George Karl talks ’96 Finals

by Kevin Nesgoda

If you haven’t heard George Karl has a new podcast, Truth + Basketball, that is a really fun listen. In his latest episode, “Sonics Summit” he breaks down the NBA Finals the Sonics played against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Some of the takeaways that I got from this listen:

  • The 1996 Finals made Shawn Kemp a superstar in the NBA.
  • The series was a defensive matchup and was ugly offensively. Can’t argue with that. The Sonics only scored above a hundred once and a lot of the games were played in the 70’s and 80’s. Prime mind 1990’s NBA. I miss that.
  • Wishes that he started Gary Payton out on Michael Jordan a little sooner than he did. Payton injured and wasn’t up to full speed that series played into that decision.
  • Nate McMillan was supposed to sit out for most if not all the series and it was Nate’s call to play in Game 3.
  • Frank Brickowski started over Ervin Johnson because he was a better matchup for Dennis Rodman.
  • Talks about the atmosphere in games in the ’90s compared to today. A lot more standing throughout the games in those early days, compared to the final few minutes today.
  • Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and himself in some UNC mind games.
  • Did Phil Jackson look down on the Sonics?
  • Seattle should have a basketball team and it should have never left.

Here is a preview of the episode from the site:

After a series of crushing first-round upsets in the 1994 and 1995 NBA playoffs, the Seattle SuperSonics, coached by George Karl, finished the 95-96 regular season with 64 wins and the top seed in the West.  Then, they finally broke through in the 96 playoffs, making it to the NBA Finals to battle Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Was this the Summit of the Sonics franchise and George Karl’s coaching legacy?

You can listen to the podcast at:
Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts

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