulls. Jordan and co. swept the Heat -- and Hardaway (who averaged 17.3 points and 8.2 assists per game in his career), never won a championship.
13 Alonzo Mourning
Thanks to the dominance from guys like Michael Jordan (and others we'll be listing here), many overlooked the greatness that was Alonzo Mourning. He carried both the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat on his back throughout the '90s -- but neither team was able to win the championship.
Mourning had a career year in 1995-96, averaging 23.2 points per game as Miami qualified for the playoffs. However, Jordan and the Bulls swept the Heat in the opening round before winning their fourth championship.
The Heat won 61 games in 1996-97, thanks to Mourning's 19.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Chicago and Miami met in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals. But it was the same ol' story, as Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Heat in five games, en route to their fifth championship.
12 James Worthy
James Worthy was Magic Johnson's legendary sidekick during the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers dynasty in the '8os. Though Magic stole most of the spotlight, Worthy was a crucial part of the Lakers' success, helping them win three NBA Championships -- in 1985, 1987 and 1988. He was a seven-time All Star who averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in his career.
Worthy averaged a career best 21.4 points per game in the 1990-91 season, leading the Lakers to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. However, the legendary Lakers were bullied by the Bulls -- who became the new kids on the block.
Jordan was all over the Lakers. He averaged 31.2 points and 11.4 assists per game, helping the Bulls secure their first NBA championship by taking out Worthy's squad in five games.
11 Reggie Miller
If it weren't for Ray Allen, then Reggie Miller's 2,560 3-pointers would be the most in an NBA career. Nonetheless, Spike Lee's arch enemy put the Indiana Pacers on the basketball map by turning them into one of league's better teams in the '90s.
From 1990 to 99, Miller averaged no less than 18.4 points per game in a season. Miller also averaged over 20 points per game in six different seasons during the decade. The matchup of a lifetime took place in 1998, as Miller's Pacers faced Jordan's Bulls in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.
However, it was Jordan and the Bulls who came out on top. This meant that Miller, a five-time All-Star who averaged 18.2 points per game in his career, never got to retire with an NBA championship ring. That Jordan guy, I'll tell ya.
10 Dennis Rodman
Jordan did to Dennis Rodman what Rodman did to Jordan before both Jordan and Rodman did to the rest of the NBA what Rodman and Jordan used to do to each other. If you didn't follow any of that, we'll try to explain ourselves a little more here.
You see, Rodman played with the Detroit Pistons from 1986-93, in an era where they were called the "Bad Boys" for their physical yet effective shutdown defence. Rodman's Pistons simply overpowered Michael Jordan, eliminating the GOAT's team in the 1988, 89 and 90 playoffs. The Pistons took home the title in 1989 and 1990.
But MJ finally solved Rodman and the Pistons when the team faced off in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan and Chicago prevented a Pistons three-peat by sweeping them, en route to three-straight titles for the Bulls. But yes, everyone knows Rodman was part of that second three-peat, so both guys put the past behind them.
9 Clyde Drexler
Clyde Drexler's career resume really does speak for itself. Named to 10 NBA All-Star teams, he was also part of the 1992 American Olympic Basketball "Dream Team" that took home Olympic gold. The Basketball Hall of Famer was also named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, finishing with career averages of 20.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
During the 1991-92 season, Drexler averaged 25 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game, guiding the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals against Jordan's Bulls -- who were aiming for a repeat.
But the Bulls were obviously too much for Drexler's Trail Blazers -- defeating them in a hard-fought six-game series. But all was well that ended well for Drexler -- who won an NBA championship with the Houston Rockets in 1995.
8 Gary Payton
So about that Gary Payton guy who helped the Seattle SuperSonics become one of the best in the west during the '90s...
Payton spent his first 14 NBA seasons with the 'Sonics, posting double digit points per game every year from 1992-93 to 2002-03 during his time in The Emerald City. The 1996 Defensive Player of the Year was also a nine-time All-Star and a nine-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
1995-96 was quite a year for Payton, as he averaged 19.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Seattle (as we discussed in the Shawn Kemp listing), met the Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Payton became one of the many legends that was unable to beat MJ's squad on the grandest of stages, though. This story does have a happy ending, as Payton finally won his first ring with the Miami Heat in 2006.
7 Patrick Ewing
The New York Knicks icon did just about everything the franchise could have asked for...except win an NBA championship. But if it weren't for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Patrick Ewing could very well have multiple rings.
Ewing was an 11-time All-Star who averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds per game -- but New York wasn't able to stop the Bulls when it mattered most. After averaging 26.6 points per game in 1991, Ewing and the Knicks were swept by Chicago in the first round. The Bulls went on to win their first title.
Ewing averaged 24 points per game the following year, and his Knicks faced Chicago in the second round of the playoffs. Jordan's Bulls beat them in seven games -- en route to championship number two.
Chicago beat the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals (in six games), and in the second round of the 1996 playoffs (in five games), leading to championships number three and four, respectively. Ewing just couldn't get past Chicago -- and it cost him four possible titles in the '90s alone.
6 John Stockton
As much as you love to respect and admire the Chicago Bulls dynasty, you have to feel terrible for John Stockton -- who more than deserved the chance of holding the NBA championship over his head.
Stockton is the NBA's all-time leader in both assists and steals (15,806 and 3,265, respectively), and was named to 10 All-Star Teams. The flashy point guard averaged 13.1 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game in an illustrious career. Stockton had a season for the ages in 1996-97, averaging 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. However, the Bulls defeated Utah in an exciting six-game series for championship number five.
The Jazz won 62 games in 1997-98 (tied with Chicago for best in the league), but had home advantage in this hyped-up NBA Finals rematch. Everyone knows what happened next. Jordan sinks his final shot as a Bull in the waning seconds, Stockton misses a game-winning three-pointer and Chicago capped off its third three-peat of the '90s.
Stockton didn't go without trying, though.
5 Charles Barkley
'Sir Charles' really took over NBA games like few other superstars. The 1993 NBA MVP was an 11-time All-Star, was named to five First Teams and redefined the power forward position. Charles Barkley finished with career averages of 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Barkley had a strong 1990-91 campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 27.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. However, Jordan's Bulls defeated Barkley's 76ers in five games during the second round of the playoffs. Chicago used that win to take home its first NBA championship.
Barkley got his shot of taking down Jordan once and for all in 1993 -- when his Phoenix Suns faced the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals. But John Paxson's clutch three-pointer in the final seconds of Game 6 clinched the Bulls their first three-peat.
At least Barkley and Jordan became friends after retiring.
4 Isiah Thomas
What can we say about Thomas that you don't already know? He took the Detroit Pistons to new heights in the '80s. Along with defensive standouts Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer, Thomas and the Bad boys neutralized Michael Jordan in the postseason every year from 1988-90. This led to Detroit winning the 1989 and 1990 NBA championships.
Isiah Thomas, a 12-time All-Star, averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists per game in his career. With his stardom and all-around dominance, you could make a guess that he deserves to win more than one championship.
But as we talked about in the Dennis Rodman slide -- there were new kids on the block. Jordan and the Bulls swept Detroit -- ending their rivals' bid at a three-peat while Chicago took home its first of three-straight championships.
3 Karl Malone
Karl Malone and John Stockton turned the Utah Jazz into a powerhouse, yet they just were not able to win championships. Malone's Hall of Fame resume speaks for itself: Two league MVPs (1997 and 199), 14 All-Star Games, 11 First Team selections and three Defensive First team selections. Malone averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in his epic career.
After years of not being able to get over the hump, Malone took the Jazz to new heights in 1996-97. He averaged 27.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game -- but Jordan's Bulls finished off the Jazz in six games to win their fifth championship. Malone was in great position to force a Game 7 in the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan's legendary shot that clinched the Bulls their sixth championship came after Chicago stole the ball from Malone in the final seconds.
Malone's last shot at a ring came in 2004 when he joined forces with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. But the Pistons upset the Lakers, which ensured that Malone never got that ring.
2 Magic Johnson
You could make a case that Magic Johnson is the greatest NBA player of all-time. The numbers and accomplishments really do speak for themselves. He won five NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, three league MVPs and was named to 12 All-Star teams.
Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game. He truly is the greatest Los Angeles Lakers player to ever live. Though most agree that Michael Jordan was the GOAT, Magic Johnson was so close to cementing himself as the best ever.
His Lakers met the Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals. Instead of winning championship number six, Johnson's Lakers fell to Jordan and Chicago. This put the Bulls on the path to five more championships, while Johnson never won another as a player.
1 Shaquille O'Neal
My name is Alex and I am not a certified G nor a bonafide stud. However, this right here is Shaquille O'Neal -- and He's 7-foot-1 -- and you can't-teach-that!
O'Neal really took over games like few others could as arguably the most dominant center to ever live. O'Neal, a four-time NBA Champion (three with Los Angeles, one with Miami), was a 15-time All-Star, three time NBA Finals MVP and took home the 2000 league MVP. He averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in an impressive career.
But before Shaq Daddy left a legacy in Los Angeles, he was dominating with the Orlando Magic. It was O'Neal's squad that ruined Jordan's welcome back campaign in 1994-95, defeating them in six games during the second round of the playoffs.
O'Neal had an epic 1995-96 campaign, averaging 26.6 points and 11 rebounds per game. However, the Magic weren't able to repeat their postseason success over Chicago. The Bulls swept Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning their fourth championship.
Shaq had to wait four more years to win title number one.