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Garage Archives: Hoop Magazine, December 1991

As we continue to look around for things to occupy time while stuck in isolation, I ventured into my garage last weekend and came across an old box of various basketball magazines. Grabbing a few out to flick through, I had the idea of why should I keep all the details to myself buried in my garage. Instead I’ll give a bit of a recap of some of the key points in the magazine.

Copyright rules will ensure I can’t just cut and paste the full articles, but I’ll quote certain key points from within the articles and look for other interesting items from within each publication.

To kick things off, with all the fuss around the ESPN / Netflix special “The Last Dance”, this December 1991 copy of Hoop seemed like a great place to start.

Cover of my copy from December 1991

Published around 28 and a half years ago – I can’t believe it as I write that given that first Bulls title still seems fresh in my memory! – this edition was the second Hoop magazine I ever owned. I picked this one as the starting point for these reviews given the loose link to the current Bulls frenzy given it’s in the shadow of championship 1 of 6, but also the bold yellow heading font on the cover – “1991-92 NBA Preview”. Season previews are always a goldmine to pick apart years later. I figure over 28 years later, there should be some really good stuff in there to be able to zero in on!

Over on page 2, we’ve got the Features in this months issue. “Can Bulls Do It Again?”, “Michael Jordan, Phenomenon”, “Golden State’s Three-Headed Monster”, and hey, “An Aussie Look At the NBA Finals”. Some pretty good looking features in this one! Although immediately the heading “Chief Leads Pack To Milestones” grabs my attention too. I’d love to swing straight to Page 32 and get into what milestones we’re set to celebrate in the 91-92 campaign, but I resist the temptation… slowly, slowly, through the pages we go!

IBM takes out a double page spread on the next pages – the mighty IBM PS/1 is apparently “designed to let you work where your life is”. Hey look, even in 1991 they were building PC’s for COVID-19, hey?? Maybe not – since today you have more processing power on your wrist than in one of these bad boys. One feature of Hoop magazine comes flying back into my memory… there’s more advertising in these things than any website you visit today!

So I reach the first main article written by Chris Brienza, titled “Can Bulls Do It Again?”. Knowing the outcome of course, I wonder what wisdom I can find in here? Straight away I learn that with the 1991 Championship, Phil Jackson was the first to coach teams to championships in the NBA and CBA. Cool, fact I didn’t know – and probably will forget again by the time I complete this arctile! MJ retained his league scoring title in 1991 too, but at 31.5ppg it was his lowest average since 1986 and yet another reminder of how the Bulls had become a true team to clinch that title.

Looking into their challengers in their own division – Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Atlanta – the author points out the Pistons have replaced Vinnie Johnson with Darrell Walker and Isiah missed 34 games in 1991 so the Pistons are still a big threat. He does also state they need to find hope that John Salley, William Bedford and Orlando Woolridge can boost the offence … guess that never happened! On to the Pacers, led at the time by Reggie Miller and Chuck Person, with Detlef Schrempf the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Most importantly though, the emergence of PG Michael Williams gave Indiana a potent backcourt with Miller and Vern Fleming although we since learnt he left the ‘im’ prefix off that description of the supporting cast for Reggie.

Milwaukee had been a consistent team in the 80’s, I recall watching old games with Sidney Moncrief, Alvin Robertson, Marques Johnson, and Terry Cummings throughout the 80’s in various classic games. Infact, I learnt here the 1991 season was their 12th straight NBA Playoff appearance so, yeah a pretty solid era for the Bucks. Cleveland somehow only won 33 games in 1991, given how strong that team was in the era this surprised me alot. Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance leading the way, Mark Price at the point and other solid players like “Hot Rod” Williams this seems well below par for them. Injuries to Price and Williams are mentioned, but it still seems below par.

Finally in this section, the Atlanta Hawks are discussed. Atlanta “made moves to get younger and tougher on defence during the offseason”. Younger, yes – drafting Stacey Augmon covers that. Not sure about tougher when the ‘outs’ include Moses Malone, Doc Rivers and Spud Webb, where the ‘ins’ are Augmon, Travis Mays, Rodney Monroe and Blair Rasmussen. This dude must have waaay overrated Rasmussen back in 1991! That’s the end of the teams in the Central – guess Hoop didn’t rate Charlotte a real NBA team yet perhaps besides them just drafting Larry Johnson at #1 overall?

In the Atlantic is gets worse! Only Boston, New York and Philly get a mention! Boston is on the money, recognising the aging Bird, McHale, Parish and Co need help and the success now hinges on how much Brian Shaw, Reggie Lewis and Dee Brown can bring to the table. Pat Riley arrived in New York and looked to surround Patrick Ewing with the right players, Xavier McDaniel the first addition for 91-92. This forecast was accurate and throughout much of the 1990’s the Knicks did surround Ewing with a solid supporting cast, but those Bulls just kept them at bay (plus cameos from Orlando and Houston!). But the biggest error here was clearly:

“The Sixers also signed Charles Shackelford, who played in Italy last season, to provide some muscle in a center platoon with 7’7″ Manute Bol”

Come on Chris, that’s a bit rough on Bol. He spent all summer in the gym adding those 35 to 40 grams of muscle!

Out West, the view is nine teams are in contention for the Finals spot to represent the conference – Lakers, Blazers, Suns, Warriors, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Sonics and Mavs. In a near spot on forecast, the suggestion is the Lakers aren’t favourites when Portland – the league’s winningest team the year before at 63-19 – boast one of the most talented starting fives in the league (Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth).

Phoenix are noted as a scrappy, high energy team with Kevin Johnson and Tom Chambers surrounded by Marjerle, Hornacek and youngsters Cedric Ceballos, Tim Perry and Jerrod Mustaf. The Warriors we’re lacking a dominant big man to help out Run-TMC and Marciulionis, and hoped to address that by adding rookies Chris Gatling and Victor Alexander. Unknown at the time was the trade which was about to break up the Run_TMC crew and bring in Billy Owens to the Bay Area. The move worked for the regular season (55-27 and a 3rd seed) but the Warriors lost in the first round and entered the abyss from relevance until the current crew ascended in the mid-2010’s.

I’m starting to think Chris Brienza managed to steal a look at Biff’s Almanac at this point when he starts out the Seattle preview flagging them as the sleeping giant. After finishing 41-41 in 1991, the grabbed the 6th seed in 1992 after a coaching change early put George Karl in charge. But taking out those 3rd seeded Warriors in the first round was a good scalp and saw them achieve that sleeper status. The Spurs added Antoine Carr to help Admiral, while expecting Sean Elliott and Rod Strickland to continue to improve and mature.

Utah was forecast to benefit from adding NCAA steals leader Eric Murdock, joining Stockton and Jeff Malone to form a formidable backcourt. Then comments “Karl Malone remains perhaps the top power forward in the NBA”, a mantle he’d hold on to throughout the 1990’s. Next,the Rockets are discussed, and I was surprised to learn at the time their 1991 campaign with 52 wins was a then-franchise record. The core of future championship winning teams was starting to take shape around Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell, although interestingly they would finish 9th in 1992 and miss the playoffs which resulted in Rudy Tomjanovich being moved in as coach in February – more building for future titles.

Finally it’s Dallas’ turn and this is where we realised there was no Almanac in play here. It was obviously unknown the troubles off court Roy Tarpley was having as his return to the squad along with Fat Lever and rookie Doug Smith was expected to propel Dallas back to the playoffs. Tarpley was banned from the NBA, Doug Smith might as well have been too and this crew posted just 22 wins, saved from the Western cellar by 3rd year expansion club, Minnesota.

Next up, Mark Vancil (featured with some insights in “The Last Dance”) is up next with a 3 page article on “Michael Jordan – Phenomenon”. We get some details on MJ’s recent Gatorade contract:

“In early August, Quaker Oats, which spends only about $30 million annually to advertise Gatorade, signed Jordan to a numbing $18 million, 10-year contract. If it was a stunning coup for Quaker Oats, it was also a costly one, as the company had to outbid Coca-Cola, which had featured Jordan in commercials for several years.

Well I guess that turned out to be money very. very well spent!! The “Be Like Mike” Gatorade campaigns must be some of the most well known advertisements in history!! For the 1991-92 season, MJ was expected to earn between $16 and $20 million from endorsements which would be close to double what Magic Johnson was getting at that time, despite Magic having won 4 more titles and played 5 years longer in the league.

As such, by 1991 it is already noted here that Michael Jordan is the highest paid athlete in the history of team sports.

Added to this, some of the deals which Jordan turned down at the time included $250,000 from a Canadian company for a 3-day appearance in Toronto, and $1 million for a one time appearance for the national airline of Jordan (the country). His agent, David Falk comments “Jordan will never get paid his true market value because the salary cap makes it impossible.”. Jordan’s salary was $3.25m that season, with a $12.5 team salary cap in place for the league. Certainly some interesting figures throughout this article and a great insight to the early stages of Jordan’s – and indeed the whole NBA’s – ascent to the sporting popularity boom around the world which no doubt sky-rocketed even further less than 12-months later with The Dream Team in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics.

In closing the article, there is a really interesting quote from Jordan which I’ll leave this section with for all to ponder…

“If I put my mind to it, I’ve always believed I could do anything I want” said Jordan. “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them”.
“After basketball, I want to be a professional golfer. I want to play in the NBA five more years, that will be 12. At that point I think I’ll still be able to do the things I’m doing now. But then I’ll start going down, and I can’t play when I start to go down. I’ll be done when I’m 33. Then I want to play a coupe of years in Europe. And then I want to start my golf challenge.”
“I should be 35 then. That’s about when Calvin Peete started.”

So this is 1991. Interesting insight given the events which took place 2 years later.

On page 18 there’s a sensational photo of a Lego figurine – oh no, wait.

Hang on.

It’s Marv Albert!

Following this, a Q&A session with Pat Riley as he takes over the reigns for the Knicks. Next, a one-pager talking about NBA player nicknames and this is a little gem of an article really.

I never knew “Spud” webb got his nickname because his head resembled the Russian Space ship, Sputnik!! Spud is a shortened version of that. Perhaps in a future post, I’ll list all the nicknames in this article and see how many people can correctly name! Doc Rivers got his nickname simply by wearing a Dr. J t-shirt to basketball camp in 8th grade – how the hell did that stick for the rest of his life??

The next article looks into some of the milestones coming up in 1991-92. Rather than delve into each one, I’ll list a few key ones which we’re being identified here:

  • Robert Parish is the oldest player in the league at 38. And as read on our site a couple of articles back, who knew he’d continue on for another 5 seasons yet!
  • The Chief also needed just 14 rebounds to become the 12th player to collect 12,000 caroms and 48 blocks to be the fifth player to reach 2,000. He’ll also be second after Kareem to get 12,000 boards and 2,000 blocks and will pass Paul Silas for 4th on the all time games played list if he manages 74 in the season. Little wonder his poster features in the middle of this issue!!
  • Bernard King, Walter Davis, and Dominique Wilkins are all closing in on the 20,000 career point mark.
  • Moses Malone is expected to move into 4th in all-time scoring.
  • Larry Bird is currently 13th all-time in scoring and is expected to move to 11th with 704 points on the season.
  • Mark Eaton can become the second player to reach 3,000 career blocks with another 220.
  • A number of coaching stats which may be broken, by such highly respected coaches as Dick Motta, Lenny Wilkens, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Bill Fitch, and Don Nelson – some very big names coaching heading into the 91-92 season there.

Befitting of so many milestones approaching for the season, it’s no wonder The Chief is the poster in the centre of the mag.

A great article is next looking at the 1991-92 Golden State Warriors. Thick in the Run-TMC era, the early phase of the editorial by Jackie Krentzman draws comparisons of the 1990-91 Warriors where Run-TMC really hit their stride to the 1988 Chicago Bulls. Exciting, unpredictable basketball which – when it gels is breathtaking. But if just one cog has an off night, the likely result is a loss. That year, they fell just 0.1ppg from Tim Hardaway from being the first trio to all score over 23ppg on the season. But after the three names making up the historical trio, Sarunas Marciulionis was the next best scorer at just 10.9ppg.

I suspect it also had to do with the fact the only other blokes to start over 20 games on the season were such household (?) names as Alton Lister, Tom Tolbert, Tyrone Hill and Jim Petersen. It sure was Run-TMC, then they might as well have had Aerosmith surrounding them on court!

Were given some other stats which are relevant for the era, and rather than rephrase or para-phrase, let me just quote it here…

“And if your best three players are scorers and play the three small positions, that generally means another critical area is weak – interior defense. The Warriors scored 116.6 points last season, second to Denver, but allowed 115, second-worst to Denver.”

Ah, the Enver Nuggets (Hey, Ash!!) No D in them back then for sure! Although it seems these Warriors weren’t far behind either – we just all glazed over it marvelling at Tim, Mich and Chris instead. Also these three were all in the top-4 in minutes played in the league the previous season. Mullin leading the way averaging 40.4 minutes per game, all surrounded by quotes from Tom Chambers about how having a high scoring trio means other players aren’t pulling their weight. Something he experienced in Phoenix and Seatlle – guess he doesn’t get invited for dinner too often with those teammates anymore!!

Alex English also delves into the topic from his time in Denver. As the highest scoring player of the 1980’s overall, his take is the huge effort during the 82 game regular season impacts the playoffs significantly as players are tired. So reading between the lines, Alex English believes the Issel-Vandeweghe-English Nuggets in the 80’s could have won a title if they we’re so tired come playoff time? That season came in 1982-83, the year following the Nuggets trading David Thompson for Bill Hanzlik. Shortly after, Thompson really ran into the substance abuse issues which had obviously dragged him down from his late 70’s scoring highs. If he had stayed on track and could have helped out that Nuggets big 3, maybe they are a threat to that mid-80’s Lakers? Who knows.

Similarly, we never did get to see if Run-TMC could turn a corner and add one more piece which could help fill that massive void inside. Mitch Richmond ended up being the scapegoat to look for that interior presence which they thought they would find in Billy Owens. Chris Webber followed and the one season which could have been promising in 1993-94, Tim Hardaway missed the entire season with a knee injury. Had he been fit, that Warriors team would have started Hardaway, Sprewell, Mullin, Owens and Webber. As it was, they won 50 without Hardaway… what could have been?

On page 54, some interesting stats in an article about the NBA Salary cap. Knowing what it is today – over $100m per season. Here we learn the cap in 1984-85 was $3.6m and had grown to $12.5m for the 1991-92 season. The rise and rise of the game we love and the league we all follow is so very clear to see and understand when you look at figures like that compared with today.

Following this, there’s another good piece from an Australian reporter – Chris Appleby – who had been lucky enough to travel to Chicago for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. His article compares the NBA with our NBL back in the day. The vast difference in the money in the league, the fans attendance and the entertainment put on is explained. Taking this into account with the previous paragraph where the salary cap was about $12.5m compared to today makes me wonder how different the experience would be today!

Rounding out the publication are a couple of short pieces covering the return of NBA Inside Stuff, Chuck Daly being named Olympic coach, a look into the beginning of the NBA, and a look into some players who left the NBA at the end of the season to play overseas. Focused mainly on Rick Mahorn and Reggie Theus at the time, who both moved to Italy to play,

Finally, in this same overseas player article, author David Dupree take a quick moment to predict the 1991-92 season, stating the Bulls and Blazers will meet in the Finals ans the Bulls will win everything for the second consecutive season. Nice prediction Mr Dupree!!

Closing the magazine with a photo of MJ playing some air guitar – well besides the customary Marlboro Man advertisement right on the back page anyway!!

This 1991 edition of Hoop magazine was a publication by Professional Sports Publications.

3 thoughts on “Garage Archives: Hoop Magazine, December 1991”

  1. Great writeup Troy, it’s better than reading the actual articles themselves.
    Some random thoughts:

    – I think the Pacers leaked that piece, they were trying to make other teams think that Micheal Williams was good but he can’t even spell Michael right.

    – You’re right about the Cavs, big surprise they only got 33 wins in 1991, so I looked into it. They didn’t really have a backup PG and relied so much on Price who only played 16 games. When he went down they were 9-7, but then went 2-18 starting Darnell Valentine at the point.

    – I started doing a recap of a Hawks-Knicks game from this season, but I only watched a quarter. Ewing carved up Rasmussen, then Koncak comes on and it’s worse. Ewing ends up going for 43 and 14.

    – Charles Shackleford is only 6’5 without his flat top.

    – Weird that 52 wins was a franchise record for Houston, especially making the Finals twice. The ’81 team was actually rubbish though, something like 40-42.

    – I knew about Spud and Doc, would like to know Bimbo Coles and Muggsy Bogues, hey muggsy! I know yas dunnit.

    – I like how the poster of Chief is specifically advertised on the cover as being in color.

    – That Golden State lineup looks great with Hardaway, Spree, Mullin, Owens and Webber. Imagine if instead of trading Richmond for Owens, they got Dikembe who was the next selection in the draft. 5 blocks a game which would all become fast breaks!


  2. Great write up Troy. I’ve got a couple of these HOOP magazines around from that era also. They were a great read and it is always fun to read them again now.

    Yes the Enver Nuggets. Even before the Warriors had Run TMC, the Nuggets seemed to be one of the pre cursers to the run and gun style teams. But then their defence always came second (or in their case… last). Probably why they drafted Mutombo in the next draft with Pick 4 and he produced 12 rebounds and 3 blocks a game in his rookie year. The year after they drafted LaPhonso to shore up the Frontline. They did some good work to get to the playoffs after playing some D but 10 years later they drafted Melo and lost the D. Back to Enver again.

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