The Los Angeles Lakers strung together three straight NBA titles from 2000-2002 led by the play of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The duo was dominant together, especially during that three-year run. That stretch, however, may never have happened if the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t suffer a major fourth-quarter collapse in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in 2000.
Shaq and Kobe with the Lakers
Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before ever playing for them. He went on to spend all 20 seasons of his Hall-of-Fame career with the Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal was drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992 but didn’t come on board with the Lakers until the 1996-97 season.
Shaq and Kobe were two of the best players in the NBA and also two of the biggest egos. During their run in 2001, the Shaq vs. Kobe clash reached a peak when O’Neal said Bryant was being too selfish. “When it was clear that everything went through me, the outcome of it was (a record of) 67-15, playing with enthusiasm, the city jumping up and down and a parade,” O’Neal said to SFgate.com in 2001. “And now we’re 23-11. You figure it out. We did it last year; it worked out to the city’s and to the organization’s favor. So, I don’t know why anybody else would want to change — other than selfish reasons.”
Even head coach Phil Jackson chimed in. “This is juvenile stuff, really juvenile stuff,” Jackson said. “Sandbox stuff. ‘You have my truck and I want it back or I’m going to throw sand in your face.’ They have to be men about it and appreciate the talent we have here and play ball together.” Despite the clashing of the two superstars, the Lakers managed to pull through during that season to win their second straight title.
Shaq and Kobe win first title together thanks to Blazers collapse
During the 2000 playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were taken to a Game 5 in a best-of-five, first-round series with the Sacramento Kings. In the Western Conference semis, the Lakers made quick work of the Phoenix Suns, winning the best-of-seven series in five games. Then the Lakers moved on to face the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers had defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 3-1 in the opening round and then knocked off the Utah Jazz 4-1 in the semis. They faced off against the Lakers and split the first two games in Los Angeles. The Lakers then took a 3-1 series lead with two wins in Portland before the Blazers, led by Rasheed Wallace, evened the series at 3-3.
The Blazers appeared to be on their way to the NBA Finals when they took a 71-58 lead into the fourth quarter in Los Angeles in the deciding Game 7. The Blazers led by 15 points with 10:28 remaining, but then went ice cold, missing 12 straight shots at one point. The Lakers, who hadn’t lost three straight games all season, got a couple of key 3-pointers from Brian Shaw, but it was Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal down the stretch that helped the Lakers outscore the Blazers 31-13 in the fourth quarter en route to an 89-84 win.
Steve Smith said the Lakers may have gotten some help in Game 7
According to blazersedge.com, former Portland Trail Blazers starter Steve Smith is still upset by that Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was asked by Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated which one game he would love to go back and rewatch. Smith picked that rubber game of the 2000 Western Conference Finals between his Blazers and the Lakers.
Smith said he chose that game out of any other in his 14-year career because he wanted to take a closer look. He felt the Blazers got cheated in the game. “I want to watch the fouls they didn’t call,” Smith said, “from every f***ing angle.
“Rasheed (Wallace) got kicked out for staring (during the series). I’m still bitter about that. I tell Shaquille O’Neal that. He fouled me (with 30 seconds left). They didn’t call it. You can write that. I want to watch the f***ing play he fouled me in Virtual Reality. It was Game 7!”