Life without Michael Jordan: The Story of the 1993-94 Chicago Bulls

Mike B.Correspondent IMarch 29, 2010

June 20, 1993; game six of the 1993 NBA Finals

Chicago Bulls vs. Phoenix Suns

With about six seconds remaining in the game, Chicago's Horace Grant kicks it out to a wide open John Paxson, who is standing patiently behind the three-point line.

Paxson receives the pass and quickly drills the shot from downtown to give the Bulls a 99-98 lead.

And after Grant blocks Kevin Johnson's shot seconds later, the horn sounds, and Chicago captures their third consecutive NBA title.

As the Bulls celebrated the victory, they likely looked forward to the opportunity to go out and win it all again the following year.

But little did they know that just four months later, they would lose their main go-to guy and arguably the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan.       

Jordan shocked the world in October, announcing his retirement from the game at the age of 30.

He decision to hang 'em up was primarily based on the fact that his father was murdered in July.  

With Jordan gone the Bulls immediately fell, from the favorites to win the '94 championship to a team that would probably fail to reach the playoffs.

What were they going to do without MJ leading the way?  

Sure, Dream Teamer Scottie Pippen was still on the roster, as well as solid role players like Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, and the newly acquired Steve Kerr.

And yes, the promising Toni Kukoc, the Bulls' second-round pick in 1990, would finally be joining the team after remaining overseas the previous three years.

However, most people simply did not believe the Bulls could accomplish much without Jordan in the picture.

The Bulls began the 1993-94 regular season on the road versus the Charlotte Hornets.

Head coach Phil Jackson went with a starting lineup of Pippen, Grant, Cartwright, Armstrong, and former CBAer Pete Myers, who was signed the day after Jordan retired.

Armstrong scored a game high 28 points and Pippen chipped in with 23 points, 16 assists, and seven rebounds as the Bulls slipped past the Hornets 124-123 in overtime.

After mustering a mediocre 8-7 record over the next 15 games, the Bulls steamrolled to a 10 game winning streak from December 10 through December 29. Pippen recorded two triple-doubles during that span.

The Bulls later enjoyed a seven game winning streak in January and went into the All-Star break with a 32-13 record.

Three Bulls played in the All-Star Game which was held in Minneapolis. Pippen and Armstrong were voted in as starters by the fans and Grant was selected as a reserve. 

Pippen scored a game high 29 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and was named MVP of the game after leading the East to a 127-118 victory over the West.

Following the break, the Bulls lost nine of their next thirteen games, but wound up winning 17 of the next 22, including another 10 game winning streak.

Chicago ended the regular season with an impressive 55-27 record—just two wins fewer than the previous season with Jordan—and finished in second place in the Central Division behind the Atlanta Hawks.

The Bulls had done it. They reached the playoffs even though virtually every "expert" did not give them a chance to succeed without Jordan.

The role players like Armstrong, Grant, and Kukoc stepped up a great deal and Pippen transformed from Jordan's "trusty sidekick" to "the man."

Pippen had finally emerged from Jordan's enormous shadow; averaging 22 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 steals (led the league) per game.

He also finished third in the voting for MVP and was named to the All-NBA First Team.

After sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs, the Bulls squared off against the archrival New York Knicks in the semifinals.

The Bulls lost the first two games of the series in New York, but won game three in Chicago as Kukoc hit the game-winning buzzer beater.

Chicago won game four, lost in game five, and then put together their best performance of the series in game six.

The Bulls whipped the Knicks 93-79 in a game that featured perhaps the greatest play of Pippen's career: a posterizing slam over Patrick Ewing.

Unfortunately, the Bulls ended up losing the series in seven games.

They failed to bring the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Windy City for the fourth straight year, however they certainly enjoyed one of the most overachieving seasons in sports history.

Good things would be in store for the Bulls.

Jordan, who struggled as a minor league baseball player for the Birmingham Barons, returned to the NBA hardwood the following March and later led the Bulls to another three-peat before retiring again in 1999.

The Bulls enjoyed several great seasons in the '90s, including the special 72 win '95-96 campaign, but '93-94 will always be a memorable year for avid Bulls' fans.


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