The 1990s was a glorious time to be a kid and a teenager. Everything seemed better in the 90s, from video games to music, movies, and, of course, sports.
We had all the coolest things and new tech. There was Super Nintendo, and we even had the original PlayStation. On top of video games, we had other exciting electronics, like Tamagotchi pets.
Pogs took over our lives for a few years, and when that faded, it was Pokémon cards. Then, the Internet arrived, and we kids couldn’t wait until our parents got off the phone to use it.
The beauty of the 90s is more than the stuff we had. We also played outside… and we did this a lot.
These memories are great. It’s always fun to dive into nostalgia, and as a sports fan, especially a basketball fan, the 90s had the most entertaining and memorable basketball to date.
In this article, I’m going to give you the top 10 reasons why the NBA in the 90s was the best and will always be the best NBA decade. Let’s kick off the list with something some kids probably never read, the newspaper.
Kids in the 90s couldn’t wait to read the newspaper. Yes, there were comic strips that kids loved to read, but for us NBA fans, we couldn’t wait to read the recaps of yesterday’s basketball games.
Yes, before the Internet took over the world, we as 90s kids had to wait for the paper to find out what happened during the previous night’s games. Another important thing to read in the newspaper was the updated NBA standings. It was always good reading the paper to see how good your team was doing.
9. No Boys Allowed!
Today, people talk about how physical the game was played in the 1990s. Now, was every play in the 90s a close line or a knockdown foul? No, of course not. Some of us “old heads” like to exaggerate the physicalness of our era to a degree, but there is some truth to it.
Many hard fouls that are called flagrant fouls today really would be nothing more than a common foul. Plus, with hand checking allowed, the defender could touch and control his opponent to a good degree.
Today, if you’re a defender and barely touch the offensive player, you get called for a foul. The reason for this was because the NBA wanted higher-scoring games, so they gave the offensive player advantages over the defense.
Plus, the NBA today is all about the three-point shot. Since they’re a lot more three-pointers, that means fewer players are taking the ball to the hoop, and there are fewer chances of a hard foul.
Some fans might not care that the game isn’t as physical. To them, I’d say they must’ve never watched the beauty of 90s playoff basketball.
8. Trading Cards
In the 90s, the basketball trading card craze grew to incredible heights. In the past, kids only wanted to collect baseball cards, but by the 90s, everyone wanted basketball cards in the hope of grabbing their favorite player.
Kids would collect cards either in folders or containers and take them to their friends to show off or trade. Kids today don’t understand how much fun that really was.
7. Playoff Rivalries
Yes, sticking with the playoffs in the 90s, there were so many great rivalries where teams truly hated each other’s guts. This was especially fun to watch in a playoff series.
We had the Chicago Bulls versus the New York Knicks, the Chicago Bulls versus the Detroit Pistons. When the New York Knicks played the Miami Heat, things would always get intense. Don’t forget about the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic’s brief but entertaining rivalry.
One of the best and my personal favorite rivalries was between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks… If you haven’t caught on, the Knicks were at the center of plenty of 90s rivalries, and for good reasons.
The Knicks “back in the day” weren’t this sorry excuse of a team as you might know them as today. No, they were a solid team that would physically beat you down.
On top of their physical play, that crowd in Madison Square Garden would get so intense and crazy that it made you, as a kid, want to jump in the old box television set and play for the road team.
Yes, hearing that rowdy crowd go silent may have been one of the best feelings you could have as a 90s NBA fan… unless you were a Knicks fan.
6. NBA Inside Stuff
In the 90s, kids lived for Saturday mornings. Why? Because that’s when the best cartoons played. But that’s not all that played.
On Saturday, October 27, 1990, a new NBA program premiered on NBC. This program was called NBA Inside Stuff.
This show gave fans a glimpse into the inside of the game. The host, former pro football player, Ahmad Rashad, would hang out with some of the biggest stars of the day and his charisma really made the show a hit.
In fact, Rashad’s charisma was so well received that he would end up becoming a sideline reporter during NBA games. Now that’s the inside stuff.
5. Sports Illustrated For Kids
On top of having our favorite NBA show to watch on Saturday mornings, we also had Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines.
Like the original Sports Illustrated magazine, the kid’s version was filled with sports. But we had many more pictures and fun stories to pander to our youth.
The articles were always so fun, and the pictures of your favorite stars were just waiting for you to cut them out and hang them on your bedroom wall. Yes, reading was fun for us 90s kids.
4. NBA JAM
Okay, I know kids today have incredible and realistic basketball games that they play. Still, they can’t compare to the original NBA Jam when you’re talking about fast-paced fun.
There were the high-flying slam dunks. You had the players catching fire, which made them almost invincible, and the fact there weren’t any rules (other than goaltending), the game was fun for anyone.
Whether you played it in an arcade or on a home console, NBA Jam allowed us to become our favorite NBA players just for a little, and that was all right. Boomshakalaka.
3. NBA On NBC
When NBC obtained the rights to televise NBA games from CBS in 1990, the games changed from simply being a game to watch to watching an almost theater-like performance.
Before the game started, the announcers would describe the matchup in a way that you felt like you were watching a movie trailer. If that didn’t get the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up, that John Tesh theme music would… so iconic.
2. The Dream Team
In 1988, the USA basketball team lost to the USSR in the Summer Olympics to win the bronze medal. This wasn’t the goal for team USA.
Prior to the ’92 Olympics, FIBA rules stated that no professional player could play in the Olympics. FIBA would vote to change the rule and allow NBA players to participate in the ’92 games.
Boy, would they participate and dominate the games. Led by eleven NBA players and one college star, Team USA dismantled their opponents by a margin of 43.8 points per game.
The Dream Team, as they were known, became the first USA team to score over 100 points in every game. By allowing NBA stars to play in the Olympics, the game of basketball grew throughout the world and is a big reason why we have so many talented foreign players in the game today.
1. Michael Jordan And The Chicago Bulls
In the 90s, the Chicago Bulls ruled the NBA landscape. Their championship monster was headed by the biggest star the game has ever seen… Michael Jordan.
The Chicago Bulls were the standard for basketball excellence by winning six titles throughout the 90s. If Michael Jordan hadn’t retired, the Bulls might have won eight titles.
The Bulls had a fun set of characters on the team, from Scottie Pippen to John Paxson, Steve Kerr, and The Worm, Dennis Rodman.
But with all these studs on the team, Michael Jordan was the only one who flew higher than the game itself. You couldn’t escape MJ’s greatness and presence. He seemed to be everywhere.
Jordan appeared in every other commercial on TV, and his likeness was on cereal boxes and Gatorade bottles. There was also a movie called Space Jam that starred Jordan and a certain looney rabbit.
Michael Jordan became the most popular celebrity in the world, and the Chicago Bulls were the hottest ticket on the market. When it came to the game, no one was more clutch, and no player inspired such fear in their opponent’s eyes than Michael Jordan.
This is why many NBA fans have Jordan as their G.O.A.T., and even if they don’t, they can’t help to debate their pick against him. I wanna be like Mike and I bet you do as well.
So, there you have it, 10 reasons why the NBA in the 1990s was so special. There are many other reasons, but these 10 surely can take you on a nostalgic stroll down memory lane.