There were six titles altogether. Each one was memorable in its own way. But the Bulls' first title in 1991 probably had the most meaning. It was about validation for Michael Jordan and the young team. The championship showed that the greatest player in the game could do more than just score a lot of points.
The first step
The Bulls needed to overcome their biggest obstacle before getting to the NBA Finals--beating Detroit. They had endured two straight playoff defeats to the Pistons, including a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals the previous year, when Scottie Pippen suffered from his infamous migraine.
There would be no headaches in 1991. The Bulls embarrassed the Pistons in four games in the conference finals.
Taking the upper hand
The Lakers and Magic Johnson came into the Finals with experience. It showed in the first game, when Bulls mistakes enabled Sam Perkins to hit the winning basket for Los Angeles.
But the Bulls took over from there, winning the next three. In Game 4, their defense suffocated Los Angeles in a 97-82 victory. It was the fewest points the Lakers had scored in the Finals since the shot clock was installed in 1954. That set up Game 5.
The Lakers didn't go down easily. Led by Elden Campbell, who had 21 points, Los Angeles tied the game 93-93 with six minutes left.
Then John Paxson went to work. Jordan kept finding him, and Paxson didn't miss, scoring 10 points down the stretch.
Pippen also shook the stigma of the migraine, leading all scorers with 32 points. However, he again got pushed into the background -- this time by Paxson, not Jordan.
"That's nothing new," Pippen laughed.
What they said
Hugging the championship trophy, a teary Jordan said: "I never showed this kind of emotion in public before. . . . We started from scratch, on the bottom, not making the playoffs when I got here. It took seven years, but we won. This should get rid of the stigma of the one-man team. We have players that make us an effective basketball team."
Paxson on his Game 5 performance: "I've had a few games like this before, but not in the Finals. It felt good to be able to step up in a clutch situation. You get a feeling. It never hurts when you make a few in a row. I think I showed people I can shoot with confidence."
What they said later
Pippen: "I feel the first time was the best because it was a taste that we had never, ever had before. . . . We had growing pains. We were very young. We were just learning. We learned how to battle through different obstacles and stay focused. That's what any great team has to go through. We weren't any different."