Shortly after his father’s death, (and after winning three consecutive championships) Jordan retired from the NBA and decided to try to play professional baseball in the Chicago White Sox’s minor league system. Although he was a respectable ballplayer he was not good enough for the “Big Show”. He returned to the NBA after a year hiatus and went on to win three consecutive championships. Should he have stayed? No! He followed his heart and reached for his dream of playing major league baseball. Some say he was burned out from the game of basketball. Some say he did it for his father who loved baseball and always wanted his son to be a baseball player. Regardless, it was his decision (“Don’t judge me monkey”). When he returned he came back with a vengeance. It was obvious that he missed the game and he did not lose a step. He led his Bulls to three more championships and solidified his grasp as the greatest basketball player of the 90s and arguably of all-time. Here are the Top 5 NBA Players of the 1990s:
5 Shaquille O’Neal
Despite only playing in seven seasons in the 90s (his first season was 92-93) it would be negligent to leave O’Neal off of this list. He was the second most dominating player in the NBA during the 90s (after MJ, of course). Because he only played seven seasons in the 90s and he failed to capture a championship he is the #5 player on this list. If it was based off of individual dominance he would be second. But being a great player is also being a great team player and that is something that O’Neal managed to do in the 2000s. In this decade O’Neal was still a monster! He averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and shot 59%. He was the 1993 Rookie of the Year, six-time NBA All-Star and 1995 NBA Scoring Champion. O’Neal’s legacy was just beginning.
4 David Robinson
Robinson was as consistent as they came in the 90s. Known as “The Admiral”, Robinson was also recognized as a genuine and sincere person off of the court. Robinson had a great work ethic that enabled him to get the most out of his talent, having averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and shot 52% in the 90s. Robinson was a 1999 NBA Champion, 1995 NBA MVP, 1992 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year.
3 Scottie Pippen
Pippen was Robin to Jordan’s Batman. But if it was not for Pippen the Bulls would not have won any of those six rings. He was a truly great player that would have been number two on this list if he had not played with Jordan and been the number two option on his team. Pippen is infamous for his tenacious defense and humongous nose (a nose that was reconstructed by Dennis Rodman’s elbow). His numbers in the 90s show exactly what type of impact he had on his teams multiple titles. In the 90s he averaged 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists and shot 48%. He was a seven-time all-star and an eight-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member. Pippen was a well-rounded player that was extremely unselfish and did whatever was asked of him in order to win. And win he did.
2 Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon is infamous for his post moves. All NBA defenders knew that they were in trouble when Olajuwon was near the basket. He would put them in what the late, great Chick Hearn called the “popcorn machine”. In other words he would up and they would jump. He is arguably the greatest post player in NBA history. To this day, NBA players go to him in the offseason to learn post moves. During the 90s Olajuwon averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and shot 51%. He was also a two-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP and seven-time all-star. Hakeem “the dream” might not have been the prettiest, but his game sure was.
1 Michael Jordan
Anyone who watched the NBA in the 90s can visualize Jordan flying through the air with his legs spread, tongue out and ball palmed next to his right ear. He WAS the NBA in the 90s. Everyone wanted to be “like Mike”. And he had the stylish shoes (and pricey) to match his unique game. His leaping ability had not been seen since Dr. J. But unlike Dr. J, Jordan had a “J” that could not be stopped. He ALWAYS made the big shot. When the game was on the line you knew who the ball was going to and you knew that he could not be stopped. “MJ” is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time and also the most influential. In the 90s, Jordan was a six-time NBA Champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time NBA MVP, seven-time NBA all-star, seven-time NBA Scoring Champion and two-time NBA Steals Champion. He was simply a Champion!