The 1991 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1990–91 NBA season. It was also the first NBA Finals broadcast by NBC after 17 years with CBS.
The documentary “Learning to Fly,” narrated by Jeff Kaye, recaps Chicago’s successful first championship season. The theme song is “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The Chicago Bulls of the Eastern Conference took on the Los Angeles Lakers of the Western Conference for the title, with Chicago having home court advantage. It was Michael Jordan’s first NBA Finals appearance, Magic Johnson’s last, and the last NBA Finals for the Lakers until 2000. The Bulls would win the series, 4-1. Jordan averaged 31.2 points on 56% shooting, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks en route to his first NBA Finals MVP Award.
The series was not the first time that the Bulls and Lakers faced off in the playoffs. Prior to 1991, they met for four postseason series (1968, 1971, 1972 and 1973), all Lakers victories. Chicago was a member of the Western Conference at the time and moved into the East in 1981. The 1991 Finals marked the first time the Bulls defeated the Lakers in a playoff series.
This series would mark the end of the Lakers Showtime era and the beginning of the Bulls’ dynasty. After winning five championships in eight finals appearances in the 1980s, the Lakers would struggle for the rest of the 1990s before winning five championships between the 1999-2000 and 2009-10 seasons.
The 1991 Lakers were led by Johnson, already in his thirties, playing in his last full year, as was fellow All-Star teammate James Worthy; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had retired two seasons earlier. The Bulls, led by NBA MVP Michael Jordan and superstar small forward Scottie Pippen, would win five more championships after 1991 in a seven-year span, cementing their status as a dynasty before struggling badly in a post-MJ era that saw them take several years to even become average.
When it was all said and done, Michael Jordan became only the third man in NBA history (after George Mikan and Abdul-Jabbar) to capture the scoring title and the NBA Finals Championship in the same season.
Until 2015, the Bulls were the last team to win an NBA championship despite fielding a full roster lacking in championship or Finals experience. None of the Bulls players had logged even a minute of NBA Finals experience prior to this.