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|Announcers||Marv Albert, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton|
|Announcers||Brent Musburger and Jack Ramsay|
|Hall of Famers||
Michael Jordan (2009)
Scottie Pippen (2010)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
Gary Payton (2013)
Phil Jackson (2007)
Tex Winter (2011)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
|Eastern Finals||Bulls defeat Magic, 4–0|
|Western Finals||SuperSonics defeat Jazz, 4–3|
The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1995–96 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) played the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls (72–10), with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125, set in 1985. The series was played under a best-of-seven format.
Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Unstoppabulls for NBA Entertainment.
This was the 50th NBA Finals played.
The Bulls were coming off a season in which Michael Jordan returned from an 18-month retirement, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs to the Orlando Magic. Heading into the upcoming season, Chicago was no longer the same team as they were in their most recent championship season of 1993, having lost key members of their first three-peat core in John Paxson who retired, while Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, B. J. Armstrong, Stacey King, Will Perdue, and Scott Williams left via free agency.
In their place was a new core of players such as Luc Longley, Toni Kukoč, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper, Jud Buechler, Bill Wennington and Randy Brown. But perhaps their biggest addition to the team was Dennis Rodman, a nine-year veteran who had been a rebounding champion for four straight years, and whose controversial lifestyle has been well-documented.
The end result of this ensemble was perhaps the greatest regular season of any team in NBA history at the time, as the Bulls won a then-record 72 games. They continued to gain momentum in the playoffs, beginning with a sweep of the Miami Heat in the first round, followed by a five-game defeat of the New York Knicks in the second round. The conference finals was a rematch of the previous season's series with the Orlando Magic, but it was a no-contest, as the Bulls swept the Magic to gain entry into the Finals.
The SuperSonics were led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, with George Karl as head coach. The team was considered a perennial title contender throughout the mid-1990s, but the closest they came to reaching the finals was in 1993, when they lost to the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
Two straight first-round exits followed, including the stunning 1994 loss to the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets. Motivated by a successive string of early playoff losses, Seattle finished the 1996 regular season with a franchise-record 64 wins.
Seattle began its playoff run with a four-game win over the Sacramento Kings, followed by a sweep of the defending champion Houston Rockets. They then beat the Utah Jazz in seven games in the western finals to advance to its first NBA championship round since 1979.
|Seattle SuperSonics (Western Conference champion)||Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference champion)|
1st seed in the West, 2nd best league record
|Defeated the (8) Sacramento Kings, 3–1||First Round||Defeated the (8) Miami Heat, 3–0|
|Defeated the (5) Houston Rockets, 4–0||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (5) New York Knicks, 4–1|
|Defeated the (3) Utah Jazz, 4–3||Conference Finals||Defeated the (2) Orlando Magic, 4–0|
Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team (Which was one of the ten Bulls losses of the season):
|1996 Chicago Bulls Finals roster|
|1996 Seattle SuperSonics Finals roster|
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Road Team|
|Game 1||Wednesday, June 5||Chicago Bulls||107–90 (1–0)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 2||Friday, June 7||Chicago Bulls||92–88 (2–0)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 3||Sunday, June 9||Seattle SuperSonics||86–108 (0–3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 4||Wednesday, June 12||Seattle SuperSonics||107–86 (1–3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 5||Friday, June 14||Seattle SuperSonics||89–78 (2–3)||Chicago Bulls|
|Game 6||Sunday, June 16||Chicago Bulls||87–75 (4–2)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Seattle SuperSonics 90, Chicago Bulls 107|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 30–29, 29–26, 13–28|
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 32
Rebs: Gary Payton 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
|Pts: Michael Jordan 28|
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 13
Asts: Ron Harper 7
|Chicago leads the series, 1–0|
Although Chicago was not playing well offensively, they were able to compensate with superb defense. Chicago was leading only by 2 at the end of the third quarter, however in the final quarter shots by Toni Kukoč and 2 key steals by Ron Harper clinched the Bulls a win.
|Seattle SuperSonics 88, Chicago Bulls 92|
|Scoring by quarter: 27–23, 18–23, 20–30, 23–16|
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 29
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 13
Asts: Payton, Schrempf 3 each
|Pts: Michael Jordan 29|
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 20
Asts: Michael Jordan 8
|Chicago leads the series, 2–0|
Game two started well for Seattle with a 27–23 first quarter lead. However Seattle would once again lose the lead before halftime. Despite Shawn Kemp's 29 points and 13 rebounds, Chicago triumphed with a final score of 92 to 88. In the victory, Dennis Rodman tied an NBA Finals record with 11 offensive rebounds.
|Chicago Bulls 108, Seattle SuperSonics 86|
|Scoring by quarter: 34–16, 28–22, 13–23, 33–25|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 36
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 10
Asts: Scottie Pippen 9
|Pts: Detlef Schrempf 20|
Rebs: Brickowski, Payton 7 each
Asts: Gary Payton 9
|Chicago leads the series, 3–0|
The Sonics suffered a 22-point blow-out on their return to Seattle, giving the Chicago Bulls a seemingly insurmountable 3–0 series lead.
|Chicago Bulls 86, Seattle SuperSonics 107|
|Scoring by quarter: 21–25, 11–28, 31–31, 23–23|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 23
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 14
Asts: Scottie Pippen 8
|Pts: Shawn Kemp 25|
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 11
Asts: Gary Payton 11
|Chicago leads the series, 3–1|
Seattle did not want to suffer the ignominy of a sweep. Going into this game, the SuperSonics were looking to rebound from the deficit. They succeeded with a 107–86 win over the Bulls. The series would now go to five games. The Sonics were helped by the return of team captain Nate McMillan whose presence entering the game brought the KeyArena crowd to its feet.
|Chicago Bulls 78, Seattle SuperSonics 89|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–18, 24–25, 18–19, 18–27|
|Pts: Michael Jordan 26
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 12
Asts: Scottie Pippen 5
|Pts: Gary Payton 23|
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 10
Asts: Gary Payton 6
|Chicago leads the series, 3–2|
Seattle would once again deny the Bulls the championship, stretching the series to six games. Payton had this to say: "We feel great. We knew we could play with this team. It just took too long. We should have come with this a little earlier." Shawn Kemp's performance in this game was considered by many to be his best in a Seattle uniform.
|Seattle SuperSonics 75, Chicago Bulls 87|
|Scoring by quarter: 18–24, 20–21, 20–22, 17–20|
|Pts: Detlef Schrempf 23
Rebs: Shawn Kemp 14
Asts: Gary Payton 7
|Pts: Michael Jordan 22|
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 19
Asts: Michael Jordan 7
|Chicago wins the series, 4–2|
Chicago won the series 4 games to 2 on Father's Day. The victory was partly due to the stellar performance of the Bulls power forward Dennis Rodman, who repeated his Game 2 performance of 11 offensive rebounds, tying his own NBA Finals record.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
The 1996 NBA Finals would be the last Finals appearance of the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics would win the Pacific Division again in 1997 and 1998, but fell to the second round of the playoffs each time. The series was George Karl's only Finals appearance in his coaching career to date. In 2008, the Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. They would make the finals four years later after the move.
This was also the last time a Seattle-based team played for a major professional sports championship until Super Bowl XL in 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks would go on to handily defeat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 and lose to the New England Patriots the following year in Super Bowl XLIX. In terms of overall sports leagues, the city would later enjoy three championships when the WNBA's Seattle Storm, a one-time SuperSonics sister team, won both the 2004 and 2010 WNBA Finals.
The Bulls came close to winning 70 games for the second straight year, instead settling for a 69-win campaign in 1997. They won their second straight title over the Utah Jazz in six games of the 1997 NBA Finals. In the off-season that preceded Scottie Pippen became the first person to win NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice, playing for Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics. The Bulls would also defeat the Utah Jazz in six games in the 1998 NBA Finals.
The Bulls' combined 87 wins in the regular season and postseason would stand as an NBA record until the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, coached by former Bull Steve Kerr, broke it with 88 total wins (thanks to the first round using a best-of-7 format instead of the best-of-5 in 1996), including a 73-9 regular season mark. However, the Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, failing to repeat as champions after beating the same Cavaliers in the previous Finals. The Warriors (with the addition of Kevin Durant, who had played for the Sonics in their final season in Seattle and for the Thunder until he became a free agent in 2016) and Cavaliers met for the third consecutive time in the 2017 NBA Finals, which the Warriors won in five games.
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