CHICAGO -- For five straight days, this city has been waiting to celebrate a championship that the Chicago Bulls could not produce. But last night, after two straight losses in Seattle that left many doubters, the Bulls finally came through.
For the fourth time in the 1990s, the Bulls are champions of the NBA, claiming the title with an 87-75 win over the Seattle SuperSonics before a boisterous crowd at the United Center.
The win was particularly sweet for Michael Jordan who, after a brief retirement, has won NBA titles in the last four full seasons he has played. Jordan's 22 points (with nine rebounds and seven assists) led the Bulls, and when he walked to the free-throw line with less than 10 minutes remaining, the crowd acknowledged him with the chants of "MVP! MVP!"
"This is such a great, great feeling," Jordan said. "It's always great to come back and play in Chicago."
Before the series, Jordan said that he was dedicating this year's run toward the championship to his late father, James Jordan. So how can you write a better script than Jordan and the Bulls winning the title on Father's Day?
Aside from Jordan, this was a game in which the rest of his team showed up. Scottie Pippen, who had struggled throughout the series, scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"It's great to get this over with," Pippen said. "It was a struggle for us against this team; they showed a lot of pride in their building. We were able to close it out. It's always great to win it in front of the home fans."
Ron Harper, after being limited in playing time the previous two games, scored 10 points. And Dennis Rodman scored nine points and grabbed 19 rebounds, while also providing the offensive spark during a third-quarter run in which the Bulls put the game away.
"I'd just like to thank Chicago for having me in their city," Rodman said. "A lot of people never gave me credit, so I've proved them all wrong again."
When the buzzer sounded, Jordan, already out of the game, ran onto the court, where he grabbed the ball from Toni Kukoc and fell to the ground in joy. Then Jordan got up off the floor -- wearing a Bulls championship cap -- and pumped his fists as he made his way back to the locker room.
The fans in Chicago had waited impatiently for five days for something to celebrate, assuming that the Bulls would have had this series in the bag last Wednesday. And the crowd was extremely loud from the start, getting a lot to cheer about as the Bulls led by as many as 12 points in the first half.
But the Sonics, despite committing 11 turnovers, somehow managed to get back into the game, and by the half, they had to like their position as they trailed just 45-38.
A big reason why the Bulls had struggled in losing the last two games was Harper, who has been hampered by a injured left knee and played just one minute in Friday's loss. But Harper was in the starting lineup last night. His lone field goal of the first quarter, in which he played the entire 12 minutes, gave the Bulls a 9-4 lead.
"We had the fortune to have Ron Harper," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "I thought his defense was the key to the game. He made some three-pointers and did everything to help this team."
Early in the game, the Sonics did not use the tight style of play that had hurt them in their two games here in the beginning of the series. They came back to tie the game at 12 after Detlef Schrempf's short jumper with 6: 54 left.
With 2: 55 left in the quarter, Rodman and Shawn Kemp got into a brief shoving match, as the two passed each other after a timeout was called. Rodman was then pulled from the game by Jackson, perhaps a message that his antics would not be tolerated in a game of this magnitude.
While Rodman was out, the Bulls had their biggest lead -- 22-16 -- after a dunk by Luc Longley with 2: 38 left.
Jordan started the game hitting his first shot, a three-pointer, but that was his only field goal of the quarter (he was one of five from the field).
Chicago vs. Seattle
* (Chicago wins series, 4-2)
Game .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Result
Game 1 . ... .. .Chicago, 107-90
Game 2 .. .. .. .Chicago, 92-88
Game 3 .. .. .. .Chicago, 108-86
Game 4 .. .. .. .Seattle, 107-86
Game 5 .. .. .. .Seattle, 89-78
Last night Chicago, 87-75
Pub Date: 6/17/96