Michael Jordan’s first championship was an epic run past a gauntlet of the game’s greatest players and teams. Jordan won this first ring at the age of 28 in 1991.
The Chicago Bulls defeated Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, the Bad Boy Pistons and Magic Johnson’s Lakers in the playoffs to get their first of six titles in the Jordan era.
As someone who watched all six titles and has written more than a half dozen articles about MJ, I know just how key that first victory was.
If you are interested in how MIchael Jordan broke through and got that first ring, keep reading for all the details below!
Table of Contents
1990-1991 Chicago Bulls Regular Season
Phil was in his second year coaching MJ and the Bulls after taking over for Doug Collins. The team had taken the eventual NBA Champion Pistons to seven games in the Eastern Conference Final in Phil’s first year. Things only got better from there!
Regular Season Record:
The Bulls were ready to break through after three straight playoff defeats at the hands of the two-time NBA Champion Bad Boy Pistons.
They cruised to the best record in the Eastern Conference – easily outpacing an aging Celtics team that won 56 games to take the Atlantic Division. The Pistons, the Bulls foe in the Central Division only won 50 games coming off their second NBA title.
The Portland TrailBlazers had the best record in the league, leading the Western Conference and the NBA with 63 victories. The Lakers finished second in the west with 58 wins.
1990-1991 Bulls Roster & Stats
Michael Jordan’s Regular Season Stats
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The 1991 Chicago Bulls defeated an unbelievable amount of talented players in cruising to their first championship. The team went 15-2 in playoff games and were obviously undefeated in their 4 playoff series.
The Bulls got by a Knicks team featuring Patrick Ewing in his prime and a Sixers team starring Charles Barkley in his prime. Both players were Dream Team teammates of Jordan’s (along with Scottie Pippen). They are both ranked in the top 40 players of all time by ESPN.
The Bulls then got by two of the best teams in recent NBA memory. First they defeated the Bad Boy Piston who had won back-to-back NBA titles the two prior seasons. Next they got past the Los Angeles Lakers who had won five NBA titles in the 1980s.
The Bulls ran an unbelievable gauntlet to win Michael Jordan’s first championship. They defeated outstanding players and teams.
|Bulls def. Knicks||3-0|
|Bulls def. Sixers||4-1|
|Bulls def. Pistons||4-0|
|Bulls def. Lakers||4-1|
1991 First Round: Bulls def. New York Knicks 3-0
The Bulls began their playoff march by sweeping a Knicks team led by all-time great center Patrick Ewing in a best-of-five series.
- The Knicks were below .500 in the regular seasons, but still had talent.
- In addition to an early-prime Patrick Ewing, the Knicks featured former Bull Charles Oakley, Kiki Vandeweghe, Gerald Wilkins and Mark Jackson.
- Ewing, who had lost to Jordan in college as well, was mostly held in check by the Bulls averaging on 16.7 points per game – Vandeweghe outscored him at 17.0 points per game.
- The Bulls jumped on the overmatched Knicks with a 41-point victory in game 1 before cruising to the sweep with nearly 10 point wins in games two and three.
- Jordan averaged 29 points, 4.7 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game for the series.
1991 Eastern Conference Semis: Bulls def. Philadelphia 76ers 4-1Embed from Getty Images
The Bulls took only five games to get past Charles Barkley’s 76ers in the 1991 Eastern Conference semifinals.
- Philadelphia finished 2nd in the Atlantic Division behind the Celtics with 44 regular season wins. Their playoffs started with promise with a sweep over an Alvin Robertson-led Bucks team that had more regular season wins than Philly.
- The Sixers starred the Round Mound of Rebound but also had Hersey Hawkins and Armen Gilliam. They were over matched.
- The Bulls won the first two games at home by more than ten points. The Sixers stole game three to stay alive but the Bulls closed it out with two straight victories where they held the Sixers under a hundred points.
- MJ averaged 33.4, 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game for the series.
1991 Eastern Conference Finals: Bulls def. Detroit Pistons 4-0
The Bulls swept the defending NBA Champion Bad Boys after being knocked out of the playoffs three straight years by them.Embed from Getty Images
- The Pistons still had a loaded roster but their time was coming to an end. They featured Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and others!
- The Pistons took five games to get past the Hawks of Dominique Wilkins and Doc Rivers. The Bad Boys then got past an aging Celtics team featuring Larry Bird in 6 games.
- The Bad Boys had dominated the Bulls using their Jordan Rules, but this series was a changing of the guard. The Pistons would only hold on to their core for one more year before beginning to make major changes including letting both Dennsi Rodman and coach Chuck Daly move on.
- The games were at least closer than the series. The Bulls won the first three games by an average of 8 points before taking game four by more than 20.
- Jordan averaged 29.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists for the series.
1991 NBA Finals: The Bulls def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
Michael Jordan and the Bulls won their first title in a five game series over a Lakers team that had dominated the 80s.
- After finishing second in the Pacific Division, the Lakers cruised past the future champion-Houston Rockets in round 1, got by a fun RUN TMC Golden State in the Western Semis then defeated their division rivals the Portland Trailblazers in a six-game Western Conference Final.
- The Lakers still had Magic Johnson and Big Game James Worthy from the showtime days, but Kareem had retired.
- They now had a young Vlade Divac in the middle and had acquired Jordan’s old North Carolina teammate Sam Perkins to man one forward spot.
- The Bulls lost only their second game of the playoffs in the first game of the Finals. The Lakers took game 1 93-91.
- After that, it was all Bulls with upstarts winning by 11, 8, 15, and 7 points.
- MJ was named NBA Finals MVP for the first of an incredibly six times!
- Jordan averaged 31.2 points, an incredible 11.4 assists and 6.6 boards for the series – seems like he was a solid choice for MVP.
Michael Jordan’s 1991 Playoff Stats
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Check out my other articles on Michael Jordan
If you are a fan of Michael Jordan, you will like my other articles about the G.O.A.T.
- I wrote about where MJ is from here.
- I wrote about when MJ started playing basketball here.
- I wrote about the 1992 Dream Team here.
- I wrote about MJ’s crazy Finals record here.
- I wrote about MJ’s prime here.
- I wrote about MJ’s playoff record in depth here.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.