By Ron Griffitts
In June 1996, The Seattle SuperSonics (64-18) coached by George Karl met the Chicago Bulls (72-10) coached by Phil Jackson. The Supersonics dispatched the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz to get to the finals while Chicago got by the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic, losing only one game in the playoffs while Seattle had a hard fought 4-3 win over the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference finals to get to the finals.
The SuperSonics were paced by Gary Payton (19.3 points per game, 7.5 assists per game), Detlef Schrempf (17.1 ppg, 5.2 rebounds per game), Hersey Hawkins (15.6 ppg), Shawn Kemp (19.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg) and Sam Perkins (11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
The Bulls were led by Michael Jordan (30.4 ppg, 5.9 apg, 6.4 rpg), Scottie Pippen (19.4 ppg, 5.9 apg, 6.4 rpg), Dennis Rodman (14.9 rpg), Toni Kukoc (13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 4.0 rpg) and Luc Longley (9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Jordan was in his first full year back after a one and a half year retirement from basketball which he spent playing minor league baseball. The Bulls won the NBA title in 1991, 92 and 93 and were looking for their fourth title in six years.
The Sonics were in their third finals, having won in 1979.
Game one was at the United Center in Chicago and the Bulls took a 24-18 lead after one quarter. The Sonics closed the gap to 79-77 after three quarters but the Bulls went on a 28-13 run in the fourth quarter to take game one 107-90, led by Jordan’s 28 and Pippen’s 21 points while Shawn Kemp added 32 points for Seattle.
Game two still in Chicago was closer as the Supersonics led 27-23 after the first quarter. The Bulls held the lead at halftime 46-45 and outscored the Sonics 30-20 in the third quarter to lead 76-65 after three quarters but Seattle made a game of it and outscored Chicago 23-16 in the fourth quarter to lose 92-88.
Jordan with 29 and Pippen with 21 points and Rodman with 20 rebounds led the Bulls and again Shawn Kemp paced Seattle with 29 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls went up 2-0 in the series.
Game three moved to KeyArena in the Seattle Center in Seattle and was dominated by the Bulls who took a 62-38 halftime lead on their way to a 108-86 victory to go up three games to none in the series.
Jordan led Chicago with 36 points and Detlef Schrempf had 20 points for the Sonics.
In Game four Jordan and Pippen made only 10 of 36 field goal attempts between them and led by Shawn Kemp with 25 and Gary Payton with 21 points the Sonics get their first win 107-86 to bring the series to 3 games to 1.
Game five still in Seattle was a defensive battle with the SuperSonics leading 62-60 after three quarters to pull away in the fourth quarter led by the balanced scoring of Gary Payton 23, Shawn Kemp 22 and Hersey Hawkins 21 points for an 89-78 win to pull within one game of Chicago 3 games to 2. The Bulls were led by Micheal Jordan who had 26 points.
Game six was back in Chicago where the Bulls were particularly tough and in a close game led after the first quarter 24-18 and held on for an 87-75 victory in the game and the series for their fourth NBA title in six years.
Jordan led the Bulls with 22 points and won his fourth NBA finals MVP while Detlef Schrempf paced the Sonics with 23 points.
Chicago would be back in the finals the following year while Seattle has not been back since 1996.
Statistics for this article were from sports-reference.com.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.