Why 90s Basketball Was The Best
Don’t get us wrong, we love basketball in 2022 as much as anyone, as the league is full of incredible talent and there’s never a dull moment. But damn, the 90s was such an awesome time for basketball. It’s never an easy thing to explain the NBA in the 90s, but we’re going to try.
We love watching hoops in this modern era, as there are countless stunning moments nearly every night and players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have shown us just how exciting basketball can be in the 2020s.
If you want to know how hoops looked back in the day, then watching ‘The Last Dance’ on Netflix is a good start to get an idea of basketball in the 90s, but here are eight more reasons to describe just why we miss this era of the NBA.
There’s a reason that NBA teams continually bring back their 90s jerseys even today… because they look amazing! Uniforms in the past few seasons have been incredibly dull, with basic colors, no logos, and very ordinary fonts. The jerseys are just too safe. We want some fun designs that turn heads, and that’s what we had in the 90s.
There were the blue “flaming horse” of the Detroit Pistons, the iconic light blue, pinstripe Charlotte Hornets, the purple and white mountain design of the Utah Jazz, the colorful “city silhouette” of the Denver Nuggets, the fun cartoon dinosaur of the Toronto Raptors, and obviously, the purple, “flaming basketball” of the Phoenix Suns.
Collecting basketball cards
There wasn’t a better way to learn all about the players and find your favorites than by collecting basketball cards. Although cards still exist today, they aren’t exactly being sought after by kids, and it’s mostly adults who collected in the 90s who are still keeping the flame alive.
Cards were so much fun to swap with your friends and you could have an encyclopedic knowledge of every player, including his number, stats, height and weight, as well as favorite food if the card had it. The designs were epic in some cases and many cards are very lucrative today, often selling in the millions.
There is something annoyingly modern about the latest trend that’s similar to basketball cards, and that’s NBA Top Shop. This fad is essentially digital highlights, such as a huge dunk or crisp pass, which you can own and even sell to others online. Weird, we know, so just collect cards instead.
1992 Dream Team
The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona was lucky enough to have easily the best men’s basketball team ever assembled. The USA’s Dream Team, as it was to be known, featured the best 90s players, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and so many more.
The selection process was rife with drama, as All-Star Isiah Thomas was reportedly left out because of his well-documented rivalry with Bulls’ players Jordan and Pippin. Thomas was a part of the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” team that made life hell for Jordan, in particular, and used very rough and dirty plays in their attempts to stop His Airness.
The Dream Team of course went on to dominate the Olympic basketball tournament and easily win the gold medal. All those stars on a world stage only helped to increase the attention of the NBA and the sport’s popularity would explode in the following years
Fun, unpredictable personalities
The NBA had such colorful characters back in the 90s. No one cared much about their image or had to maintain their Instagram and Twitter accounts. Players generally just said and did what they wanted, which means as fans, it was a lot of fun. Dennis Rodman was a walking hullabaloo at every corner, as his infamous 48-hour party trip to Las Vegas during the 1998 NBA Finals is the stuff of legend. Others like Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neil were always unpredictable and had several scuffles on the court because of their fiery dispositions.
Fouls, not flops
A horrible trend has entered the NBA in the last decade or so, and that’s flopping. Much like European soccer, players will pretend to be hurt when near an opponent in order to earn a foul call. Some players are better than others at the acting technique, but when you see a bad flop, you really can’t un-see it and it’s a disgrace to the game.
When playing basketball in the 90s, it really felt like when a player was fouled, it was for real and there’s no mistake. Sure, players took it too far and almost beheaded an opponent at times, but occasionally it can feel like today’s NBA is way too soft. These are giant men who can take a hit or two; so just let them play physically. It certainly appears as if players can be called for a foul by just looking at an opponent in the wrong way.
Players were allowed to have way more fun during the NBA in the 90s, as you could taunt and trash talk to a player you just dunked on. Nowadays, you’ll be called for a technical foul for hurting the other guy’s feelings. Again, these are adults that earn millions of dollars each game, so we’re sure they can handle a few jibes.
Seattle wasn’t the most successful basketball franchise ever, with their best year likely to be 1996 when they went to the NBA Finals and lost 4-2 to the Bulls. But still, the SuperSonics were an iconic team thanks to the cool name, eye-catching green and white uniforms, and star players like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.
In the late 2000s, the SuperSonics team was a shell of their former selves and were losing more than ever. Interest was dropping and the team’s arena wasn’t quite up to par with other franchises in the NBA. In 2008, Seattle lost the Sonics and the team moved to Oklahoma City to be renamed the “Thunder.” There have been new talks about a team coming back to Seattle and a rebirth of the SuperSonics name, but nothing is official as of 2022.
Emergence of new stars
Basketball in the 90s had no shortage of luminary players like Jordan, Bird, Magic, and so on, but thankfully we also got to see the arrival of younger and incredibly gifted ballers in the NBA Drafts. Transcendent stars like Shaq, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, and Kobe Bryant would take the NBA to new heights and bring in more fans to the ever-increasing sport.
Jordan and the Chicago Bulls
You can’t talk about the NBA in the 90s without mentioning Jordan in the same breath. No single player has been linked to a decade more closely than Jordan was during this era of fantastic basketball. It wasn’t just his six championships, multiple awards, and dazzling plays that kept everyone coming back for more every year, but the sheer buzz around Jordan and the Bulls was like nothing the sport had ever seen before.
Heck, Jordan didn’t even play for almost two years in the 90s, as he retired in 1993 after winning three straight championships. Jordan said he had no more love for the game and would concentrate on a professional baseball career. In March 1995, Jordan shocked the world by returning to the NBA with the simple but perfect phrase in a press release: “I’m back.”
Jordan would then win another three championships in a row, and only managed to increase his god-like status in the league with several memorable moments. Of course, there’s the incredible “shrug” when MJ just couldn’t miss in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals versus Portland, as well as Game 5 of the 1997 Finals against Utah when Jordan played – and won – despite fighting a bout of food poisoning the night before.
When all is said and done, basketball in the 90s could be summed up with the frenzy of one singular instant in time: In Game 6 of the 1998 Finals against Utah (it was bad to be a Jazz fan in the 90s thanks to MJ), Chicago was down by three points late in the game. Jordan manages to score on a tough drive, then at the other end, steals the ball from Karl Malone and dribbles the ball slowly up the court. With only 5.2 seconds remaining, Jordan makes a spectacular move to shake off his defender and hits a wide-open shot to take the lead for the Bulls.
That shot was the last made by Jordan in a Bulls uniform, as the NBA’s most famous player would again retire from the game in 1999. MJ would again return to the game in 2001 for the Washington Wizards, but 90s purists often hate to think of Jordan at this time, as although he was still a force to be reckoned with, he was nowhere near the star we all knew him for in the 90s.
So, can we travel back to the 90s just for a day, please?
Author: Joe Garland