Back then it looked like a potential continuation of the Lakers dynasty. But from today’s perspective, it was more like a bitter prelude to the birth of the 1990s Bulls dynasty.
1991 NBA finalists, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers did a great job in the Conference finals eliminating both 1990 finalists - Lakers, who slowed down from the Showtime, took down the Blazers in the West, while the Bulls, who adopted Tex Winter's triangle offense concept, took down the Pistons in the East.
Before the 1990-91 season, the L.A. Lakers made one major acquisition - they signed free agent Sam Perkins, 1980s Dallas Mavericks standard starting forward who was a three-time All-American (1982, 1983, 1984) teamed up with Michael Jordan and James Worthy for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
In California, with a new lucrative contract, Big Smooth responded with just another solid regular season (14.7ppg and 7.7rpg) before becoming the beast in the postseason. Given huge minutes (39.6 per game) from the head coach Mike Dunleavy, he would increase his averages to 17.7ppg, 8.3rpg, and 1.4bpg while shooting 54.8% from the field.
Moreover, as 1991 NBA playoffs progressed Perkins showed a tendency to confidently shot and hit from behind the three-point arc, something which was at the time almost exclusive asset of the rare three-point shooting big man such as Bill Laimbeer and Jack Sikma. That postseason he launched 30 threes and hit 11 of those (36.7%).
Definitely the most important replayed, and remembered of those Perkins’ triples is the one he hit in the decisive moments of the 1991 NBA Finals Game 1 in Chicago Stadium on June 2nd, 1991. That particular evening in Chicago Perkins hit 3 out of 4 three-point attempts while scoring a total of 22 points.
It was Magic Johnson who threw the precise cross-court pass and found wide-open Perkins on the right diagonal. With just under 16 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Perkins would calmly let it fly over the outstretched fingers of the Bulls power forward Horace Grant, even without the complete follow through on his shot, and would thus lead the way for the Lakers hard-fought 93-91 win in Chicago Stadium.
But, after Perkins Game 1 heroics it was the Bulls who won four straight (three consecutive in Great Western Forum) and took their first NBA Championship ever.
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.