Blog, Sports History

The Chicago Bulls’ First Three-Peat

By: Heidi Samuelson
Jun 13 2023

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls’ victory to clinch the 1993 NBA Finals and the team’s first three-peat, CHM editor and content manager Heidi Samuelson recounts the path the Bulls took to accomplish this historic feat. 

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen celebrate winning their third consecutive championship against the Phoenix Suns at American West Arena in Phoenix, June 20, 1993. ST-20000053-0002, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

On June 20, 1993, Chicago Bulls’ point guard John Paxson clinched the team’s third championship in a row with a game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. It was the first time since the Boston Celtics won eight titles in a row from 1959 to 1966 that an NBA team won three championships in consecutive years.

The Chicago Bulls joined the NBA in 1966 when the league expanded from nine teams to ten. Although they started to see some success in the early 1970s, including four 50-win seasons and reaching the conference finals in 1975, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the team began to reach new heights.

Black and white photograph of Chicago Bulls coach Doug Collins putting his hands to his face in front of the scorers table during a game.
Chicago Bulls coach Doug Collins puts his hands to his face as the Bulls beat the New York Knicks at Chicago Stadium to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, Chicago, May 19, 1989. ST-17500477-E1, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

They had solid players in their starting guard positions with John Paxson and emerging superstar Michael Jordan, who they drafted in 1984. Then, in the 1987 NBA draft, the Bulls acquired forwards Scottie Pippen of the University of Central Arkansas and Horace Grant of Clemson University. The following year, they traded for veteran center Bill Cartwright. The final piece of the puzzle was coach Phil Jackson. Together, Jackson and this starting lineup, along with sometimes-starter B. J. Armstrong, and a bench that included Craig Hodges, Stacey King, Will Perdue, and Scott Williams, won three championships in a row from 1991 to 1993.

Black and white photograph of the Bulls mascot, a fuzzy bull with a round belly, wearing a Bulls jersey and glasses carries a white flag with the Bulls logo and the words "Chicago Bulls" across the court.
Benny the Bull during Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals at Chicago Stadium, Chicago, June 5, 1991. ST-50004141-0086, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

In 1991, the Bulls won 61 games, then a franchise record. In the playoffs, they bested their Eastern Conference rivals the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals 4‒0 to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the championship. The Lakers were led by three-time league MVP Magic Johnson, but the Bulls had home court advantage. They won in a decisive 4‒1 series. Jordan was named the Finals MVP, averaging 31.2 points on 55.8% shooting and 11.4 assists.

Black and white game photo. In the key, Horace Grant has control of the ball as he leans into defender Vlade Divac, who is much taller than Grant.
Horace Grant goes up against Lakers’ Vlade Divac during Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Chicago Stadium, Chicago, June 5, 1991. ST-50004141-0023, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

The Bulls continued their dominance the next year, finishing the regular season with a 67–15 record. Their first real test in the playoffs came in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks, who took the series to seven games. The Bulls were victorious over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, and then faced the Portland Trailblazers, led by future Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, for the championship. On June 14, the Bulls won in Game 6 to a home audience at Chicago Stadium.

Black and white close up of Michael Jordan holding the championship trophy. The photographer angled the camera up so you can see the bottom of the trophy.
Michael Jordan holds the Bulls’ second NBA Championship trophy at Chicago Stadium, June 14, 1992. ST-17500544-E1, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

That year the Chicago Blackhawks were in the NHL Finals, also being played at Chicago Stadium and potentially causing a schedule conflict. But it was not meant to be, as the Blackhawks lost the series 4–0 on June 1.

Color photo of Kevin Johnson in a white Suns uniform taking the ball up the court while being guarded by B.J. Armstrong in a red Bulls uniform. Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley can be seen in the background.
B. J. Armstrong guards the Suns’ Kevin Johnson during NBA Finals Game 2 in Phoenix. Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley appear in the background, June 11, 1998. ST-10000029_0012, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

Coming off Jordan and Pippen playing for the 1992 Olympic Dream Team that summer, the Bulls had a solid 57–25 season, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls swept their opponents in the first two rounds of the 1993 playoffs, facing the no. 1 seeded Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals. After a victorious 4–2 series, they faced the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

Color photo of a hospital nursery with Bulls posters on the wall and newborns in small cribs wearing red hats as a nurse in blue scrubs tends to them.
Newborns wearing red hats in a hospital nursery decorated in support of Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, Chicago, June 16, 1993. ST-30002508-0032, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

The Suns were led by all-star point guard Kevin Johnson and future Hall of Famer and fellow Dream Team member Charles Barkley, who the Suns traded for in the 1992 offseason. The Bulls won the first two games on the road and then traded victories with Suns up to Game 6. Jordan averaged a record 41.0 points during the Finals and won the Finals MVP for the third straight year.

Color photograph of fans celebrating in the street. The closest fan to the camera is a Black man in a red t-shirt holding up three fingers to celebrate the three-peat.
Chicago Bulls fans parade the streets of Chicago in response to the sixth NBA championship game against the Phoenix Suns, near Chicago Stadium, 1901 West Madison St., June 20, 1993. ST-19041163-0099, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

Additional Resources

Translate »