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August 13, 2008
by Robbie Gillies
In our most recent Top 10 list, we chronicled the Top 10 Sporting Accomplishments That Deserve Asterisks. Coming in at #7 were the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back Championships in 1994-95 while Michael Jordan was out of the league. One reader took offense to this making the list:
If you had actually seen the fits those Rockets gave the Bulls when MJ was around, or possible noticed that Hakeem could not be stopped by anyone, the very least Bill Wellington, you might have thought better of it.
After doing some research, this reader has somewhat of a point. When the Bulls won their first three Championships with Jordan (1991-1993), they were just 1-5 against the Rockets in the regular season and were outscored by an average of over 11 points per game. I’m sure the latter comment about Bill Wellington (actually it’s Wennington) was a bit tongue and cheek, but Wennington didn’t play with the Bulls during their first three Championships. He was with the Bulls from 1993-1999 and was rarely a starter. So, basically he couldn’t stop anyone, let alone Hakeem, but he was never really asked to do that either.
But the picture changed when Jordan returned. The Bulls went 5-1 against the Rockets during their second three-peat and outscored the Rockets by an average of 9 points per game. Obviously, there is no way to prove how a series between these two would have gone down if Jordan had remained and they met in the NBA Finals. But who is honestly going to bet against Jordan come playoff time?
Winning an NBA Championship is a huge accomplishment, no matter the circumstances, and the Rockets titles are not tainted in the same way as Michael Strahan’s sack record, Bjarne Riis' Tour de France victory, or Fernando Bie & Hugo Wieslander's Olympic Gold medals. It’s more like Padraig Harrington’s recent PGA wins. The Rockets' and Harrington's asterisks simply denotes extremely favorable and unique circumstances during which the best player in the world wasn't playing.