1990–91 NBA season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the 45th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Chicago Bulls winning their first NBA Championship, eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals.

1990–91 NBA season
LeagueNational Basketball Association
DurationNovember 2, 1990 – April 21, 1991
April 25 – May 30, 1991 (Playoffs)
June 2 – 12, 1991 (Finals)
Number of teams27
TV partner(s)NBC, TBS, TNT
Top draft pickDerrick Coleman
Picked byNew Jersey Nets
Regular season
Top seedPortland Trail Blazers
Season MVPMichael Jordan (Chicago)
Top scorerMichael Jordan (Chicago)
Eastern championsChicago Bulls
  Eastern runners-upDetroit Pistons
Western championsLos Angeles Lakers
  Western runners-upPortland Trail Blazers
ChampionsChicago Bulls
  Runners-upLos Angeles Lakers
Finals MVPMichael Jordan (Chicago)

Notable occurrences

Coaching changes
Team 1989–90 coach 1990–91 coach
Atlanta Hawks Mike Fratello Bob Weiss
Boston Celtics Jimmy Rodgers Chris Ford
Denver Nuggets Doug Moe Paul Westhead
Los Angeles Clippers Don Casey Mike Schuler
Los Angeles Lakers Pat Riley Mike Dunleavy, Sr.
New York Knicks Stu Jackson John MacLeod
Seattle SuperSonics Bernie Bickerstaff K.C. Jones

NBA 91 release date: October 22nd 1990

Team Outgoing coach Incoming coach
Indiana Pacers Dick Versace Bob Hill

1990–91 NBA changes

  • The Indiana Pacers changed their logo and uniforms, adding navy to their color scheme.
  • The New Jersey Nets changed their logo and uniforms.
  • The Sacramento Kings changed their uniforms, adding a darker blue color from their primary logo.


1991 NBA Finals - Game 4 - Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers 1991-06-09 (ticket)
A ticket for Game 4 of the 1991 NBA Finals at the Great Western Forum.
1990 NBA draft

The 1990 NBA draft took place on June 27, 1990, in New York City, New York. One of the standouts of this draft is Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton. He became a nine-time All-Star, achieved the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 1996, won an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, holds many statistical records during his tenure with the now defunct Seattle SuperSonics, and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2013.

The top pick of the draft was Syracuse's Derrick Coleman who was selected by the New Jersey Nets. In total, 52 of the 54 players selected went on to play at least one competitive game in the NBA, and six players were at some point of their career selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game. One player who had been projected to be a high lottery pick, if not potential #1 draft pick by media outlets and draft analysts was Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers, who died of a heart condition in March 1990 during a game.

1990–91 Charlotte Hornets season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Charlotte Hornets' third season in the National Basketball Association. After playing one year in the Midwest Division in the Western Conference, the Hornets returned to the Eastern Conference and moved into the Central Division. In the offseason, they signed unrestricted free agent Johnny Newman, who would lead the Hornets in scoring with 16.9 points per game. At midseason, they traded Armen Gilliam to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mike Gminski. The franchise improved seven games over the previous season finishing with 26 wins and 56 losses. However, they finished last place in their division for the third straight season. Top draft pick and Flyin' Illini star Kendall Gill made the All-Rookie First Team, averaging 11.0 points and 1.3 steals per game. Charlotte also hosted the 1991 NBA All-Star Game during the season. The Hornets led the NBA in attendance for the second time in three seasons.

1990–91 Dallas Mavericks season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Mavericks' 11th season in the National Basketball Association. During the offseason, the Mavericks signed free agent All-Star forward Alex English, while acquiring his teammate Fat Lever from the Denver Nuggets, and Rodney McCray from the Sacramento Kings. However, the Mavericks troubles would start early as Lever, and Roy Tarpley were both lost early in the season with season ending injuries. While on the injured list, Tarpley would again be suspended for substance abuse by the NBA. Despite winning four of their first five games, the Mavericks struggled and lost 10 of their next 13 games. Their struggles continued as they lost eight consecutive games near the end of the season, finishing sixth in the Midwest Division with a 28–54 record. Following the season, English retired.

1990–91 Denver Nuggets season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Nuggets' 15th season in the National Basketball Association, and 24th season as a franchise. Bernie Bickerstaff took over as General Manager and decided it was time to rebuild the Nuggets. At the time, the club had the oldest team in the league. The Nuggets would make radical changes trading off stars for draft picks. They selected LSU guard Chris Jackson with the third pick in the 1990 NBA draft, while acquiring Orlando Woolridge from the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason.

Under new head coach Paul Westhead, the Nuggets got off to a bad start losing their first seven games. At midseason, the team acquired Reggie Williams from the San Antonio Spurs as they won six consecutive games between January and February. However, the Nuggets struggles continued as they lost seven in a row afterwards. They lost ten consecutive games late in the season, and finished last place in the Midwest Division with a league worst 20–62 record.

By season's end, the Nuggets allowed 130.8 ppg setting a new record for NBA defensive generosity. Jackson was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team. Following the season, Woolridge was traded to the Detroit Pistons, and Michael Adams was traded back to the Washington Bullets.

1990–91 Detroit Pistons season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Pistons' 43rd season in the National Basketball Association, and 34th season in the city of Detroit. The Pistons entered the season as the two-time defending NBA champions and looked to win a third consecutive title. The team posted a nine-game winning streak in November as they finished the first month of the season with a 13–2 record. However, they would lose six of their next seven games in early December. Midway through the season, the Pistons won eleven consecutive games, finishing second in the Central Division with a 50–32 record, eleven games behind the Chicago Bulls. Last year's Finals MVP Isiah Thomas played just 48 games this season due to a wrist injury. Dennis Rodman was named Defensive Player of The Year for the second straight season. Thomas and Joe Dumars were both selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, but Thomas did not play due to injury.

Entering the playoffs as the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons won their first series against the Atlanta Hawks 3–2, and their second against the Boston Celtics 4–2. This put them in their fifth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, where they would be swept by the Bulls and be denied a fourth consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals.

Toward the end of the loss to the Bulls in Game 4, which occurred on the Pistons' home floor at The Palace of Auburn Hills, most of the Pistons' players walked off the court toward the locker room without congratulating their opponents or shaking hands. It was seen as a sign of disrespect by the outgoing champions, and was concocted by Thomas and Bill Laimbeer in response to comments made by Michael Jordan about the Pistons' physical playing style being bad for basketball, and that he felt the league would be happy to see the Pistons lose.

Following the season, James Edwards was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Vinnie Johnson signed as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs.

1990–91 Golden State Warriors season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Warriors' 45th season in the National Basketball Association, and 28th in the San Francisco Bay Area. The trio of Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and second-year star Tim Hardaway were given the name "Run TMC" during the season. In the opening game, the Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 162–158, the highest-scoring regulation game in NBA history. Despite their scoring prowess, the Warriors were limited defensively. The team got off to a solid start winning seven of their first nine games, but later on played around .500 along the way. On February 26, 1991, they lost 131–119 to the Orlando Magic despite the Run TMC trio each scoring more than 30 points (the rest of the team totaled 21 points).The Warriors won their final five games of the season, finishing fourth in the Pacific Division with a 44–38 record. In the first round of the playoffs, the Warriors would again pull of an upset as they defeated the 2nd-seeded San Antonio Spurs in four games after losing Game 1. However, they would lose to the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one in the semifinals. Hardaway and Mullin were both selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game.

1990–91 Indiana Pacers season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Pacers' 15th season in the National Basketball Association, and 24th season as a franchise. In the offseason, the Pacers signed free agent Michael Williams. The Pacers would get off to a slow start with a 9–16 record, as head coach Dick Versace was fired and replaced with Bob Hill. Under Hill, the Pacers played around .500 again finishing fifth in the Central Division with a 41–41 record. Reggie Miller continued to lead them in scoring with 22.6 points per game. Detlef Schrempf was named Sixth Man of The Year averaging 16.1 points per game off the bench. A heartbreaking five-game defeat to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics kept the Pacers from advancing in the playoffs. In the series, the Pacers came close to taking the final two games, but lost by just three points in Game 5 at the Boston Garden.

For the season, the Pacers changed their logo and uniforms. The jerseys lasted until 1997, while their primary logo lasted until 2005.

1990–91 Los Angeles Lakers season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Lakers' 43rd season in the National Basketball Association, and 31st in the city of Los Angeles. This season's highlight was Magic Johnson leading the Lakers to the NBA Finals, where they lost in five games to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The Lakers would not return to the Finals until 2000. The season is generally considered the final season of the team's successful, uptempo Showtime era.During the offseason, the team signed unrestricted free agent Sam Perkins. The Lakers finished the regular season with a 58–24 record, but for the first time since the 1980–81 season, did not win their division. Johnson finished second behind Jordan in the voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Johnson was the league's third-oldest point guard, and had grown more powerful and stronger than in his earlier years, but was also slower and less nimble. Mike Dunleavy was the new head coach, the offense used more half-court sets, and the team had a renewed emphasis on defense. Johnson and James Worthy were both selected to play in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Houston Rockets in three straight games, then defeated the 7th-seeded Golden State Warriors in five games in the semifinals. In the Western Conference Finals, they defeated the top-seeded and Pacific Division champion Portland Trail Blazers in six games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Game 5 of the NBA Finals was the last Finals game played at the Forum. It was also Magic's last NBA game before his retirement in November 1991 due to an HIV virus, although he would play in the All-Star Game in 1992 and the Dream Team that summer. Magic would make a brief return to the Lakers midway through the 1995–96 NBA season. After losing to the Houston Rockets in that year's playoffs, Magic retired again for good.

1990–91 Miami Heat season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the third season of the Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association (NBA). After a semi-promising 5–9 start, the Heat went on a ten-game losing streak, winning just 6 of 24 games in December and January. They lost 13 of their final 17 games finishing last place in the Atlantic Division with a 24–58 record. In his second year, point guard Sherman Douglas led the Heat in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He also led them with 8.5 assists per game. Second-year star Glen Rice, and last season's Most Improved Player Rony Seikaly also had solid seasons, as the Heat showed slight improvement winning six more games than the previous season. Top draft pick Willie Burton was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team.

1990–91 Milwaukee Bucks season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Bucks' 23rd season in the National Basketball Association. During the offseason, the Bucks acquired Frank Brickowski from the San Antonio Spurs. The Bucks started the season on a strong note winning their first 18 home games on their way to a 25–8 start. However, they would lose ten of their next twelve games. Ricky Pierce and Alvin Robertson were both selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game. At midseason, Pierce was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics for Dale Ellis. The Bucks would make their 12th consecutive playoff appearance finishing third in the Central Division with a 48–34 record, while posting a 33–8 home record at the Bradley Center. In the first round of the playoffs, the Bucks were swept by the 5th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in three straight games. This would be their final playoff appearance until 1999.

1990–91 Minnesota Timberwolves season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Timberwolves' 2nd season in the National Basketball Association. After playing one year at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Timberwolves moved into their new arena known as the Target Center, which opened on October 13, 1990. They played their first game there on November 2 defeating the Dallas Mavericks 98–85 before a sold out crowd of 19,006. However, the Timberwolves continued to struggle in their second season finishing fifth in the Midwest Division with a 29–53 record, despite posting a solid 7–5 record in April. Tony Campbell continued to lead the T-Wolves in scoring averaging 21.8 points per game. Tyrone Corbin finished second on the team in scoring with 18.0 points per game, while second-year star Pooh Richardson led them with 9.0 assists per game.

1990–91 New York Knicks season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the 45th season for the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association. In the offseason, the Knicks signed unrestricted free agent John Starks, who played in the Continental Basketball Association the previous season. The Knicks changed their on-court leadership early in the season as head coach Stu Jackson was replaced by John MacLeod. After a 6–3 start to the season, the Knicks lost eight of their next nine games. They recovered to a 34–33 record near the end of the season, but then went 5–10 in their last 15 games. New York finished in third place in the Atlantic Division with a 39–43 record, and earned the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference for the NBA Playoffs. Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with 26.6 points per game, and was selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game.In the first round, the Knicks were swept in three straight games by the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls. Following the season, Maurice Cheeks was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.

1990–91 Sacramento Kings season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Kings' 42nd season in the National Basketball Association, and sixth season in Sacramento. The Kings became the first team in NBA history to wield four first round draft choices selecting forward Lionel Simmons, guard Travis Mays, center Duane Causwell, and forward Anthony Bonner. However, their struggles continued as they lost their first seven games of the season, on their way to an awful 1–13 start. The Kings finished last place in the Pacific Division with a 25–57 record, losing a record of 37 consecutive games on the road finishing with the worst road record in NBA history at 1–40. Wayman Tisdale played just 33 games due to a foot injury, and Bonner only played in 34 games. Simmons made the All-Rookie First Team while Mays was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team. Following the season, Antoine Carr was traded to the San Antonio Spurs, and Mays was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks.

1990–91 Utah Jazz season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Jazz's 17th season in the National Basketball Association, and 12th season in Salt Lake City, Utah. Early into the season, the Jazz traveled to Japan to play their first two games against the Phoenix Suns at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. With the offseason acquisition of Jeff Malone from the Washington Bullets, the Jazz continued to play sweet music in the regular season with a 26–12 start. They ended up falling one game short of the Midwest Division title with another stellar record of 54–28, as Karl Malone finished second in the league in scoring with 29.0 points per game, and John Stockton led the league with 14.2 assists per game. Malone and Stockton were both selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game. In the first round of the playoffs, the Jazz defeated the 4th-seeded Phoenix Suns in four games, but lost in the semifinals to the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. This was also their final season playing at the Salt Palace. Following the season, Darrell Griffith retired.

1990–91 Washington Bullets season

The 1990–91 NBA season was the Bullets' 30th season in the National Basketball Association. In the offseason, the Bullets acquired second-year forward Pervis Ellison from the Sacramento Kings. Bernard King provided a great story as he came all the way back from knee surgery he suffered while playing for the New York Knicks in 1985, to finish third in the league in scoring with 28.4 points per game. He was also selected for the 1991 NBA All-Star Game. However, with a nine-game losing streak between February and March, the Bullets struggles continued as they finished fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 30–52 record. Harvey Grant showed improvement averaging 18.2 points per game, and finished second in Most Improved Player voting behind Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic.

1991 NBA All-Star Game

The 1991 NBA All-Star Game was an exhibition basketball game between players selected from the National Basketball Association's Western Conference and the Eastern Conference that was played on February 10, 1991, at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. This game was the 41st edition of the NBA All-Star Game and was played during the 1990–91 NBA season.

The All-Star Weekend began on Saturday, February 9, 1991, with the Legends Classic, the Three-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest.

This was the first NBA All-Star Game broadcast by NBC after 17 years with CBS.

The All-Star Game returned to Charlotte in 2019, though it was played at the Spectrum Center in Uptown, and broadcast on TNT (the All-Star Game has never been broadcast on ABC or ESPN during the networks' current contract with the league, which began during the 2002-03 season).

1991 NBA Finals

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 2000-2002 and 2009-2010 seasons.

The 1991 Lakers were led by Johnson, who was 32 and playing in what would be his last full season, as well as 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.

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.

List of 1990–91 NBA season transactions

This is a list of all transactions occurring in the 1990-91 NBA season.


Run TMC was the high-scoring trio of basketball teammates consisting of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Starting in 1989, they played together for two seasons with the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Coached by Don Nelson, the Warriors played a fast-paced, run-and-gun style, and Run TMC was the league's highest-scoring trio in the 1990–91 season. Despite their short time together, the popularity of Run TMC endured. Their name was a play on the hip hop group Run-DMC, with the first name initials of each member forming "TMC".

1990–91 NBA season by team

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