After a three year hiatus from the NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls would reach the promise land against Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics where they would go on to clinch the series to reclaim the 1996 NBA Finals Championship. It was not just Michael Jordan’s fourth NBA championship ring, but the first without his father by his side.
July 23, 1993 is the day Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan Sr. was murdered in the state of North Carolina. Later that year, Jordan made the decision to walk away from the game of basketball in order to fulfill his fathers dream of playing professional baseball.
On June 16, 1996, the day would belong to Michael. Coming into the series up 3-0, Seattle would win two straight games to make it an interesting series. Jordan would put on a scintillating performance for the Chicago faithful crowd as he scored 22 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished 7 assists, and picked an opposing player’s pocket twice during the course of 43 minutes in a 87-75 victory. He would lead the Bulls to their 4th NBA title in a 6 year span, also capturing his fourth Finals MVP becoming the only player to accomplish such a task (’91-’93).
However, the emotions hit Jordan after winning his first title without his father by his side. When the final buzzer would sound, Jordan would go on to lay on the United Center court where he would lay for several seconds as teammates celebrate around him. Moments later, he would get up and run to the locker room where he continued to sob.
Michael Jordan would have a difficult three years before this day upon him. His father being killed, a brief retirement from basketball, a failed attempt at baseball, and a return back to the hardwood floor that would end in a early defeat in the postseason.
“This is probably the hardest time for me to play the game of basketball,” Jordan said. “I had a lot of things on my heart, on my mind.
“I just had a lot to think about and maybe my mind wasn’t geared to where it was. But I think deep down inside it was geared to what was most important to me, which was my family and my father not being here to see this.”