Jerry Reinsdorf Relives Chicago Bulls' Six NBA Championships

The question was simple, but broad. “What are some of your fondest recollections from those six championships?”

“Each one was different,” Jerry Reinsdorf said.

And then he went through them, year by year, in striking detail and with great perspective. When a question strayed after he covered the first four, he held up a hand. “Let me take you through the rest of them,” he said.

Here they are, in his own words:

1991

“The first one, we thought we were going to play Portland, because they had the best record in the league that year. And the Lakers upset Portland. So now we get home-court advantage. And we go out and lose the first game at home. And I’m thinking, ‘Well, we just blew this.’ We win the second game. Now we gotta go out to L.A. and play three games on the road. I’m just hoping we can get one game so we can come back and hopefully win it on our court. The first game out there I think was an overtime game. We were down big and came back and tied it on a last-minute shot by Michael. After the game, all the office staff was out in the parking lot chanting, ‘We’re going back to Chicago. We’re going back to Chicago.’ So you could see they even had the same thought as I did. They just wanted to get out of L.A. alive. The next game, we won rather easily. And so, all of a sudden, I’m thinking, hey, we’re going to be the world champions. And then Magic got hurt. I thought the last game would be a breeze, and it wasn’t. The score was I think 93-93 at one point.

“One of the more famous stories came out of that game. Phil called a timeout. He looked at Michael and said, ‘Michael, who’s open?’ Michael didn’t answer him. He put his hands on him and said, ‘Michael, who’s open.’ He said ‘Paxson.’ Phil said, ‘Get him the f---ing ball.’ And Paxson scored five baskets and we win going away. I remember, I wasn’t jumping up and down. The game was in hand, but it wasn’t over yet. It’s funny, this just popped into my mind. The league security guy came to get me and get Stern to get us to the locker room for the trophy presentation. And one of the L.A. security guards wouldn’t let us go. They didn’t know who we were. The league security guy is telling them, ‘This is the commissioner. You gotta let us go.’ Finally they let us down. In the locker room, I just sort of stood off to the side. I remember standing off to the side looking at all these guys celebrating and how proud I was of what they’d done.

“We had a party right after the game. I took the bus back to the team hotel where the players had their party. I made a brief appearance there and then spent well into the night at the staff party rather than being with the players.

“The next day I called my wife and said, ‘You gotta do the ring.’”

1992

“The thing that stands out is we were down 14 points at the end of the third quarter in the sixth game, and I couldn’t stand sitting. I couldn’t take anymore. I left my seat and went down to the Governor’s Room, the dining room [at Chicago Stadium], and I sat there and watched the game on TV. And we came back and took the lead. But I wouldn’t go back to my seat because I was afraid I was going to jinx it. It’s silly to be superstitious, but I think everybody in sports is. So I didn’t come back to my seat until the game was out of hand.

“They were still doing trophy presentations in the locker room at that time, so we went to the locker room. Somebody came down and said ‘Nobody has left [the court]. You guys have to come back up on the floor. The team was up there dancing on the scorer’s table. Nobody would leave.

“I remember doing a brief interview on one of the radio stations. They asked me, ‘What are you going to do tomorrow?’ I said, first thing, I gotta go to the dentist. And my dentist was listening. He made a joke out of that when I saw him in the morning.”

1993

Next was Phoenix. We won the first two games on the road. And so it really looked good. But then we came back here and lost two out of three. So now we gotta go back to their court, up 3-2, but we gotta play two road games. And the last guy to come on the plane was Michael. He had a big cigar in his hand. Somebody said, ‘What’s the cigar for?’ He said, ‘That’s the victory cigar. I’m going to smoke it tomorrow.’ And the story is he didn’t bring a change of clothes.

“One of the few games my wife ever went to was that sixth game. And I thought I was rather calm, sitting there. My wife was on my right. Somebody I didn’t know was sitting on my left. My wife says to me, at some point, she says, ‘Be calm. You’re embarrassing yourself.’ And a little while later the guy next to me says, ‘I don’t know how you can stay so calm in this game.’ So I said to this guy, ‘Will you tell my wife how calm I am?’

“So we’re down four points. Michael makes an uncontested layup. They didn’t want to foul him. We’re down two points. They get the ball back. Majerle shoots an air ball. Phil calls a timeout. We take the ball in. And the ball ends up in Paxson’s hands. Now, I am sitting on a line — me, Paxson, the basket. Early in the year — or another year — we were playing in Dallas, and it was the same situation. We were down two points. And I didn’t have the same lineup. But we in-bound the ball. It comes to Paxson. Paxson takes a three. The buzzer goes off while the ball is in the air. The Dallas crowd starts cheering because the buzzer went off. And then the ball drops in the basket and we win the game. So when the ball left Paxson’s hand, I said to my wife, ‘It’s Dallas all over again.’ But the game’s not over. There’s still four or five seconds left. So they in-bound the ball and they get it to KJ. KJ beats his man. And Horace came out of nowhere and slapped at the ball and the game is over.”

1996

“The next one was Seattle. And here’s where we really get lucky, because we win the first two games at home. And we left the next day. There was a day off. Seattle flew immediately after the game. They flew out of Midway Airport. The plane they flew didn’t have enough fuel to get to Seattle. They had to make a stop. And by the time they got home it was 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. When we played the game the next day, they just didn’t have their legs. So now we’re up 3-0. At that point, I’m feeling pretty confident. They come back and win the next two games. So nothing is easy.”

1997

“So then the next one was Utah. That was a tough series. I think we only had four more points than they did the whole series, yet we won 4-2. That was a hard-fought series.”

1998

“The last one was really memorable. It was the sixth game and it was in Utah. And those fans were incredibly loud and abusive. Somebody gave me some earplugs to put in my ears. And I did. And somebody said, good thing you couldn’t hear what they were screaming at you because it was pretty nasty.

“The great thing about that game is it showed the greatness and brilliance of Michael Jordan. Because we’re down by four — no, three — we have the ball, we’re down by three. They let us go in for an uncontested layup. Now we’re down by one. They got the ball. Less than 24 seconds left to go. I’m thinking we gotta foul somebody and hope he misses one. Or at least we get the ball back and we’re down three. That’s not what Michael was thinking. Michael was thinking, at some point in this possession, the ball is going to go to Karl Malone. So he just forgot his man, snuck up on Karl Malone and stole the ball from him. My thought is, we’re going to call timeout. No. Michael, in his mind, says if we call timeout they can set the defense. That’s his brilliance. Not just his physical skills, but his brilliance as a basketball player. He dribbles down the court, makes that classic shot, and we win the game.

“After the game, we’re all on the floor celebrating. I gave Michael and Scottie cigars to smoke. And I light up a cigar.”

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Champion, Champions

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