Breaking Through: 1991 Duke Basketball & The 1991 Chicago Bulls

1991 wasn’t a year where one particular city or region really stood out in terms of sports success. What it really was about was that it was a bad year to be a Mainstream Media Moron (MMM). By this I mean writers and commentators who target highly successful players and coaches and deride them as losers because they haven’t won a championship. Two of the MMM’s prominent targets in the early 1990s broke through in 1991.

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Now this isn’t to say there weren’t geographic areas that had good years and deserve a salute. It was a nice year in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins won the first of two straight Stanley Cups and the Pirates reached their second of three consecutive National League Championship Series.
If we had to pick one fan base to anoint as the best, the honor would have to go to the good people of the Twin Cities—they got a World Series title, as the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in one of the great Fall Classics of all time, and Minnesota also saw its hockey team reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The North Stars (as they were named before their awful relocation to Dallas) won the Western Conference before finally succumbing to Mario Lemieux in the Finals.
But the personalities we’re going to tie together and Michael Jordan and Mike Krzyzewski. Jordan had yet to reach the NBA Finals during his first six years in the league. A rational person would have said it was because he lacked any supporting cast and he was in a conference that had first the Larry Bird Celtics and then the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons in the way. An irrational person would have said that Jordan was just a scorer who would never win the big one. The nature of the media hasn’t changed much in the last 20-plus years, so you can probably guess which side most of the commentary fell on.
The criticism of Coach K wasn’t quite as pointed—in Jordan’s case, there really were people saying the Bulls’ star was intrinsically not a winner. The Duke coach merely had people pointing out that he hadn’t won a title in spite of four Final Four appearances in five years with a program that had been at the bottom of the ACC when he took over.
In the spring and summer of 1991, Jordan and Krzyzewski broke through. They each won their first championships. And since then they’ve won so frequently (six rings for Jordan, four for Coach K) that no media member is going to admit they were in the mob that was piling on. But the MMM’s voices were in full throttle when the 1990-91 basketball season began, and were made to endure sweet silence when it was over.
Read more about the 1991 Duke basketball team
Read more about the 1991 Chicago Bulls