In the 1996 Finals, the Bulls faced the Seattle Supersonics team that won 64 games during the regular season.
On June 16, 1996, Chicago’s series-clinching victory over Seattle drew an 18.8 rating and a 35 share on NBC, with the six-game pulling in an estimated 60 million viewers, making it the most-watched NBA game ever on television.
The Bulls were coming off a season in which Michael Jordan returned from an 18-month retirement, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs to the Orlando Magic. Heading into the upcoming season, Chicago was no longer the same team as they were in their most recent championship season of 1993.
A new core of players such as Luc Longley, Toni Kukoč, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper, Jud Buechler, Bill Wennington, and Randy Brown. But perhaps their most significant addition to the team was Dennis Rodman. The result of this ensemble was probably the greatest regular season of any team in NBA history at the time, as the Bulls won a then-record 72 games.
The SuperSonics were led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, with George Karl as head coach. The team was considered a perennial title contender throughout the mid-1990s, but the closest they came to reaching the finals was in 1993 when they lost to the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals
The Bulls won the first three games of the series. Down 3-0, the Sonics won the next two in Seattle to send the series back to Chicago. The Bulls won Game 6 by a score of 87-75.
Three years after losing his dad, Jordan won his fourth championship on Father’s Day.
However, The Sonics had problems with injuries, and some of them believe if they were complete they could win the champs. They important guard, Nate McMillan played six minutes in Game 1 and missed the next two games due to a lower back injury while Gary Payton, who was dealing with a calf injury, did not guard Jordan in the first three games.
“Nate was a huge part of the team. He made all the right plays offensively and defensively”, said Detlef Schrempf (forward, Seattle Supersonics).
“If I was healthy and we could have executed our game plan, we could have beaten the Bulls, or at least taken them to seven games,” said Nate McMillan
Gary Payton:” I wish I could have played [Michael] in the first three games, but I had torn a muscle in my calf and George had told me that he didn’t want to wear me out. I was telling George, “Please just let me play against him.” First game, he killed us. George didn’t really want me to do that. He said, “Well, we’ve got a long series, let’s just wait.”
Assistant coach of Seattle Supersonics, Dwane Casey concluded this with the statement:
“Ifs and buts, you know. I don’t know if it would have made a difference. Michael was playing at such a high level.”
MJ was back in the game, and it seems he didn’t plan to stop there.
“We were in the locker room after celebrating, and I told Michael, “Hey, that’s my first championship. I’m done.” He said, “You’re done? Nah, this is my fourth championship ring. We have to win two more. I need to have one more ring than Magic.” Ron Harper said.