Why does LeBron need two others to help him produce championship banners when Michael Jordan essentially produced them on his own? Because Jordan didn’t produce them on his own.
As I laid out in a previous post about the Latter Day Chicago 3 (1995-96), Jordan had always had help. In fact, before he had help… or rather, when his help consisted of Dave Corzine and Orlando Woolridge, as I recall he couldn’t get out of the first round. Or wait, wait… that’s not how the story goes. “He was learning how to win“.
Whatever. He knew how to win when he came into the professional ranks. I thought he had won a national championship as a freshman in college. Didn’t that teach him anything? I think it did.
It probably taught him that you need at least three big win producers to get over the parapet. Because if you remember that North Carolina 1981 team also had a three headed attack — James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and to a lesser but emerging extent — Jordan. After Worthy left for the Lakers, of course, that was the end of Jordan’s college championships. He never even made it back to the Final Four.
Which is not to diminish Jordan. Oscar Robertson needed Kareem in a diluted NBA. Jerry West needed Wilt during the same era. And so on. Jordan needed Pippen and Grant, and after Grant left, they replaced him with Rodman.
The 1991-92 Chicago Bulls (66-16) Win Chart (Click to view)
I had forgotten just how successful this Bulls team was until I did the Win Chart. They were powered in much the same way I expect the Miami Heat to be powered, and to about the same amount, in fact.
As you can see, its Jordan leading the way with 16.9 wins, followed by Horace Grant with 15.3 wins, and Scottie Pippen with 14.1 wins. I expect to see about that kind of split in Miami.
Grant, obviously, is the big surprise in this version of the Bulls championship trio. He had his best all-around season in 1991-92. He was spectacular, scoring efficiently, rebounding, protecting the ball… he did it all.
Jordan, as he was for the entirety of the decade, was the leader, both spiritually, and in terms of wins produced. As stated, I have him at nearly 17 wins for ’91-’92. That was about his standard for the era, very similar to Magic Johnson in the 1980s, Oscar Robertson in the 1960s, and LeBron James this decade.
(Win Shares on B-R.com sites him for 17.7 wins, which is basically exactly the same as I calculated using Marginal Win Score. They also have similar win numbers to the ones I got for Grant, but they actually have less wins for Pippen)
Scottie Pippen was actually the third wheel, by my calculations, in both of the Bulls championship trilogies. Most people do not see it that way, obviously, because Pippen was more of a scorer than either Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman. But recall how the Bulls came up short, even with Jordan, in the interim after Grant left and before Rodman came on board.
Throughout the decade, and through both championship trilogies, Pippen’s production came in the form of the “all-around game”, scoring efficiently, playmaking, and creating possessions for the Bulls. He was nobody’s “Robin”. He’s a deserving Hall-of-Fame player.
As for the rest of the original so-called “supporting cast”, they grade out basically as you probably intuitively concluded they graded out back then.
Armstrong, the point guard, was okay. John Paxson was serviceable. Stacey King, the big man, stunk. Bill Cartwright, stunk.
But here’s a surprise. Will Perdue, the sort of “Bogut very lite” was quite productive. The small forward/big forward combo Cliff Levingston was always an underrated positive win force, back to his days as an Atlanta Hawk. And, as Bucks fans know, whereever Scott Williams went, wins followed. Not surprisingly, his workmanlike play created them. Had George Karl and Ernie Grunfeld realized this, rather than worshiping at the almighty throne of “shot creators” the Bucks early century run might have been a little longer than a fart in the wind.
But the 1991-92 Chicago team was hardly a fart in the wind. They were the apex of the first wave of Bull success, a wave that would land on shore the next season, and wash back to sea for a few more years before Michael Jordan finally realized that curve balls are hard to hit… then the fun started back up for Da Bulls.