A hotly debated topic of late is whether fans, media, and current and former players think the Houston Rockets would top the Chicago Bulls in the mid-90’s.
Really the only seasons where the Chicago Bulls didn’t win an NBA Championship in the 1990’s were when all-time great shooting guard Michael Jordan wasn’t on the team, or wasn’t around for much of the season. Hence the Houston Rockets winning back-to-back NBA Championships while Jordan was trying his hand at baseball with the Chicago White Sox minor league organization in the mid-1990’s.
There’s always an intriguing debate as to whether the Bulls would’ve won at least one more title if Jordan didn’t retire the first time around to try his hand at playing baseball. The Rockets and Bulls never met in any other NBA Finals series, so this debate is pretty much all speculation.
But both the Rockets and Bulls were surely very talented teams with numerous Hall-of-Famers lining their rosters. For the Bulls, it was the likes of MJ, forwards Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and fellow big man Horace Grant that largely led the way for their six titles of the 1990’s. And for the Rockets, it was mostly center Hakeem Olajuwon, forward Charles Barkley, and guard Clyde Drexler.
Although, Barkley was still playing with the Phoenix Suns for the most part when he was challenging for titles in the early 1990’s.
“[The Bulls] had no answer for [Olajuwon]. It’s easy for me to say this now because it’s all hypothetical, but I don’t think they would have beat us in ’94,” Brooks said.
“Now, the next year it could have been a different story. But that ’94 team, ‘Dream’ was, it was like destiny. He was locked in. I’ve never seen a guy up close every fourth quarter, I don’t even think he missed a shot, let alone make a mistake. He had both ends just covered.”
Brooks played for the Rockets for around two-and-a-half seasons. He landed with the Rockets prior to the start of the 1992-93 season. And he did stick with them long enough to get the only ring of his career when the Rockets won the title in the 1994 NBA Finals. But Brooks was traded to the Dallas Mavericks prior to the Rockets winning the title in 1995.
It is an interesting point that he brings up regarding the Olajuwon-Bulls debate. The Bulls didn’t have a big man as talented as Olajuwon, especially during the 1993-94 season. Olajuwon did snag MVP honors from the 1993-94 campaign, when he posted a sparkling 6.8 box plus/minus rating and 25.3 player efficiency rating.
One area that could provide some clues is the meetings that the Rockets and Bulls did have in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. Even without Jordan in the mix most of the way in those two seasons, the Bulls maintained a 2-2 record against the Rockets over the course of those two years. It also took the Rockets seven games to knock off the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals. The Bulls might’ve been able to push them to the edge and win a fourth straight title if Jordan was still around in 1994.
This is surely one of the more thought-provoking debates of the 1990’s, figuring out whether the Rockets would still be back-to-back champs in 1994 and 1995 if MJ was still sticking around on the hardwood for the Bulls full-time. Who really knows, but it appears that Brooks is confident it would still fall in Houston’s favor.