Sports have been a major element of pop culture since the rise of professional athletics. Many trends from the ‘90s are actually rooted in sports. The ‘90s have been considered the best decade for many things, sports included. Athletes in the 90s were some of the most prolific athletes of all time. Some of the records and achievements from this decade still haven’t been topped. Many of the athletes and events from the ‘90s helped shape sports and pop culture of today.
Michael Jordan ruled the ‘90s. He became a six-time champion, gold medalist, released the classic cartoon movie Space Jam in 1996 and his signature Nike Air Jordans are still seen in stores today. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six NBA Championships with two three-peats. The first three-peat was from ‘91-93 and the second three-peat from ‘96-98. In between these consecutive wins, Jordan took a brief retirement from basketball to pursue a career in baseball. Off the court, his signature shoes were flying off the shelves. Air Jordan 5s through 15s were released during this decade, and the media took full advantage. In the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith wore Jordans in many episodes. Gatorade made the famous “like Mike” commercial in 1992 to highlight the fact that many kids looked up to Michael Jordan and wanted to be like him as they got older. In 1992, Michael Jordan was part of the historic USA Olympic Basketball team, the “Dream Team”, along with legends such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing. They would go on to win gold in Spain during the summer of ‘92 and remain considered the best USA Olympic team ever. Whether it was on or off the court, it was hard to top Michael.
Basketball in Fashion
From the jerseys to the shoes to the accessories, basketball played a big part in pop culture in the ‘90s. Many of the trends that were introduced back then are still trendy to us today. From the teal Vancouver Grizzlies jersey to the timeless Los Angeles Lakers jersey, basketball jerseys from the ‘90s have often been considered the best NBA jerseys of all time. One would often see a throwback Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter jersey in a music video or out at any social event. Along with classic basketball jerseys, classic basketball shoes such as Nike’s Foamposites, Air Uptempos and Air Jordans have been in style since their release. Recently, Nike has made “retro” versions of these shoes that can be found in most local malls. Basketball headbands have also been incorporated into fashion. During the late ‘90s – early ‘00s, people wore basketball headbands as an accessory to their outfits
The Fab Five went down as one of the best college basketball teams of all time. The Fab Five was the nickname given to the University of Michigan’s 1991 recruitment class. The class consisted of Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. This group of freshmen changed the culture of basketball when they came to Michigan. The Fab Five were known for wearing baggy shorts, black shoes and black socks during their games. At the time, the trend for basketball was the complete opposite. The Fab Five reached the NCAA Championship game in both their freshman and sophomore years. The first year, the Fab Five lost to Duke in a 20-point blowout, led by Christian Laettner. The next season, they would face off against UNC, where they lost due to a puzzling Chris Webber timeout call that led to a technical foul. Michigan was given a technical foul because they had no more timeouts left when Webber called for a timeout. The Tar Heels went on to win the NCAA Championship 73-71. The team broke up after that season as Chris Webber was the first to leave Michigan to play in the NBA. Even without the championships to show for it, the Fab Five Michigan Wolverines will go down as one of the best college basketball teams in history.
Magic Johnson’s Retirement
In 1991, Lakers guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced that he was HIV positive and was retiring from the NBA. This announcement was huge as the whole nation tuned into what Magic had to say. At the time of his retirement, Magic Johnson was the all time leader in assists, a 3-time NBA MVP and a 3-time NBA Champion. Johnson would come back to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star game where he would take home All-Star MVP honors. In the game, Magic scored 25 points and dished out 9 assist. In the summer of ‘92, Johnson would join Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and many other NBA stars on the USA Olympic Basketball team also known as the Dream Team. Johnson would return to the Lakers organization as the interim head coach during the 1993-94 NBA season. In the 1995-96 season, Magic Johnson made his return to the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 32 games and came off the bench in his return. Magic Johnson would then retire in the summer of 1996.
1992 Olympic Basketball Team
In 1992, the USA Olympic Basketball team was comprised of NBA players for the first time. Before 1992, the Olympics only allowed college players to play due to the fact that they were amateurs. The players on the roster were Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen and Duke standout, Christian Laettner. One of the notable snubs from this team was Detroit Piston guard, Isiah Thomas. There was much speculation that Michael Jordan had something to do with this because of their known rivalry. Coached by greats Chuck Daly, Mike Krzyzewski, P.J. Carlesimo and Lenny Wilkens, the Dream Team were beating international opponents by an average of 44 points in the 1992 Olympic Games in Spain. This team is considered one of greatest and most dominant sports teams of all time.
Deion “Prime Time” Sanders was the first two sport professional athlete since Bo Jackson. He played Cornerback in the NFL and Outfielder in the MLB. The 2-time Super Bowl champ played for the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. His two Super Bowl wins come from his time with the 49ers and Cowboys. Sanders also received 8 Pro Bowl selections, 8 First-Team All Pro selections, was named the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to the NFL 1990s All Decade Team. During his time in the MLB, he played for the Yankees, Braves, Reds and Giants. He is still the only person to play in both the Super Bowl and World Series, playing in the 1992 World Series with the Atlanta Braves. Sanders was one of the flashiest players ever. Often seen in custom made suits, lots of jewelry and nice cars. Deion Sanders was definitely one of the standout athletes in the 90s.