Coming off their first three-peat, Jordan shocked the world by announcing his retirement from professional basketball. He ultimately spent a season and a half away from the game before making a triumphant return in the middle of the 1994-95 campaign.
Chicago lost in the second round of the playoffs in 1994 without Jordan. They suffered the same fate the following season, despite Jordan’s midseason return. Then again, the general consensus was that MJ wasn’t 100 percent himself at that point, which is why he and the Bulls didn’t make a deeper run.
Some folks believe the Bulls could have won the title in ’94 and ’95 with Jordan at the helm. This would have bridged the gap between their two three-peats, resulting in eight straight NBA championships for Chicago.
Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, could the Bulls actually have accomplished this Herculean feat? We certainly can’t discount the possbility. MJ is the GOAT, and if he had stayed on, then it’s not impossible to think that he could have willed the Bulls to another five championships after their first three. This argument is based solely on the greatness of Michael Jordan, and it has merit.
Then again, the Bulls would have faced an entirely different set of challenges if Jordan did not retire in 1993. It’s entirely possible that they would have won eight straight, but it’s also more logical to think that they probably would not have.
For starters, you need to consider the obvious: Jordan was completely burned out. That was his primary motivation from walking away form the game. It wasn’t as if he made the decision to retire overnight; he had actually been considering the prospect for at least a year prior to finally going through with it.
The murder of his father also played a significant role in his decision to retire. However, that was more of a final straw as opposed to the sole determining factor.
Given all this, if Jordan actually stayed in the NBA, then he probably would not have been the same player. He needed that year and a half off to recharge his basketball batteries, so to speak, and this resulted in a rejuvenated MJ who went on to lead the Bulls to three more titles upon his return.
The next important factor we need to look at is how the Bulls would have performed in those two seasons if Jordan was still on board the entire time.
You have to note that Jordan made his announcement to retire on Oct. 6, 1993, which was just a few weeks away from the start of the season. At that point, the Bulls pretty much had their lineup in place, and they would have fielded the same team with or without MJ.
That season, Chicago fell to the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs, as they struggled to provide an answer for Patrick Ewing. The duo of Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley was a mismatch against Ewing, and was one of the biggest factors why the Bulls were unable to progress to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Even if the Bulls managed to defeat the Knicks and then the Indiana Pacers, they would have faced Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. After struggling with Ewing, Chicago would have had major problems defending Olajuwon.
The same can be argued for the 1994-95 campaign. Even with Jordan in the lineup, height still proved to be a problem for the Bulls. This time around, it was Shaquille O’Neal and the Magic who ousted Chicago in the playoffs. Again, the Bulls would have faced off against Houston in the NBA Finals if they somehow managed to manage Shaq’s domination. They would have then had to beat the Pacers again.
As pointed out by former Rocket Kenny Smith, Houston swept O’Neal and the Magic in the ’95 NBA Finals, and he firmly believes the Rockets’ height advantage would have been too much for Jordan and the Bulls to handle.
It wasn’t until the arrival of Dennis Rodman in 1995 that Chicago was able to find a dominating presence down low — on the defensive end, at least. Then again, Horace Grant may have not made the move away from Chicago if Jordan actually stayed around. In that case, would the Bulls still have traded for Rodman in ’95? More importantly, would Chicago have won its second three-peat without the presence of Rodman?
Everyone seems to be so fixated on the Bulls winning the championships during the gap years of ’94 and ’95 that we forget about whether or not they could have actually won it in ’96, ’97, and ’98 after going five straight.
This is something we will never be able to determine, but it is certainly a valid query.