The Chicago Bulls are the unquestioned dynasty of the NBA in the 90s' with two three-peats, winning six championships and dominating the landscape of the league for the whole decade. But in the middle of their run, one team got their shine, and the Houston Rockets won back to back in 1994 and 1995 to break up the Bulls' run into two pieces. But Michael Jordan's absence always raised the question if the Rockets would have still won if MJ was there.
Vernon Maxwell, also known as Mad Max, was one of the key components to those Rockets teams, and he recently spoke on the No Chill podcast about how Michael Jordan being retired didn't make a difference, as they always blew out the Bulls in the regular season, with or without MJ:
"Hey, man we used to beat them all the time man. I know things are different during the playoffs. But I just feel like we had that big as* African (Olajuwon) back there and Bill Cartwright and Will Purdue they wasn't gonna be able to do it. We just look at the numbers man. I mean the numbers don't lie, man, we was beating the s**t outta them boys. I mean we wasn't beating them by 5, we were beating them up by 15, 17, 16, 13, we was beating them. I mean over like an 8-year span, 7-year span we was 9-1 (against them). I mean come on man."
Vernon Maxwell, No Chill
It may be easy to say that the Rockets would have beaten the Bulls if they met in the Finals, but they had six chances to make it there and prove it. Still, you have to admit Maxwell is right when talking about the numbers being in Houston's favor.
During Chicago's first three-peat 1991-1993), the Rockets had a 5-1 record versus the Bulls. Also, Hakeem Olajuwon, who was their biggest star, actually has a winning record against his draft class rival Michael (13-10). Having "The Dream" on their side exploited the Bulls' biggest weakness, which was the center position. Although guys like Cartwright, Purdue, and Longley were solid, they were light years away from Hakeem, and the Rockets would make sure to feed the big man when playing the Bulls.
Sure, the Rockets had their number in the regular season, but everybody knows there is a big difference between the regular season and playoff basketball. When the stakes rise, everything is different, and a Bulls-Rockets Finals matchup wouldn't have been the same as their season games. But it maybe could have been the biggest challenge the Bulls could have ever overcome and possibly the only Finals loss in Jordan's career. It's a true shame we never got to see it.