Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Basketball Classics: Jordan Usurps Magic In The 1991 NBA Finals

Posted on June 07, 2013 by R. Hoyal

Jordan vs Magic

The ’91 NBA Final was the defining series for the future of the NBA for the next decade. The best player in the league would learn how to win on basketball’s biggest stage. Michael Jordan and the Bulls would win six titles including the ’91 affair. The Lakers would not see glory again until they retooled for the Kobe and Shaq era. This series was certainly a definitive passing of the torch moment.

The first stage was part abdication and the rest annihilation. The Chicago Bulls finally vanquished their long time nemesis the Detroit Pistons in a convincing sweep. For three years leading up to this moment, the Bulls made continual progress towards usurping the Pistons dynasty. Each successive time they met in the playoffs, the Bulls came closer to beating them. Finally in 1991, the Bulls overcame their most bitter of rivals. Many notable Pistons left the court with eight seconds left, in a last gasp show of defiance.

While the conference finals featured Chicago overcoming their most bitter rivals, the NBA finals were a changing of the guard on a national scale. The Los Angeles Lakers were at the end of their “Showtime” dynasty. James Worthy and Magic Johnson were at the end of their storied careers. The stranglehold the Lakers had in the Pacific Division, ended this year as Portland finished first in the division. One last run was on the plate for these Lakers, as they triumphed over Portland in six games.


Until the recent Heat Spurs NBA final, this was the last final to feature players on opposing teams that both had won the MVP award multiple times. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were the present and the future battling head to head. Johnson asserted himself in the third quarter to give L.A. breathing room, by hitting consecutive threes. The fourth quarter featured a comeback attempt by Chicago only to have the dagger come at the hands of Sam Perkins and his late three pointer. The Lakers took game one to steal home court advantage.

Chicago would awake from their doldrums to reassert themselves in game two. No third quarter run for the Lakers in this game as the Bulls hit the afterburners for thirty eight points in that stanza. Chicago’s coaching staff made defensive adjustments. Pippen now guarded Magic and was effective in doing so. The sign that Chicago was just more than Jordan came in the third quarter as the key run happened with Jordan on the bench.

The stand for the Lakers took place in game three. With the next three games being at home, the Lakers needed to regain home court advantage in this game to hold back the tidal wave of momentum facing them. The theme of third quarter importance rang true again in this game, as the Lakers suffocated the Bulls in holding them to eighteen points. The difference is that the fourth quarter would carry the day and eventually the series for Chicago. Fluctuating basketball odds had fans guessing what might happen next. A furious twenty to seven run by the Bulls would allow them to tie and eventually send the game into overtime. Jordan came up big again and put his stamp on this series. Chicago would win this game and not lose another to take the NBA title in five games.

The Spurs and the Heat can be another passing of the torch moment. LeBron has one title, but will continue to pale in comparison to Jordan until he can win multiple consecutive titles. Michael had all the expectations of the world on him and when he was in the Finals he delivered to the tune of six titles. The basketball world is hoping to see if King James can meet and possibly exceed Michael Jordan’s run in the NBA Finals.


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