Michael Jordan believes the 1996 NBA championship was the toughest out of the 6 championships he won during his career.
MJ had his first 3-peat with the Chicago Bulls from 1991-93. Jordan was crowned Finals MVP in each of the cases, defeating the likes of Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley.
However, Jordan decided to retire following his first 3-peat. This news sent shock waves in the entire basketball communities as the superstar was at the peak of his prime.
The former NCAA champion decided to pursue a baseball career, something that was his late father’s dream as well. The tragic murder of MJ’s father was believed to be one of the major reasons he decided to retire from basketball at the time.
However, the Bulls legend was unable to replicate his NBA success in Baseball. Thus decided to return to the NBA hardwood during the near end of the 1994-95 season.
Unfortunately, the Bulls would lose to the Orlando Magic in the semi-finals of the eastern conference. His Airness was under the spotlight, with many doubting his ability to win another ring.
Michael Jordan was under immense scrutiny during the 1995-96 season
During an interview with Australian Story executive producer Caitlin Shea, Jordan revealed the hardships behind winning his 4th title.
“The ’96 was probably the toughest one because I was coming from a defeat in ’95 when I played baseball,” Jordan said. “Everyone thought I was a step slower. So, I had to prove myself and my father, the first time I actually done it without my father. So, all these emotions and all these different things are coming at me. To me, that was the most difficult if I had to pick of the six.”
Jordan used the loss to the Orlando Magic as motivation to regain his throne. The following season, the Bulls would win a record 72 games. Jordan won his 4th regular season MVP that year as well.
The Chicago Bulls dominated the playoffs losing only one game and sweeping the Orlando Magic in the ECF. Thus Jordan got his revenge on the Magic.
The Bulls would face the Seattle Supersonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. The Bulls won the first 3-consecutive games but would lose Games Four and Five. There was no doubt that Gary Payton was giving MJ a hard time defensively.
However, the Bulls would not let the series go till a Game Seven and would win their 4th title, making it the perfect come-back season for Jordan. The Bulls would go on to have their second 3-peat.
The Finals MVP Jordan averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists against the SuperSonics in the 1996 Finals. The superstar described the 1995-96 season as more mentally and physically draining than people knew.