Michael Jordan gave the NBA one more year of memories in 1993 before saying farewell.

Jordan's shocking announcement Oct. 6 that he was retiring from the three-time champion Chicago Bulls left the league without its biggest name and drawing card. At the same time, it left at least a half-dozen teams scrambling to succeed Chicago as the NBA's best."I've reached the pinnacle of my career," Jordan said in walking away from the game he redefined. "I feel that I don't have anything else for myself to prove."

Jordan, 30, insisted that the slaying of his father, James, during the summer had little to do with his decision; he said he had decided to quit before the tragedy.

"I was pretty much decided at that particular time," Jordan said. "But I think what it made me realize is how short life is."

Jordan did not completely rule out a return to basketball, but what he said about his father offered one clue: "He saw my last basketball game, and that means a lot."

In the first six weeks of the 1993-94 season, some expected and unexpected candidates stepped forward to take the Bulls' place.

Houston matched an NBA record established in 1948 with a 15-0 start, and Seattle wasn't far behind with 10 consecutive victories before losing. It was the first time two NBA teams reached double-digit wins without a defeat.

Phoenix, the defending Western Conference champs behind MVP Charles Barkley, was shadowing the Rockets and SuperSonics, winning 13 of 16 games with the NBA's highest-scoring team. Barkley also was making headlines with two barroom scuffles and his own threats to retire at season's end.

Eastern Conference favorite New York started 7-0, but failed to snap the Rockets' undefeated streak in an early season showdown at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks got a surprising challenge from Atlanta, which stopped Houston's record run and won a club-record 14 straight games under new coach Lenny Wilkens, who left Cleveland after growing weary of chasing Jordan.

Boston and New Jersey, stunned in the offseason by the deaths of Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic, both struggled. Lewis died of a heart ailment and Petrovic was killed in a car crash.

The 1993 playoffs started after Jordan won his seventh straight scoring title with a 32.6 average, but missed his fourth regular-season MVP award. He finished behind Barkley, who averaged 25.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in leading the Suns to an NBA-best 62 victories.

The Bulls also trailed New York in the Eastern Conference, 60 wins to 57, as the Knicks had the best points-allowed average in the league at 95.4, which was 3.5 better than Chicago.

After the Knicks disposed of Indiana and Charlotte, and Chicago swept both Atlanta and Cleveland, it was New York that had the homecourt advantage. The Knicks ran their season record at Madison Square Garden to 43-4 by beating the Bulls in the first two games, holding them to 90 and 91 points.

But Chicago evened the series 2-2 at home, then turned the series around with a 97-94 victory at New York before winning the clincher, 96-88.

That set up the Finals matchup with Barkley's Suns, who fell behind the Los Angeles Lakers - the worst team in the playoffs - 2-0 in the first round before prevailing 3-2. Phoenix then toppled San Antonio 4-2 before outlasting Seattle in seven games, including 123-110 in the finale.

Chicago beat Phoenix 100-92 and 111-108 at America West Arena, becoming the first team to win the first two games of the Finals on the road. Jordan, on the way to his third playoff MVP award, scored 31 and 42 points in those games, making half of his shots in each outing.

"We're in a big hole right now, and we're in the right state for big holes," said Barkley, who lost Game 2 despite a 42-point, 13-rebound effort. "We'd fit right into the Grand Canyon."

Game 3 was a memorable one, with Phoenix rallying for a 129-121 victory in three overtimes. Dan Majerle had six 3-pointers and 28 points, Kevin Johnson set a Finals record with 62 minutes and 25 points and Barkley finishing with 24 points and 19 rebounds.

Jordan, who scored 44 points in Game 3 but missed 24 of 43 shots, responded to the subpar game with another career-defining performance, scoring 55 points in Chicago's 111-105 victory that gave the Bulls a 3-1 lead.

But the Suns staved off elimination for the fifth time in the playoffs with 108-98 victory in Game 5 at Chicago, which had extra police and security measures in place for the anticipated celebratory riots.

"Chicago, you can take all that wood off the windows," Barkley said.

"We had a goal when we came to Chicago, and that was to win two games," said Johnson, who joined Richard Dumas with 25 points. "No one thought we could do it, but we did it."

But the Suns couldn't even win one game in Phoenix, falling in Game 6, 99-98, giving the Bulls the title.

Chicago won despite virtually falling apart in the fourth quarter, blowing an 87-78 lead and scoring just 12 points in the period.

Trailing 98-94 in the final minute, the Bulls got a basket from Jordan to draw within two. Chicago forced a 24-second violation on the Suns' next possession before Horace Grant passed to John Paxson, whose wide-open 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left put the Bulls in front.

View Comments

Grant then blocked a jumper by Johnson to seal the victory and the championship for Chicago.

Just four months later, Jordan was gone and everyone was wondering who would take his place as the NBA's marquee player.

One candidate was Orlando center Shaquille O'Neal, who won Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 and displayed some of Jordan's knack for public salesmanship.

Late in 1993, however, his considerable ability wasn't manifesting itself into Jordan-like team success. O'Neal's Orlando team was struggling to stay above .500.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.