The NBA in the 1990s: Aah, Remembering the Good 'Ole Days

Mike B.Correspondent IOctober 16, 2009

A lot of fans would say the NBA was at its best during the 1980s. That was back when Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Lakers would battle Larry Bird's Boston Celtics for the title almost every year.

Those were also the days when Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins would square off in the dunk contest and the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons were handcuffing opponents with suffocating defense. 

Yeah, the '80s were great, but I personally believe that the NBA during the 1990s was just a little bit better.

During the '90s, we sadly watched legends retire such as Johnson, Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Wilkins. However, we saw the entrance of promising young stars like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Allen Iverson.    

Of course, you simply cannot mention the '90s without bringing up the name, Michael Jordan. MJ was simply "The Man" as he won four of his five MVP awards and more importantly, teamed with Scottie Pippen to lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships.

And if Jordan hadn't retired twice in the decade, most people would agree that the Bulls would have won a couple of more titles. 

Okay, so we all know Jordan was undoubtedly the best player of the '90s, but who was second best?

That spot would have to go to no one other than Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon won a MVP, was named Defensive Player of the Year twice, and led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, which was during Jordan's first retirement.  

Hakeem was unstoppable, giving his defenders nightmares each and every night with his famous "Dream Shake" and many other impossible-to-guard post moves.

He was just one of a handful of star-studded centers to play in the '90s. The others include Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo.

It's sad to think that so many great centers played in the league at the same time. In today's NBA, you have Dwight Howard and Yao Ming (if he can return healthy next year) and that's about it. 

Other superstars to play in the decade include Charles Barkley, Utah Jazz teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, and Gary Payton. 

Grant Hill, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, and Mitch Richmond all had their moments in the spotlight as well.

In addition, Dennis Rodman surely can't be left off the list of great '90s players. The multi-colored rebounding specialist played a huge role in helping the Bulls win three of their six championships.

One of the most memorable games played in the '90s was the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando. Magic Johnson, who had retired before the season due to contracting HIV, decided to return to the hardwood as he started for the Western Conference.

The longtime Laker guard was named MVP of the game after recording 25 points, nine assists, and five rebounds and the West defeated the East by 40 points.

The following summer, Johnson played for the U.S. Men's basketball team at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The team, known as the "Original Dream Team," was the first U.S. squad represented by NBA players.

The roster consisted of some of the league's greatest players like Jordan, Bird, Barkley, and Chris Mullin. Together, they cruised through the tournament destroying their opponents by a margin of 44 points per game. And of course, they won the gold medal.

The '90s also witnessed a few heated team rivalries. No, none of them were quite as fun to watch as the classic Lakers vs. Celtics matchups of the '80s, however, they were still entertaining.  

One rivalry of the decade that stands out was the Bulls vs. the New York Knicks. From 1991-1996, these two teams met in the playoffs five times with the Bulls winning all but one of the series.

There were three famous dunks that came out of this rivalry: Jordan over Ewing in '91, John Starks over Horace Grant in '93, and Pippen over Ewing in '94.

Speaking of dunks, fans in the '90s saw some pretty exciting jams, especially in the dunk contest. In '91, Dee Brown performed his memorable no-look dunk and Cedric Ceballos dunked blind folded the following year (although many believe he could see).

And you can't forget about Isaiah Rider's "East Bay Funk Dunk" in '94. That was one of my personal favorites.

On TV, fans had the opportunity to watch "NBA Inside Stuff" every Saturday. The show was hosted by Ahmad Rashad and consisted of highlights from games of the previous week.

It also featured a segment called "Jam Session" which was basically made up of spectacular dunks from around the league.   

Every Sunday during the season, you could catch the "NBA on NBC." It pains me to hear those words together. Just the theme music ("Roundball Rock" by John Tesh) from the show got me hyped.

Plus, I loved to hear the great Marv Albert and Mike Fratello announce the games. Those two still announce games, but it's just not the same as it was back then.

The NBA today just isn't as good as it was in the '90s. 

After Jordan hit the game winning shot for the Bulls in the 1998 Finals, the league basically fell off.

Sure, the league has its share of superstars like Kobe and LeBron James and some good teams like the Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it doesn't compare to the legendary '90s.

No era in basketball compares to the '90s. And I'm glad that I got the chance to witness the NBA during those marvelous years.