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NBA

What happened in the 1993-94 NBA season without Michael Jordan?

When Michael Jordan announced his retirement ahead of the 1993-94 season, it shook up not only the basketball world but the sporting world.

Jordan was coming off his third straight championship and Finals MVP, re-announcing himself as the game's best player after Charles Barkley created some doubt by winning the '93 league MVP.

The Bulls as a team would've been the title favourite heading into the 1993-94 season had MJ stayed in the game and could've become the first team since Bill Russell's Celtics to win four straight championships.

But instead, we were left with what could've been.

With Jordan out of the league, the possibility for a new champion finally opened up. The crown of pound for pound best player on the planet was also vacant.

Here's how the league looked in a post-Jordan world.

The Draft

Just ten days after the Bulls completed their first three-peat, the NBA Draft took place in Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Orlando Magic took Chris Webber with the first overall pick, then traded him to Golden State in exchange for Penny Hardaway, who was the third overall selection.

Webber went on to win Rookie of the Year averaging 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. Webber helped the Warriors to a 50-win season - a 16 win increase - and a playoff berth in his first year with the club.

The Bulls, who at the time didn't know Jordan would be retiring, drafted Corie Blount in the first round and Anthony Reed in the second round. Reed never played in an NBA game.

Other notable picks from the '93 NBA Draft included Nick Van Exel, Sam Cassell, Allan Houston, Jamal Mashburn and Vin Baker. Spurs legend Bruce Bowen went undrafted and would start his pro career in France before eventually finding his way to the NBA.

Preseason title Odds

With Jordan out of the picture, the path to an NBA title looked all-clear for Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. The Knicks had been eliminated by Jordan and the Bulls each of the three prior seasons but held the best odds at +200 to win the 1993-94 title.

The Phoenix Suns, who just came off the heartbreaking defeat to Chicago in the Finals, had the second-best odds at +300.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who also suffered at the hands of Michael Jordan, thought their time had come in 1993-94 and Vegas agreed by giving them the third-best odds at +500.

The Houston Rockets - the team that eventually won the NBA title - came into the season tied for the fifth-best odds with the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers at +1200.

Going for the four-peat, the Jordan-less Bulls were given the seventh-best odds at +1500.

Standings/Playoffs

The loaded Seattle SuperSonics would win a franchise-record 63 games and claim home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They would eventually eclipse that win total by one game in 1995-96. Six SuperSonics averaged double-digits in scoring that season, led by Shawn Kemp at 18.1 points per game.

With a league-best 37-4 record at the Seattle Center Coliseum, the Sonics looked poised for a deep playoff run, but Dikembe Mutombo and the Denver Nuggets had other plans. The Nuggets would upset the Sonics, winning the fifth and deciding game in Seattle to become the first eighth seed in NBA history to eliminate a one seed.

Mutombo and the Nuggets would come back from down 3-0 to force a game seven in the following round before losing to Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Utah Jazz in the seventh game. The Nuggets '94 playoff run is still one of the most improbable in NBA history.

Over in the East, the New York Knicks - who finished tied with Atlanta for the best record in the conference - would play 18 of a possible 19 playoff games before punching their ticket to the NBA Finals for the first time since their 1973 championship.

Waiting for them was the reigning league MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon, and a Houston Rockets team who disposed of the Jazz in just five games in the Western Conference Finals.

The Knicks, who couldn't get over the hump with Jordan in the league, came one win away from winning their franchise's third title. After taking a 3-2 series lead, New York lost back-to-back games in Houston to give the Rockets their first NBA championship.

Olajuwon averaged 26.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the field in the Finals. He joined Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan as the only players to win both league and Finals MVP in the same season.

Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and LeBron James would later join that list.

Season Notes

The Atlanta Hawks shocked the NBA world when they traded Dominque Wilkins mid-season to the L.A. Clippers for Danny Manning. Wilkins played 49 games with the Hawks that year, leading the team in scoring while averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds. Atlanta sat in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 36-16 record at the time of the trade. It's still the only time in league history that a team has traded its leading scorer while sitting at first place in their conference prior to the All-Star break.

Wilkins was in a contract year, and many believed Atlanta did not want to commit long term money to him. Wilkins was in his 12th season at age 34.

David Robinson would record the league's fourth quadruple-double, going for 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks in a game against the Pistons. No one has had a quadruple-double since. Robinson would later score 71 points on the final day of the regular season to secure the league's scoring title. He finished the year averaging 29.8 points per game, edging out Shaquille O'Neal who averaged 29.3. It was the first time since Dominique Wilkins led the league in 1985-86 that someone other than Michael Jordan won the scoring title. Jordan famously broke his foot and only played in 18 games that season.

With the Lakers struggling at 28-38, Magic Johnson agreed to take over as head coach of the team. He got Los Angeles off to a good start, winning five of his first six games, but the hype faded and the team finished on a 10-game losing streak. Johnson resigned after the season with a 5-11 coaching record.

Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas would suffer a torn Achilles tendon in April of '94 which led to his retirement. His Bad Boys teammate Bill Laimbeer would also announce his retirement at the end of the '94 season.

Denver's Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf finished the season shooting 95.6 percent from the foul line. He was 0.2 percent away from breaking Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy's record (95.8%) set back in the 1980-81 season. Toronto Raptors' standout Jose Calderon would later break the record in 2008-09, shooting 98.1 percent from the line.

The Bulls played their final season at Chicago Stadium which had been open since 1929. They would play at the United Center to start the 1994-95 season.

The San Antonio Spurs played their first season at the Alamodome, a place they would call home for nine seasons.

The views expressed here do not reflect those of the NBA or its clubs.

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