Jordan's Bulls & Kobe's Lakers: The three-peat teams Golden State are trying to emulate

By Sports Desk April 13, 2019

The Golden State Warriors start their NBA playoffs campaign looking to join an elite group of teams by winning their third successive title. 

Golden State are the heavy favourites to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy again this season, with only two teams having achieved a three-peat in the modern era. The Minneapolis Lakers won three in a row from 1952 to 1954, with the Boston Celtics winning eight in a row between 1959 to 1966, though both runs came when the NBA had fewer teams.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was a member of one of those teams in the modern era and now has the chance to do it again in a different role, having played under the man who was the guiding hand behind each of the sides to have done the three-peat.

As the Warriors prepare to face the Los Angeles Clippers in round one, we take a look back at the teams they will be trying to replicate.


Chicago Bulls 1991-1993

Prior to the 1990-91 season, the Bulls had made six successive trips to the postseason without reaching The Finals, a run that included three consecutive series defeats to the famed 'Bad Boys' Detroit Pistons team that won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

However, the 1989-90 campaign saw Phil Jackson take over as coach and the Bulls suffer their narrowest playoff loss to the Pistons, going down in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

They put the disappointment of that agonising loss behind them and built on their evident progress in stunning fashion in the next season, posting the best record in the NBA as Michael Jordan led the league in scoring and won his second MVP award before ending his wait for a title. The Pistons were swept in the Conference Finals before the Bulls cruised to a 4-1 win over Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in their maiden NBA Finals appearance.

It proved the start of a dynasty. Jordan was MVP and Finals MVP for a second successive year as the Portland Trail Blazers were vanquished. The three-peat was then secured as the Bulls came from 2-0 down in the Conference Finals against the New York Knicks before MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns were toppled 4-2 in the Finals, in which Jordan averaged a record 41 points per game.

Chicago Bulls 1996-98

The Bulls' dominance was only interrupted by Jordan's stunning retirement and brief sojourn in minor league baseball. Their time in the relative wilderness of successive conference semi-final losses was ended by Jordan's 1995 return.

With Chicago's frontcourt bolstered by the acquisition of former Piston Dennis Rodman, Jordan's first year back was marked by a spectacular regular season in which they went 72-10, a record that stood as the best of all time until the Warriors topped it in 2015-16.

The Bulls lost just one game in the playoffs en route to the Finals, where the Bulls held off the Seattle SuperSonics' efforts to overturn a 3-0 deficit, Rodman instrumental with 19 rebounds in the decisive Game 6.

The following seasons produced much more dramatic Finals experiences. 

After the Bulls surrendered a 2-0 series lead to the Utah Jazz, Jordan produced a performance for the ages in Game 5, scoring 38 points despite being stricken by a stomach virus to seal a 90-88 victory in what is now known as 'The Flu Game'. Two days later, Kerr hit the crucial shot with five seconds left in Game 6 to seal back-to-back titles.

Karl Malone and the Jazz were haunted by the Bulls again a year later. Chicago held off the Indiana Pacers in seven games in the Conference Finals, and Jordan tallied 45 points and hit a now iconic 20-foot jump shot in the final seconds in Game 6 in Utah to make it six titles in eight years.

In the aftermath Jordan retired again and almost every member of the Bulls' core left for pastures new. Jackson also left his role but would soon oversee yet another three-peat out west.

Los Angeles Lakers 2000-02

Jackson took over as head coach of a Los Angeles Lakers team in a similar position to where the Bulls were in 1990, full of star talent but unable to climb the mountain.

The Lakers had made the playoffs in five successive seasons but failed to get to the Finals. Once again, however, Jackson had an immediate impact. Led by Shaquille O'Neal and an emerging Kobe Bryant, the Lakers compiled a league-best 67-15 record.

They came through a testing opening-round series with the Sacramento Kings and a seven-game Conference Finals series with the Portland Trail Blazers before overcoming the Pacers in six games in the Finals, O'Neal racking up 41 points in the close-out game and adding Finals MVP to his league MVP award.

Their second act under Jackson was even more impressive. The Lakers were the second seed in the Western Conference but did not lose a single game en route to the Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, in which they recovered from defeat in Game 1 to breeze to a second successive title. Their 15-1 playoff record was the best in league history until the Warriors went 16-1 in their triumphant 2016-17 campaign.

Amid strained relations between O'Neal and Bryant, the Lakers completed the NBA's most recent three-peat in the 2001-02 season, coasting through the postseason until the Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings.

Los Angeles profited from a controversial Game 6 in which they shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter to force Game 7, which they won in overtime to set up a Finals series with the New Jersey Nets that the Lakers swept.

Related items

  • Suns fire coach Kokoskov after one season Suns fire coach Kokoskov after one season

    The Phoenix Suns will have a new head coach next season after firing Igor Kokoskov.

    The team issued a statement late on Monday from general manager James Jones, confirming the decision after just one season with Kokoskov at the helm.

    He led the Suns to a 19-63 record, which tied the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second worst mark in the league.

    "After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position," Jones said. "I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavours."

    A search will begin immediately for the team's next head coach, the Suns said.

    It is reported that their search will target Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams as Kokoskov's successor.

    Phoenix have a 14 per cent chance to win the lottery in the 2019 NBA Draft - the same odds as the New York Knicks and the Cavs.

  • Defending Favors 'draining' for Rockets – Harden Defending Favors 'draining' for Rockets – Harden

    James Harden felt the Houston Rockets' failure to effectively deal with Derrick Favors was key in their Game 4 defeat to the Utah Jazz.

    The Jazz came back into the first-round playoff series at 3-1 after winning 107-91 on Monday, with Donovan Mitchell contributing 31 points.

    But while Mitchell stole the headlines, Harden identified the towering presence of Favors as the Rockets' real issue. He made 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.

    "We went small in our line-up and Favors was getting his hands on the rebounds and tip outs and things like that," said Harden.

    "Whenever we do go small in that line-up, we need to make sure we put a body on him and get the rebound. That was the game. I think they got three offensive rebounds in a row.

    "We played pretty good defense, but it's just draining when you play good defense and give up offensive rebounds. We'll be better individually and as a group and be ready."

    MVP candidate Harden also felt Utah were motivated by a sense of "embarrassment" as they faced being swept on their home court.

    "It's tough, no matter who you're playing," he said. "This is one of the toughest places to play in the league.

    "On the other side, it's an embarrassment, you don't want to get swept, you want to show that you have pride. So those guys came out and give them credit: they played well. They fought hard and they came away with the win.

    "We got Game 3 and we get an opportunity to go home and do what we're supposed to do."

  • Mitchell thanks Jazz team-mates after flashing Game 4 warning at Rockets Mitchell thanks Jazz team-mates after flashing Game 4 warning at Rockets

    Donovan Mitchell thanked his Utah Jazz team-mates after he revived their playoff series hopes against the Houston Rockets.

    The Jazz pulled the series back to 3-1 with victory in Game 4 as Mitchell put up 31 points in a 107-91 defeat of the hotly tipped Rockets.

    And, while Utah still have it all to do if they are to take Houston to seven games, second-year shooting guard Mitchell acknowledges he has become used to tricky hurdles in his time in the NBA.

    "That's who we are. We've had our backs up against the wall plenty of times in the past two years we've played together as a team," he said. "I think this is familiar ground with us.

    "Everybody responded the way we expected them to. The biggest thing to do is to take what we did today and multiply it, because I think we can play even better.

    "I think we can do different things better – they got a few open looks – but if we continue to play with the same intensity as we did tonight, and in Game 3, then anything can happen."

    Despite his individual heroics on Monday, Mitchell took the opportunity to pick out numerous team-mates for their help in allowing him to thrive.

    "I've played with a lot of close friends and the support I've got since I arrived – not just from the community but also my team-mates – has been huge," he said.

    "Me being able to do what I do on a daily basis is not the norm in this league for a second-year guy – or even a first-year guy last year.

    "My team-mates have had my back with every mistake, with everything I've done well. When you have that support system in the locker room every day, it makes it easier.

    "It makes it easier when you start the game with two straight turnovers. It makes it easier when Jae [Crowder] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example. Rudy [Gobert] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example.

    "Having guys you can look to [helps]. Kyle [Korver], I've asked him a thousand questions since he's been here about whatever.

    "Being down 3-0, you've got to talk. I have so many resources I can go to. As a player who wants to learn, I'm finding ways to learn.

    "It's not always going to be perfect, but to have team-mates who have your back through the ups and downs means the world."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.