In a nutshell, the 90s were noteworthy primarily because of Michael Jordan and the greatest set of big men in league’s history. Jordan has emerged as a new face of the league, refuting the myth of not being able to win without the giant. Many consider it to be the best decade of NBA basketball and a transition period from the center-dominated league into perimeter-oriented NBA we are witnessing today.
The 90s will also be remembered by the most excellent collection of talent we have ever seen – the 1992 Dream Team – featuring 11 Hall of Famers and one college superstar in their primes. The invincible USA team has seen many competitive situations among its members. We all know the story of the greatest game ever that took place in Monte Carlo. Recently, MJ-confidant Ahmad Rashad to whom Jordan gave an exclusive interview regarding his gambling controversy shown in the sixth episode of The Last Dance shared the story about smack-talk that took place back in 1992.
“We are sitting in a room in a hotel in Barcelona—Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. There is a conversation going on on ‘who had the best team? Larry Bird makes Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley stop talking totally because they never won a championship. So the conversation is about Boston, the Lakers, and Chicago.”
Even back then, the criteria were the same – if you didn’t win the ring, your voice didn’t matter. That’s why Bird, Magic, and Jordan took over the conversation. The talk continued with them discussing who at the time was the best player in the world.
“Then, it moves forward onto ‘who is the best individual player?’ Now, Michael and Magic got into it. Michael gets very upset and says, ‘Listen. I’m telling you Larry, and I’m telling you Magic: if you don’t quit, every time I see you next year, I am busting your ass.’ After time went by, Larry Bird finally looks over at Magic, and he says, ‘Magic, you know, you and I were then, and Michael Jordan is now.’”
This wasn’t the first time Bird publicly acknowledged MJ’s greatness. After MJ’s record-breaking performance in 1986 vs. The Celtics, Bird, described him as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.” Nobody wanted any part of Jordan’s frenzy at that point in their careers. Bird was on the back end of his career as his back began to break down. Johnson was one year away from his retirement after being diagnosed with HIV. Neither of them were anywhere near their peak on the Dream Team. And Jordan was, having won two straight Finals MVPs.
The Dream Team capped Jordan’s ascendance as the new face of the sport. The torch had officially been passed, and MJ solidified himself as the league’s best player and continued to make his arguments for GOAT debate, which he ultimately became.