How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls

GOAT cover (book by Jack Silverstein, design by Zachary Gibson, Bag Fry)

Way back in October, back when the Bulls’ record of 72 wins was safe, I began an essay about the 12 moves the Bulls made between June 1993 and October 1995 that turned an aged, bickering, 57-win champion into a flourishing, rejuvenated, 72-win juggernaut.

Seven months later, I have a 13,000-word e-book and have spent more time reading about and watching clips of the 1995-96 Bulls than any time other than 1995-96. I’ll save you the suspense: It’s been a sweet 7 months!

Thus I am very proud to release “How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls.”

READ AND DOWNLOAD THE PDF VERSION: How the GOAT was built — by Jack M Silverstein

For an iBooks copy for your phone, email

More e-book options to come.

To read the six lessons without the prologue or epilogue, (but with lots and lots of video!), click the links below: Read More

“My coach is everything” — Phil Jackson’s influence on the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson 6 copy

Excerpt from “How The GOAT Was Built: Six Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson #6: Find a coach who will help you be your best self

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

In the summer of 1996, after winning his fourth championship, Michael Jordan came within 30 minutes of signing with the New York Knicks.

“New York was right downstairs,” Jordan told Spike Lee in “Best Seat In the House.” “The Bulls — all they had to do was mess up.”

The Knicks had an offer on the table for Jordan: one year, $25 million. “We told (Jordan’s team) they could have all our cap room,” Madison Square Garden President Dave Checketts said at the time.


Could Michael Jordan have joined the Knicks? According to the man himself, it almost happened in 1996. (Photo illustration by Patrick Ortega, found at

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Chris Dudley, Horace Grant, and the strangest “What If?” of the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson 5

Excerpt from “How The GOAT Was Built: Six Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson #5: Don’t panic — that bad break today might be the luck you need tomorrow

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

I believe in the planning and principles behind the ‘96 Bulls and the whole second three-peat. A lot of sound reasoning went into those teams. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any luck.

As I researched this team, I had fun diving into history’s wrinkles — those mostly forgotten sharp left turns our memories ironed into straightaways. The lesson: like the parable of the Chinese farmer, you truly never know if an event will end up being good luck or bad, so plan the best you can, react pragmatically, and move on.

And with that, here are my two favorite “what if?” moments of the 1996 Bulls — they’re related.

What if Chris Dudley didn’t sign with the Trail Blazers in 1993?

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell does Chris Dudley joining Portland in 1993 have to do with the ‘96 Bulls? If I hadn’t come across this arcane bit of history I would be asking the exact same question. Read More

33-23 = 1.8, but 33+23 = 72

Lesson 2

Excerpt from “How The GOAT Was Built: Six Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls” (Read the book here)

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to push your limits — or to find peace and excellence within them

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

The championship Bulls don’t work without Scottie Pippen. So naturally the Bulls tried to trade him approximately a bajillion times between 1994 and 1998. In telling the story of the 1996 Bulls — and gleaning from that story wisdom for our own lives and pursuits — two abandoned Pippen trades stand out.

Incredibly, both failed because the OTHER team balked.

The first was between the Bulls and SuperSonics on the eve of the 1994 draft, the Pippen-for-Kemp deal that failed when Seattle got cold feet.

The second was in February 1995, when the Clippers tried to acquire Pippen at a time when he was dead set on leaving.

“I don’t want to be here (with the Bulls) the rest of the season,” Pippen said in early February. “I’m hoping teams are thinking about me. I’m still ready to get out of here. I’m looking for a different place, a different team, a different perspective on my career. I’ve got 18 days to go (to the February 23 trading deadline). The countdown is on. Just say I’m showcasing myself out here.” Read More

There Could Never Be an 8-Peat: Why Michael Jordan Needed Baseball

Michael Jordan 1993 baseball 1994 White Sox 1996 NBA Finals champagne

Excerpt from “How The GOAT Was Built: Six Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson #1: If your head approves, follow your heart (even if that means leaving your perch atop the NBA to play minor league baseball)

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“I think he had to get away from everything. It all overwhelmed him.”

“I think he had gotten so tired of the hype and so tired of the media that he wanted to find a place where he could play and really just have fun.”

“I think Mike is doing this just so he can get away from the insanity of pro basketball.”

“Maybe Mike’s doing this because he just wants to be a player again.”

“Here’s a guy, the greatest of all times, letting nothing stand in the way of what he loves to do, and that’s just play ____________.”

— Marv Albert, Ahmad Rashad, David Robinson, Harold Miner, and John Thompson, February 1994

The best evidence that Michael Jordan’s 1993 retirement and subsequent short-lived baseball career was on the level and NOT a secret NBA suspension due to gambling, or an NBA marketing ploy to develop new stars in the Jordan vacuum, or any other theory, is simple: There’s no evidence. Read More

Dub-Bulls: How the 1996 Bulls led the small-ball revolution by going big

1996 Bulls 2016 Warriors (Jack M Silverstein)

Excerpt from “How The GOAT Was Built: Six Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls

Lesson #4: Think creatively about your shortcomings

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

Twenty years later, my number one vision of the Chicago Bulls in the spring of 1996 is 20 limbs and an approximate 35-foot combined wingspan fanned out like a flying octagon — five players between 6’6 and 6’11, four with point guard skills, four who could defend three positions, and a genius on the sideline joining his players in synced consciousness.

In short, they were awesome.

It’s no coincidence that the Warriors are too.

While watching Golden State this season, my thoughts have returned time and again to one question and one question only: Why? Why these Warriors? Why after Shaq & Kobe and Duncan’s Spurs and the Big 3 Heat and the Big 3 Celtics — why is THIS the team that finally made a successful run at 70 wins, much less 73? Read More