After setting an NBA record with 72 wins in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls pummeled their way through the Eastern Conference Playoffs, en route to an NBA Finals match-up with Gary “The Glove” Payton, Shawn “Reign Man” Kemp and the high-powered Seattle Supersonics.
From Game 1, the Bulls controlled the tempo and the series. The Bulls took the first two games at home, then dominated Game 3 with a 108-86 blowout victory. The stage was set for a celebration inside the loudest arena in the NBA for Game 4. That celebration would have to wait, as the Sonics took control and won Games 4 and 5 to send the series back to Chicago for Game 6.
The doubts were creeping in, as the Bulls were under pressure. But, this was the Chicago Bulls.
Although it wasn’t the prettiest game the Bulls clinched their fourth title in a six-year span with an 87-75 win in Game 6. Michael Jordan scored 22 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and won his 4th NBA championship.
Unlike most memorable Jordan performances in playoff games, the most memorable image of MJ from this game wasn’t one of a game-winner or a breathtaking dunk. The most memorable image was him crying on the locker room floor after the game. The reason why Jordan collapsed on the floor and was so emotional after the win was because it was Father’s Day and this was his first championship since his father, James Jordan, was murdered in 1993.
“I know he’s watching. To my wife and kids, to my mother, brother, and sister, this is for Daddy.”
MJ had been on an emotional roller-coaster since his father’s untimely death on July 23, 1993. He had done it all. Jordan had just come off winning three straight titles with the Bulls and was beginning to feel like there was nothing left for him and the game of basketball. Jordan retired later that year. But he would show a few years later that wasn’t the end of him.
June 16, 1996, was not just a day of greatness for Michael Jordan. Father’s Day 1996 was the completion of a 35-month journey back to the top.