The 1996 Chicago Bulls Vs. The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers: Who Wins a 7 Game Series? By @ProfessorCorria

bullslakers3

What happens when an immovable object clashes with an unstoppable force? When two opposing factions chuck full of immortal combatants square off after they have left a path of decimated antagonists in their wake. On one side you have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen walking into the arena with the heads of conquered feudal kings in their stead. Swaggering in from the opposite direction would be marginally younger monarchs Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal chasing apparitions that exist in the far reaches of every fan’s memory, ghosts that can never be exercised because of the past accomplishments of opponents that can never be vanquished because they only exist in everyone’s mind. The 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers were the two most dominant teams of the past 20 years, vastly superior to any other teams because of the combination of talent, coaching, intelligence, leadership, hunger and the competitive blood lust of their best players. It is beyond difficult to determine who would win in a best of 7 series between these two teams. A lot would depend on the home court advantage. Who would come out on top? Would it be the Jordan, the supreme basketball Apex Predator? Or Kobe and Shaq, both of whom possessed competitive mean streaks, when not directed at each other, that would devastate opponents.

bullslakers4

The 1996 Chicago Bulls were the definition of dominance, 72-10 regular season record, which they followed with a 15-3 run in the playoffs. Oh and they just happened to go 69-13 the very next season. The 1996 NBA season should have just been known as “Michael Jordan Revenge Tour” after the Bulls were ushered out of the 1995 playoffs in the 2nd round by the Orlando Magic. But, with the addition of Dennis Rodman, a rebounding machine and defensive stalwart, the Bulls now had a triad of stars with varying skillsets that Phil Jackson could fit a solid group of role players around. Michael Jordan was still awesome, but this wasn’t Michael Jordan at his zenith, but Scottie Pippen had come into his prime when Jordan had his brief retirement, and was truly like water, a formless force that was capable at filling in any holes that the 1996 might have had.

bullslakers6

The 1996 Chicago Bulls averaged 105.2 PPG, while only surrendering 92.9 PPG, frightening. They averaged 115.2 points per 100 possessions and only gave up 101.8 per 100 possessions, both tops in the league, which gives even a better snap shot for how dominant they truly were. Granted, the NBA was slightly watered down and top heavy in terms of the dispersion of talent and total talent in the league in general. In the Playoffs they crushed the Miami Heat 3-0, which featured Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning and not much else. In the Semi-Finals they locked horns with a New York Knicks unit featuring the usual suspects like Ewing, Starks, Oakley, and Anthony Mason. The Knicks, 2 years removed from an NBA Finals appearance, were in decline but still presented a tough physical and mental challenge. However the Bulls dispatched them in 4-1. The Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic were supposed to be a “clash of titans”, a true test of the OG’s versus a group of young challengers. However, in game one a 38 point thrashing of Shaq and Penny made it clear that the Bulls were going to crush the young Magic until they tapped out. They did throw in the towel, suffering a 4 game demolition at the hands of the hungry Bulls, losing each game by an average of 13.4 points. The 1996 NBA Finals versus the Seattle Supersonics were interesting because the Bulls ran out to a 3-0 lead, but then dropped two in a row as the Sonics stormed back, before eventually suffocating them in game 6, 87-75. The Sonics coach George Karl made a serious error in judgment by not letting Gary Payton, the best defensive Point Guard in NBA history, guard Michael Jordan until game 4. Jordan abused Seattle in games 1-3, but Payton chased, harassed and agitated Jordan into 3 subpar games, but by then it was too little, too late. Payton and Seattle’s overall speed bothered Jordan “2.0” a bit, but Pippen’s constant traps and defense coupled with Rodman’s rebounding helped carry the Bulls to a 4-2 series victory.

bullslakers7

The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers were a frustrating team during the regular season due to their two stars complete apathy towards one another and the lethargic nature in which the slogged through their 82 games, registering a 56-26 record. The defending champs were sitting at 48-26 before coach Phil Jackson was able to reign in young superstar Kobe Bryant and bring him back on the reservation after a season long feud with Shaq and the coaching staff. They were able to secure the number two seed in the western conference on the last day of the season, riding an 8 game winning streak into the playoffs, which is when all the fun began. The Lakers were the 23rd ranked team on defense in the NBA during the regular season turned into a defensive killing machine in the playoffs, only surrendering 100 plus points 3 times in 16 playoff games ,frustrating opponents by running them off the 3 point line, funneling them into O’Neal, and using their big perimeter players like Ron Harper, Rick Fox and Kobe Bryant to trap other team’s big men. It was also a huge luxury to have the two best players in the NBA on the same team mixed in with skilled role players such as Robert Horry, Horace Grant, Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw who were just focused on winning and helped assuage the tension between Bryant and O’Neal. Sound familiar?

derek-fisher-robert-horry

The 2001 Lakers opened the NBA Playoffs on a tear and kept on rolling, sweeping the Portland Trailblazer team that took them 7 games in Western Conference Finals the year before, winning by margins of 13, 18 and 13 again. The Blazers were a very solid team that went 50-32 during the regular season, and featured Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudemire and Steve Smith.  The Lakers then turned their attention to their “pseudo rivals” the Sacramento “Queens”, as Shaq fashioned them, and promptly swept them out of the playoffs. It’s easy to see that the Lakers were in a “zone” because the year before Sacramento pushed them to 5 games in the first round, the maximum amount of games at the time, and then pushed them to 7 games in 2002. The most eye popping thing about the Lakers 2001 playoff run was the absolute destruction of the number 1 seed San Antonio Spurs, spearheaded by a red hot Kobe Bryant. It’s so interesting to watch Kobe dominate Western Conference powers and then to see Shaq destroy whatever JV squad came out of the East. The Lakers crushed the Spurs, including 39 and 29 point slaughters of the spurs in games 3 and 4. The Lakers dropped their only game of the playoffs to Allen Iverson, and the Philadelphia 76ers in game 1 of the NBA Finals, with Iverson dropping 48 points. The Lakers took the next 4 games from the Sixers, including 3 straight in Philly, on their way to their 2nd straight NBA Championship.

Jackson-Bryant-Shaq

A matchup between the 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers would be a VERY competitive, well played and hotly contested series, but the real question is who would win? I think the Bulls would have their hands full with a “in his prime” Shaq, who was a destructive force, and “afro” Kobe, but I still think that they would find a way to claw their way to a victory. Jordan would struggle a bit with Kobe’s quickness and length, Robert Horry’s constant trapping and Shaq patrolling the middle. The difference for the Bulls would be Scottie Pippen’s defense and ability to play Point-Forward, which in turn would create huge match-up problems for the Lakers. The Lakers could keep throwing the ball to Shaq in the middle until the Bulls cried uncle, but I think all the missed free-throws would sink them in the end. Watching all the games that have been on NBATV the past few months has got me hyped!!! I got the bulls in 7, who do you have?

bullslakers12

The Black Mamba

Today is Kobe Bryant’s 35th birthday. The black mamba has been electrifying patrons in Staples Center for exactly half of his life, and even after suffering an achilles tear on April 12th, Kobe is determined to be back in purple and gold this coming season. Kobe has always been a winner, and that derives from his unmatched work ethic and drive. That has been tested this summer as Kobe has been in the toughest battle of his life, against his ailing body. Kobe’s rehab has gone very well to this point, and barring any setback, he expects to be ready when the Lakers open the season. Below is a birthday homage to one of the all time greats.

Flashback Friday: Kobe Bryant AND LeBron James Highlights from the 2008 Olympics

LeBron+James+Kobe+Bryant+Olympics+Day+16+Basketball+F63p-CgmyG-x

With the “Summer of LeBron” looming large in the minds of all Basketball fans, Kobe Bryant has let it be known that his first choice of teammates would be non other than LeBron James. Here is a flashback to the 2008 “Redeem Team” in which the United States were led by non other than LeBron James and a “prime” Kobe Bryant. Imagine what could have been?  Here are some videos for your viewing pleasure.

Kobe’s Clutch moments from the 2008 Olympic Championship Game Vs. Spain

LeBron James highlights from the Beijing 2008 Olympics

The 15 biggest Chokes in NBA playoff History : By @ProfessorCorria

15.) The Atlanta Hawks get swept by the Orlando Magic in the 2nd round of the 2010 playoffs by the Orlando Magic, by an average of 25 points per game. If you looked up mediocrity in the dictionary, a team picture of the 2010 Atlanta Hawks would be starring right back at you. After this stunning display of ordinariness how did the Hawks respond? By giving the PAINFULLY average Joe Johnson a 6 year $126 million dollar deal.

14.) Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks 2007 Choke Job vs. the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, after winning 67 games during the regular season. Fresh of their collapse in the 2006 NBA finals where they blew a 2-0 lead to the Miami Wade’s, the Mavericks and the 2007 MVP were PUNKED by the Baron Davis and the Golden State Warriors, furthering the narrative that Dirk was softer than the fur on French Montana’s fur coat.

13.) The Portland Trailblazers give up 15 point 4th quarter lead to the LA Lakers in Game 7, after being down 3-1 in the series. In 2000 the “Jailblazers” could have squelched an impending Lakers dynasty, but instead they choked away a 15 point 4th quarter lead, which when you look at their roster makes all the sense in the world.

12.) Tracy McGrady and the Orlando Magic Collapse vs. the Detroit Pistons after being up 3-1 in the series. Remember those Kobe vs. T-Mac comparisons? El Oh El. McGrady Said, “we’re looking forward to our next opponent.” The Magic then went out and lost game5 by 31 and games 6 and 7 by 15 points a piece. Please Enjoy McGrady making an ass out of himself .

11.) Kobe Bryant 4 Air Balls in the 1997 Playoffs. This was the ultimate learning experience and we all came to know that Kobe Bean Bryant doesn’t fear the “moment”. But, at the time him shooting 4 air balls in an elimination game with Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel and Shaquille O’Neal on the floor left everyone scratching their heads.

10.) Scottie Pippen gets a “Migraine” in game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. Hmmmmm, so funny how the narrative can change on a player over the course of time. Scottie Pippen was once thought of as fragile and soft, but after winning 6 championships and gutting out a back injury in the 1998 finals, his legacy is unmarked. But, you know MJ never let him live this moment down.

9.) Charles Smith in the game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals vs the Chicago Bulls gets his shot repeatedly sent by Bulls defenders. Depending on whom you are a fan off this highlight is either a comedy reel or a horror show. Enjoy.

8.) Just dunk the damn ball Patrick!!!!! 1995…Game 7 of the Eastern Confence Semi-Finals…Knicks vs the Pacers. Madison Square Garden…The Mecca… 7-1 Center Patrick Ewing drives the lane with the game on the line, and instead of throwing it down, Pat tries to lay the ball in. This missed lay-up signaled the end of the Knicks as a contender for the NBA championship. Rumor has it that after the Ewing’s shot careened off the rim that if you listened closely enough, you could actually hear the sound of the New York Knicks championship window closing.

7.) Michael Jordan AKA the Goat AKA black Jesus returned to the NBA in 1995 after an 18 month layoff, and he had his moments, but he also had some “other” moments. Including, getting ripped by Nick Anderson in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. He was wearing #45 in that game, he promptly switched back to #23 after Nick Anderson took his loaf of bread. Don’t you wish there was a “First Take” then, so we’d have video footage of Skelator and Hairline talking about how the GOAT had lost his “Clutch Gene”?

6.) Speaking of Nick Anderson, poor Nick Anderson. In Game 1 of the 1995 finals the heavily favored Orlando Magic were in position to win vs. the Houston Rockets, when Nick Anderson missed 4 straight free throws, submarining the series and his career, as he was never the same. This….. Is painful to watch.

5.) The Los Angeles Lakers blow a 24 point lead in game 4 of the 2008 NBA finals, sigh. The Lakers finally got rolling early against the defensive juggernaut Boston Celtics, only to gag away the lead. If you’re a Lakers fan or watch the Lakers often you know that giving up big early leads is just par for the course. This Loss set the table for the drubbing in game 6, in which the Celtics beat the Lakers by 39 points.

4.) Karl Malone in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA finals vs. the Chicago Bulls. Malone missed 2 free-throws with 12 seconds left that would have given the Jazz the lead and a chance to steal home court from the Chicago Bulls. Scottie Pippen walked by Malone and whispered, “the mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.” Malone, the MVP that year, went right ahead and peed down his leg and missed both free-throws. The Bulls gained possession and “you know who” hit the game winner as time expired.

3.) LeBron James VS. the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Before LBJ took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010, he pulled a disappearing in the biggest game of the season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Makes you wonder if his mind was already on bird watching in Miami, because he looked lost against the Boston Celtics.

2.) Magic “Tragic” Johnson gets ripped to shreds by the media and opponents for his lackluster performance in the “clutch” in the 1984 NBA Finals, his first matchup against rival Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics. For some reason he dribbled out the clock when Game 2 was tied and the Lakers lost in overtime. He committed a costly turnover that sent Game 4 to overtime and missed two free throws that would’ve tied the score. The Lakers still made it to Game 7…where Johnson lost the ball with just under a minute remaining, all but sealing the title for the Celtics.

1.) John Starks shoots 2-18 in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA finals, going 0-10 in the 4th quarter. The struggle that night was beyond authentic, as you can see poor John Starks who worked his way up from the CBA, to starting for the New York Knicks. This short highlight pretty much sums up John Starks night, as he was in his own personal hell.