There they were on my TV screen. MJ. Pippen. Rodman. All instantly recognizable to this day. But the other guys were there, too: The lithe, do-a-bit-of-everything Ron Harper; the hulking, shot-clunking Luc Longley; the darting, leprechaunish Steve Kerr. Yeah, I'm talking 1995-96 Chicago Bulls here, people.
Last night, ESPN -- in its less-than-infinite, but occasionally pleasing wisdom -- replayed Game 6 of the 1996 NBA Finals. You know, this game. The clincher. The beginning of the repeat of the three-peat.
I must confess, I didn't watch the whole thing. It was in the first quarter when I first surfed by and then, naturally, I returned only to watch the last, joyous five minutes. But a few things struck me:
1. MJ was a great team player. In fact, during the parts of the game I watched, he wasn't doing all that much. If anything, Scottie was much more active taking jumpers and three-point shots. Michael was playing the boards, getting tangled up with opponents on defense, basically going anywhere he wanted to on the court. Of course, the box score reveals MJ was still the team's leading scorer with 22 points.
2. Defense really is key. And Dennis Rodman was, once, a bona fide athlete who could keep his head in the game. He had eight defensive rebounds in this game and, at the other end, tied his own record of 11 offensive rebounds in a finals game.
3. Winning is never easy. It may seem that way in retrospect. We remember opposing teams never getting close to outcompeting the MJ-Pippen tandem and that great supporting cast. But this game was close -- the Bulls outscored the Seattle Supersonics 24-18 in the first quarter but, after that, it was 21-20, 22-20 and 20-17. Remember Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton ... Detlef Schrempf?! (Say that last name with a German accent, please.)
So where are they now? Not the Supersonics, of course. The 1995-96 Bulls! Well, as you may have heard, MJ has taken up auto sales and, on the side, is the new owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Not surprisingly, he's motivating his sales staff to new heights. Scottie Pippen is the Bulls' team ambassador. Dennis Rodman is wearing a flight suit and due to appear on some sort of British TV show. And Ron Harper? He's got a (not quite finished) website and is available for speaking gigs. I told you he did a little bit of everything.