1996–97 NBA season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1996–97 NBA season
LeagueNational Basketball Association
  • November 1, 1996 – April 20, 1997
  • April 24 – May 29, 1997 (Playoffs)
  • June 1 – 13, 1997 (Finals)
Number of teams29
TV partner(s)NBC, TBS, TNT
Top draft pickAllen Iverson
Picked byPhiladelphia 76ers
Regular season
Top seedChicago Bulls
Season MVPKarl Malone (Utah)
Top scorerMichael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)
Eastern championsChicago Bulls
  Eastern runners-upMiami Heat
Western championsUtah Jazz
  Western runners-upHouston Rockets
ChampionsChicago Bulls
  Runners-upUtah Jazz
Finals MVPMichael Jordan (Chicago)
NBA seasons

The 1996–97 NBA season was the 51st season of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The league used this season to celebrate its 50th anniversary, which included the unveiling of the league's list of its 50 greatest players. This particular season featured what has since been acknowledged as one of the most talented rookie-classes, featuring the debuts of Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace and Stephon Marbury. The season ended with the Chicago Bulls defeating the Utah Jazz 4 games to 2 in the NBA Finals to win the franchise's 5th championship.

1996 NBA lockout[edit]

The 1996 NBA lockout was the second lockout of four in the history of the NBA. It took place on July 10, 1996. The lockout was imposed after the league and the players union could not reach an agreement involving $50 million in profit sharing from television revenue. The league requested 50 percent of the profits be applied toward player salaries while the union pushed for a larger share. After a few hours of talks, the league agreed to allocate an additional $14 million per season in television revenue toward the salary cap during the last four years of the six-year collective bargaining agreement. The agreement ending the lockout was announced a few hours after the lockout began.[1][2][3]

Notable occurrences[edit]

Coaching changes
Team 1995–96 coach 1996–97 coach
Charlotte Hornets Allan Bristow Dave Cowens
Dallas Mavericks Dick Motta Jim Cleamons
Milwaukee Bucks Mike Dunleavy, Sr. Chris Ford
New Jersey Nets Butch Beard John Calipari
Philadelphia 76ers John Lucas Johnny Davis
Phoenix Suns Cotton Fitzsimmons Danny Ainge
Toronto Raptors Brendan Malone Darrell Walker
Team Outgoing coach Incoming coach
Denver Nuggets Bernie Bickerstaff Dick Motta
Orlando Magic Brian Hill Richie Adubato
Sacramento Kings Garry St. Jean Eddie Jordan
San Antonio Spurs Bob Hill Gregg Popovich
Vancouver Grizzlies Brian Winters Stu Jackson
Washington Bullets Jim Lynam Bob Staak
Bob Staak Bernie Bickerstaff
  • The Chicago Bulls missed back to back 70 win seasons, going 69–13, tying the second best all-time record (with the 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers season). With four games to play, the Bulls' record stood at 68–10, only needing a 2–2 split; however, they went 1–3 in those games. In the final game of the regular season, the Bulls lost to the Knicks 103–101 as Scottie Pippen missed a three-pointer that would have given the Bulls back to back 70 win seasons. This loss also prevented the Bulls from tying the best home record of 40–1, set by the 1985–86 Boston Celtics, finishing 39–2 at the United Center.
  • The 1997 NBA All-Star Game was played at Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, with the East defeating the West 132–120. Glen Rice of the Charlotte Hornets was named the game's MVP after scoring a record 20 points in the third quarter, and 24 in the second half. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett became the youngest player to play in the All-Star Game. Coincidentally, the MLB All-Star Game would be played at nearby Jacobs Field in July, giving Cleveland the distinction of hosting two All-Star Games in the same year.
  • The New Jersey Nets and Orlando Magic both played two games against each other in Tokyo, Japan early into the season.
  • The Philadelphia 76ers played their first season at the Core States Center (later First Union and Wachovia Center, now Wells Fargo Center).
  • The Los Angeles Lakers signed free-agent center Shaquille O'Neal. Along with the addition of Kobe Bryant, the duo would become a fixture on the team for eight years, winning three championships together. However, a media created feud would eventually lead to O'Neal being traded to Miami in 2004.
  • Allen Iverson set a rookie record scoring with forty points or more in five games.
  • Due to extensive renovations at Oakland Coliseum Arena, the Golden State Warriors played their home games at the San Jose Arena (later the HP Pavilion at San Jose, now known as the SAP Center at San Jose), home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Following the season, the renovated arena became known as The Arena in Oakland, and was later renamed after the Oracle software company they continued at the arena until the Warriors' moved back to San Francisco's new arena the Chase Center for the 2019–20 season.
  • Dennis Rodman was suspended for 11 games after kicking a cameraman in a road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after tripping over him.
  • In the last game of the regular season for both teams, the Washington Bullets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to obtain the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Had Cleveland won, the Cavaliers would have qualified instead. As for the Bullets, this was their final playoff appearance until 2005 where the team was renamed the "Wizards". It was the last time until the 2017-18 NBA season a regular-season game has served as a direct play-in game to the postseason.
  • Following a last-second three-point shot by John Stockton in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Utah Jazz made their first ever NBA Finals appearance.
  • The rivalry between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat got underway in Game 5 of the Conference Semifinals with a brawl at Miami Arena. In that brawl, P. J. Brown flipped Charlie Ward on the hardwood, inciting a bench brawl between the two. As a result, Brown was handed a two-game suspension, while Ward was suspended for Game 6. Meanwhile, as a result of leaving the bench during the brawl, Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston were suspended for Game 6, while Larry Johnson and John Starks were suspended for Game 7. The Heat eventually won the series in seven games.
  • In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Lakers, Karl Malone hit all 18 of his free-throw attempts, setting a playoff record for most attempts without a miss, since broken by Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki.
  • After seven seasons of futility, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally made a postseason appearance, becoming the last of the late 1980s expansion teams to do so. In addition, their expansion counterparts (Miami, Orlando, and Charlotte) also made the playoffs. It would be seven years, however, before they could win their first playoff series.
  • The Atlanta Hawks played their final season at The Omni Coliseum. The site of The Omni was demolished to make way for Philips Arena, forcing the Hawks to play most of their home games at the Georgia Dome and, in games featuring lesser-profile opponents, the Alexander Memorial Coliseum for the next two seasons.
  • The season marked the fiftieth anniversary of the NBA. To commemorate the occasion, some NBA teams wore throwback uniforms they will not return again until the 2002–03 season in which Jordan's last season in the NBA, the NBA logo was decorated in gold for all uniforms, and the 50th anniversary logo patch was featured in the warmups. The 'NBA 50' logo also adorned all 29 NBA courts for the first month of the season, decorated in the respective team colors. In addition, the NBA also unveiled the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History during halftime of the 1997 NBA All-Star Game. One team, the Toronto Raptors, honored the Toronto Huskies BAA team by wearing the Huskies' throwback uniforms, and even played the New York Knicks at the SkyDome on the 50th anniversary of the first ever BAA/NBA game on November 1, 1996.
  • The Boston Celtics not only set a record for the worst winning percentage and number of wins in franchise history, but also become the only NBA team to win only once in 24 games against other teams in its division, in its last game therein versus the Philadelphia 76ers.[4] Several other teams, previously the 1970–71 Cleveland Cavaliers and latterly the 2005–06 Houston Rockets, the 2006–07 Milwaukee Bucks (ten years later, suffered to the same franchise worst record finished with 24–58 record including a franchise–record 18–game losing streak before both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in Boston along with Paul Pierce and won the championship in 2008 against the Los Angeles Lakers.), the 2008–09 Washington Wizards, the 2010–11 Minnesota Timberwolves (Shaquille O'Neal's last season before retiring in June 2011), the 2017–18 Brooklyn Nets (coincidentally, only one win against the same Philadelphia 76ers team and also Kyrie Irving's first of two seasons spent with the Celtics before leaving the team during the 2019 offseason free agency.), the 2020–21 Detroit Pistons (As part of the shortening 72 game schedule due to COVID-19 pandemic started the regular season in late December 2020 until the end of the season in mid–May 2021) and the 2021–22 Portland Trail Blazers (As part of the NBA 75th Anniversary season), won only one divisional game in a shorter schedule.
  • For the first time in NBA history, multiple teams – the above-mentioned Celtics and the second-year Vancouver Grizzlies – finished with a winning percentage below .200.[5] This was to be repeated in 1997–98 (the Nuggets and the Raptors) and again during 1998–99 (the Grizzlies again and the Los Angeles Clippers) but has never occurred in any season since 1999–2000.
  • After the San Antonio Spurs got off to a poor 3–15 start, general manager Gregg Popovich fired head coach Bob Hill. Popovich immediately took over as the head coach, beginning (as of the 2023–24 season) the NBA's longest active coaching tenure. The Spurs, after finishing the previous season with 59 victories, plunged to a 20–62 record while dealing with a myriad of injuries, especially to David Robinson and Sean Elliott. The 39-game decline was the worst regular-season turnaround in NBA history, surpassed 14 seasons later by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost 42 more games than the previous year.
  • The greatest comeback in National Basketball Association play occurred on November 27, 1996, when the Utah Jazz, down by 36 points to the Denver Nuggets late in the second quarter (70–34), overcame this deficit to win 107–103.

1996–97 NBA changes[edit]

Final standings[edit]

By division[edit]

Eastern Conference
W L PCT GB Home Road Div
y-Miami Heat 61 21 .744 29–12 32–9 16–8
x-New York Knicks 57 25 .695 4 31–10 26–15 19–6
x-Orlando Magic 45 37 .549 16 26–15 19–22 13–11
x-Washington Bullets 44 38 .537 17 25–16 19–22 14–10
New Jersey Nets 26 56 .317 35 16–25 10–31 11–13
Philadelphia 76ers 22 60 .268 39 11–30 11–30 11–14
Boston Celtics 15 67 .183 46 11–30 4–37 1–23
W L PCT GB Home Road Div
y-Chicago Bulls 69 13 .841 39–2 30–11 24–4
x-Atlanta Hawks 56 26 .683 13 36–5 20–21 17–11
x-Detroit Pistons 54 28 .659 15 30–11 24–17 17–11
x-Charlotte Hornets 54 28 .659 15 30–11 24–17 14–14
Cleveland Cavaliers 42 40 .512 27 25–16 17–24 13–15
Indiana Pacers 39 43 .476 30 21–20 18–23 11–17
Milwaukee Bucks 33 49 .402 36 20–21 13–28 10–18
Toronto Raptors 30 52 .366 39 18–23 12–29 6–22
Western Conference
W L PCT GB Home Road Div
y-Utah Jazz 64 18 .780 38–3 26–15 19–5
x-Houston Rockets 57 25 .695 7 30–11 27–14 19–5
x-Minnesota Timberwolves 40 42 .488 24 25–16 15–26 16–8
Dallas Mavericks 24 58 .293 40 14–27 10–31 9–15
Denver Nuggets 21 61 .256 43 12–29 9–32 7–17
San Antonio Spurs 20 62 .244 44 12–29 8–33 8–16
Vancouver Grizzlies 14 68 .171 50 8–33 6–35 6–18
W L PCT GB Home Road Div
y-Seattle SuperSonics 57 25 .695 31–10 26–15 16–8
x-Los Angeles Lakers 56 26 .683 1 31–10 25–16 18–6
x-Portland Trail Blazers 49 33 .598 8 29–12 20–21 15–9
x-Phoenix Suns 40 42 .488 17 25–16 15–26 13–11
x-Los Angeles Clippers 36 46 .439 21 21–20 15–26 10–14
Sacramento Kings 34 48 .415 23 22–19 12–29 8–16
Golden State Warriors 30 52 .366 27 18–23 12–29 4–20

By conference[edit]

1996–97 NBA East standings
1 z-Chicago Bulls 69 13 .841
2 y-Miami Heat 61 21 .744 8
3 x-New York Knicks 57 25 .695 12
4 x-Atlanta Hawks 56 26 .683 13
5 x-Detroit Pistons 54 28 .659 15
6 x-Charlotte Hornets 54 28 .659 15
7 x-Orlando Magic 45 37 .549 24
8 x-Washington Bullets 44 38 .537 25
9 Cleveland Cavaliers 42 40 .512 27
10 Indiana Pacers 39 43 .476 30
11 Milwaukee Bucks 33 49 .402 36
12 Toronto Raptors 30 52 .366 39
13 New Jersey Nets 26 56 .317 43
14 Philadelphia 76ers 22 60 .268 47
15 Boston Celtics 15 67 .183 54
1996–97 NBA West standings
1 c-Utah Jazz 64 18 .780
2 y-Seattle SuperSonics 57 25 .695 7
3 x-Houston Rockets 57 25 .695 7
4 x-Los Angeles Lakers 56 26 .683 8
5 x-Portland Trail Blazers 49 33 .598 15
6 x-Minnesota Timberwolves 40 42 .488 24
7 x-Phoenix Suns 40 42 .488 24
8 x-Los Angeles Clippers 36 46 .439 28
9 Sacramento Kings 34 48 .415 30
10 Golden State Warriors 30 52 .366 34
11 Dallas Mavericks 24 58 .293 40
12 Denver Nuggets 21 61 .256 43
13 San Antonio Spurs 20 62 .244 44
14 Vancouver Grizzlies 14 68 .171 50


  • z – Clinched home court advantage for the entire playoffs
  • c – Clinched home court advantage for the conference playoffs
  • y – Clinched division title
  • x – Clinched playoff spot


Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.

First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals NBA Finals
E1 Chicago* 3
E8 Washington 0
E1 Chicago* 4
E4 Atlanta 1
E4 Atlanta 3
E5 Detroit 2
E1 Chicago* 4
Eastern Conference
E2 Miami* 1
E3 New York 3
E6 Charlotte 0
E3 New York 3
E2 Miami* 4
E2 Miami* 3
E7 Orlando 2
E1 Chicago* 4
W1 Utah* 2
W1 Utah* 3
W8 LA Clippers 0
W1 Utah* 4
W4 LA Lakers 1
W4 LA Lakers 3
W5 Portland 1
W1 Utah* 4
Western Conference
W3 Houston 2
W3 Houston 3
W6 Minnesota 0
W3 Houston 4
W2 Seattle* 3
W2 Seattle* 3
W7 Phoenix 2
  • * Division winner
  • Bold Series winner
  • Italic Team with home-court advantage

Statistics leaders[edit]

Category Player Team Stat
Points per game Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls 29.6
Rebounds per game Dennis Rodman Chicago Bulls 16.1
Assists per game Mark Jackson Indiana Pacers 11.4
Steals per game Mookie Blaylock Atlanta Hawks 2.72
Blocks per game Shawn Bradley New Jersey Nets 3.40
FG% Gheorghe Mureșan Washington Bullets .604
FT% Mark Price Golden State Warriors .906
3FG% Glen Rice Charlotte Hornets .470

NBA awards[edit]

Yearly awards[edit]

Player of the week[edit]

The following players were named NBA Player of the Week.

Week Player
Nov. 1 – Nov. 10 Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets)
Nov. 11 – Nov. 17 Dale Ellis (Denver Nuggets)
Nov. 18 – Nov. 24 (tie) Charles Barkley (Houston Rockets)
Nov. 18 – Nov. 24 (tie) Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
Nov. 25 – Dec. 1 Dikembe Mutombo (Atlanta Hawks)
Dec. 2 – Dec. 8 Terry Mills (Detroit Pistons)
Dec. 9 – Dec. 15 Shaquille O'Neal (Los Angeles Lakers)
Dec. 16 – Dec. 22 Terrell Brandon (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Dec. 23 – Dec. 29 Tim Hardaway (Miami Heat)
Dec. 30 – Jan. 5 Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets)
Jan. 6 – Jan. 12 Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks)
Jan. 13 – Jan. 19 Grant Hill (Detroit Pistons)
Jan. 20 – Jan. 26 Mitch Richmond (Sacramento Kings)
Jan. 27 – Feb. 2 Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets)
Feb. 11 – Feb. 16 Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat)
Feb. 17 – Feb. 23 Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)
Feb. 24 – Mar. 2 Loy Vaught (Los Angeles Clippers)
Mar. 3 – Mar. 9 Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks)
Mar. 10 – Mar. 16 Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
Mar. 17 – Mar. 23 Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
Mar. 24 – Mar. 30 Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns)
Apr. 1 – Apr. 6 Grant Hill (Detroit Pistons)
Apr. 7 – Apr. 13 Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers)
Apr. 14 – Apr. 20 Chris Webber (Washington Bullets)

Player of the month[edit]

The following players were named NBA Player of the Month.

Month Player
November Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)
December Shaquille O'Neal (Los Angeles Lakers)
January Grant Hill (Detroit Pistons)
February Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets)
March Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
April Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns)

Rookie of the month[edit]

The following players were named NBA Rookie of the Month.

Month Rookie
November Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers)
December (tie) Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Vancouver Grizzlies)
December (tie) Kerry Kittles (New Jersey Nets)
January Stephon Marbury (Minnesota Timberwolves)
February Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Vancouver Grizzlies)
March Marcus Camby (Toronto Raptors)
April Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers)

Coach of the month[edit]

The following coaches were named NBA Coach of the Month.

Month Coach
November Rudy Tomjanovich (Houston Rockets)
December Pat Riley (Miami Heat)
January Lenny Wilkens (Atlanta Hawks)
February Doug Collins (Detroit Pistons)
March Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz)
April Dave Cowens (Charlotte Hornets)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bembry, Jerry (July 10, 1996). "NBA lockout passes quickly Brief stoppage delays free-agent talks 2 days". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on November 23, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  2. ^ Brown, Clifton (July 10, 1996). "Deal Is a Lock, Not a Lockout, For the NBA". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  3. ^ "NBA Lockout Chronology". CNN Sports Illustrated. January 6, 1999. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  4. ^ 1996–1997 Boston Celtics schedule and results
  5. ^ Land of Basketball; NBA Worst Season Winning Percentages