Three sports dynasties that defined ’90s decade

Kartik Sridhar

Dynasties don’t come often in sports, but the 1990s provided sports fans around the country with historically significant teams. Chicago, New York and Dallas were lucky enough to be home to storied franchises in the NBA, MLB and NFL, respectively. 

The Bulls of the 1990s were, on paper, one of the most prolific dynasties that professional sports have seen. Winning six titles between 1991 and 1998, coach Phil Jackson’s Bulls livened the city of Chicago with their two three-peats. Of the six championship teams, The 1996 Bulls set the record for wins in a regular season by finishing 72-10. Led by shooting guard Michael Jordan after his season-long retirement and short stint in the MLB, the 1995 Bulls created a benchmark for success that teams have unsuccessfully chased. 

This season’s Golden State Warriors, however, have high hopes of beating the record as they are currently on pace to do so. Interestingly, Golden State is coached by Steve Kerr, a former Bulls player who hit the crucial go-ahead shot against the Jazz to win the 1997 NBA Finals. While Kerr hopes to continue the Warriors’ exciting season behind the play of reigning MVP Stephen Curry, this season’s success will likely not overshadow Michael Jordan’s stardom and the Bulls’ presence on the court. While the contributions of small forward Scottie Pippen, sixth-man Toni Kucoč and power forward Dennis Rodman were instrumental in the
success of the dynasty, Jordan’s persona lives on more than any other. 

Sports journalism professor senior lecturer Kevin Robbins said part of the Bulls’ success lied in their demeanor. 

“Chicago was lucky to have a once-in-a-generation athlete,” Robbins said. “Jordan was the most compelling sports figure of the ‘90s and made the Bulls the most publicized dynasty I’ve seen.”

Another dynasty that earned its place in history is The Yankees of the late ’90s. Though the Yankees were already considered the most decorated franchise in MLB history, they struggled to replicate the standards they set in the 1980s. So, when manager Joe Torre led this blockbuster team to four championships in five years, New York re-established themselves as the unquestionable kings of the sport. With the core of shortstop Derek Jeter, ace Andy Pettitte and closer Mariano Rivera, The Yankees had the future hall-of-fame players at three cornerstone positions. 

From these building blocks, George Steinbrenner’s Yankees added depth and stardom nearly everywhere else. While the NBA and NFL restrict franchises to salary caps, the MLB relies on a luxury tax paid if a team spends over the stated threshold for a given season. While this is an attempt to deter large market teams from spending too much money on players, the Yankees are unaffected by this disincentive, earning them the reputation for buying championships. According to Forbes, the Yankees have paid 75 percent of total MLB luxury taxes since 2003, indicating the lasting effect of the late 90s dynasty and the successful precedent it set for the franchise. 

“The Yankees had a star at every position it seemed like,” Robbins said. “They were, more so than any team I have seen, a team that would win at any cost.”    

Earning the nickname “America’s Team,” The Dallas Cowboys of the ‘90s made their mark in history by winning three Super Bowls in a span of four years. Like their counterparts in the other sports, The Cowboys formed their offense around three greats — Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Despite the prolific careers of Aikman and Smith, it was Irvin who stole the show as the loud and exciting soul of the team. New York Times Bestselling author Shea Serrano wrote in a piece for Grantland that Irvin had the X-factor that appealed to fans and angered opponents. 

“Irvin had charisma,” Serrano wrote. “Irvin was charming. Irvin was infuriating…[he] would get a first down and celebrate like he’d scored a touchdown.”

Deviating from the coaching consistency seen in the Bulls and Yankees dynasties, the Dallas Cowboys won their third championship in the midst of a coaching change. Barry Switzer took over for head coach Jimmy Johnson in 1994 after Johnson resigned due to a spat with owner Jerry Jones, Though Switzer did not match the success of Johnson’s Cowboys in his first season as head coach, the 1995 Cowboys went on to beat the Pitttsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. The Cowboys have struggled to replicate the success of the ‘90’s teams, as the New England Patriots have become the new standard for success in the NFL since the turn of the century.