5 great teams the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Bulls totally ruined

Photos by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photos by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /
2 of 6
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 20: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (R) recovers the ball as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Chris Mills (L) tumbles after trying to steal the ball in the first quarter 20 February at the United Center in Chicago, IL. The Bulls entered the game at 46-5. (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images) /

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

The first victim of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls was the late 1980s-early 1990s Cleveland Cavaliers. This era in Cavaliers’ history saw one of the NBA’s most well-rounded teams led by a coaching legend in Lenny Wilkins. After years of dominance from the likes of the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, Cleveland finally seemed poised to make the leap to the top of the Eastern Conference. Well, until a dynamo by the name of Michael Jordan ripped their hearts out time and time again.

The misfortune began in 1988 when the 42-win Cavs met Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Eastern Conference First Round.

Jordan, who averaged 35 points per game during the regular season, decimated the Cavaliers early in the series with back-to-back 50 point games. Cleveland made the most of their home cooking winning Games 3 and 4 setting up a definitive Game 5. Despite the best efforts of Mark Price, Ron Harper and Brad Daugherty, Jordan and the Bulls were too much to handle as they won the series 3-2.

Things would be much worse for the Cavaliers in 1989 as they once again matched up with Chicago in the Eastern Conference First Round. This year’s Cavaliers team featured three 18-point-per-game scorers (Daughtery, Price and Harper) and another at 17 points per game (Larry Nance). Flanked by role players like Hot Rod Williams and Craig Ehlo, the Cavaliers won 57 games — far and away the most in franchise history. Once again the Cavaliers forced a definitive Game 5 against the Bulls until, well, you know…

The defense couldn’t have been better. Nance and Ehlo double team Jordan, His Airness shakes Nance off and Ehlo comes within inches of blocking Jordan and making history of his own. Instead, he crumbles in a heap as the Cleveland faithful get yet another gut-punch from the Bulls.

The two would meet against in 1992 as a refreshed and refocused Cavaliers team made it through the first and second round leaving themselves one series away from an elusive NBA Finals berth. They had just one team in their way: Jordan, Pippen, Grant and the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls. While the Cavaliers sputtered, the Bulls rose to new heights. Now with the same core (Daughtery, Price, Nance and Ehlo) as well as reinforcements in young Terrell Brandon and 3-point specialist Steve Kerr, the Cavaliers just needed to get the monkey off their back and they’d find themselves in the first NBA Finals in franchise history.

While the Cavaliers did push the Bulls to six games, ultimately Jordan (31.7 points per game) and Pippen (19.8 points per game) were too much for the Cavaliers to handle. The Bulls won the series and another NBA championship in 1992.

In 1993, the Cavaliers, on their last legs, once again met the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, this time in the semifinals but unfortunately, the result was the same. This time, Chicago, on the path towards the first of their two three-peats easily dispatched the Cavaliers in four games.

After the season Wilkins left to coach the Atlanta Hawks but the Cavaliers core stayed in place for one final run. While the Cavaliers once again matched up with Chicago in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, it was a very different Bulls team and one with a huge hole left by the retirement of Jordan. In tragic fashion, once again the Bulls eliminated the well-rounded Cavaliers in just three games.

Following the season both Daughtery and Nance called it quits and the Cavaliers would tread water for the next several seasons before finally entering a free-fall in the 2000s, saved only by a dynamo of their own in LeBron James.