For some millennials, it is hard to fathom that the 1990s were already 30 years ago. Most people have moved on to more modern things and are only focused on current athletes. The NBA athletes of today are some of the most physically gifted players we have ever seen and deserve all of the credit and praise they receive. However, the attention they get on social media and other channels may not exist if it wasn’t for the 90’s players who helped lay the groundwork.
Of course, in the 1990s, online betting was not even remotely a possibility. Those who were so inclined had to go to casinos to place their wagers or find bookies who dwelled in the shadows of society in order to place money on sports. People of a certain age likely would’ve been excited to bet on some of the decade’s most dominant basketball teams.
We’ll look at three players who defined a landmark period in basketball history.
There isn’t any article about 1990’s NBA history that can be written without the prominent inclusion of the Chicago Bulls. It is hard to find a professional basketball team or a professional sports team that is more closely defined by a particular decade than the Bulls.
Of course, their ringleader and megastar was none other than Michael Jordan. Even as the years go on, his accomplishments from a team and individual perspective remain mind-blowing. He was an incredible scorer who could set up his defenders for a series of moves, finishing with a fadeaway that he mastered later in his career. Jordan would elevate over the competition as a younger player and dunk on anyone who stood in his way. He was also a tenacious defender who would not give an inch of ground on the perimeter or in the post.
Simply put, there was Jordan and everyone else in the 1990s. However, when Jordan left the NBA to play baseball for nearly two full seasons, there was one player who took advantage of his absence more than anyone else.
Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon has been a great player for a long time. His teams ran into some tough competition in the Western Conference in the early part of the decade. However, in 1994 and 1995, Olajuwon led his team to NBA Finals victories against the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic, respectively.
Olajuwon’s skill level and footwork in the post were fascinating, and his ability to quickly leap off the ground made him one of the game’s best shot blockers.
Although Jordan and other great players often thwarted him, the career and basketball legacy of Karl Malone is one to cherish. He won the league MVP in 1997 over Jordan and other tremendous players and was a pillar of consistency over the 1990s and the 1980s as well.
As a younger player, Malone didn’t have the type of offensive polish that defenses would respect, but he worked hard on that. In the 1990s, he routinely nailed mid-ranger jump shots setup by pick and rolls he perfected with point guard John Stockton. In addition to his play on the court, Malone was also an iron man who was available night in and night out despite his physical style.
Basketball fans are like any other sports fans in that there is a compulsion to talk in absolutes. Sports, for all the finalities, is full of subjectivism: Maradona or Messi or Ronaldo; the Super Bowl or the World Series. There is never a correct answer as to what and who is the greatest. Some will, of course, say that Jordan is the best basketball player ever to grace the game, but it remains an opinion – a strong one, but an opinion nonetheless. The key is not the stats, the rings, or the MVP awards but in how those players made you feel as a fan. You may feel the above list does not represent the three best players of the 1990s, but they certainly made incredible memories for many of us. That’s all that matters.
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