Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were Los Angeles Lakers teammates for eight seasons. During that span, the pair made the NBA finals four times, the conference finals twice, and won three straight NBA championships. The Shaq and Kobe Lakers are one of the most important dynasties in league history.
But when thinking back on the duo’s time together in LA, one on-court highlight sticks out more than any other. The lob Bryant tossed up to O’Neal that the Diesel threw down with one hand before turning and running back up the court, both arms raised and a what-just-happened look on his face, is the most enduring visual image of that team.
The O’Neal-Bryant dynasty was born out of the lob
Shaq and Kobe had yet to make the NBA finals. That Lakers dynasty was still a dream at the time. LA led the Portland Trail Blazers 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, but then the Lakers dropped two straight to set up a Game 7.
Portland led by 15 with 10:28 left in that game. By all accounts, O’Neal, Bryant, and the Lakers were about to blow a 3-1 lead and fall short of the finals despite being the most dominant team in the league that year.
Instead, LA rallied behind huge fourth quarters from their two future Hall of Famers. The Black Mamba finished the game with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and four blocks. The Big Aristotle had been quiet for most of the night but scored nine points in the final period, the last two of which came via the lob.
The play saved that team’s future, O’Neal told Bleacher Report:
“I know I definitely woulda been the scapegoat if we didn’t win that game, and I probably would have been gone right away. I was scared, scared that if we didn’t get it done, that it would be over. Kobe vs. Shaq feud thing going to come up. I just let everybody down.”Shaquille O’Neal on what a loss in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals would’ve meant for the Lakers
The lob was the cherry on top of LA’s comeback
The Lakers came all the way back and led Portland 83-79 with less than a minute remaining. Bryant started the possession with the ball at the top of the key and put the game — and series — to bed by lofting it up to O’Neal for the exclamation point and a trip to the duo’s first finals.
“I kept telling Kob, ‘Hey I’m wide open at the rim.’ And he said, ‘I gotcha. I gotcha.’”
“I wasn’t even lookin’ for the ball cuz I was like, “Ok, Kobe gonna shoot in the fourth quarter. Get it to Kobe and just get out the way. So he got it and he crossed Scottie Pippen up and (Brian) Grant left me and I just threw my hand up. I almost didn’t jump cuz I didn’t think he was gonna throw it, but when he threw it up I said ‘oh s*** this is not a shot.
“That was the defining moment of our dominant run. That was the beginning of the great Laker three-peat.”O’Neal on the play that sent the Lakers to the 2000 NBA Finals
The Bryant-O’Neal lob is one of the most influential plays in NBA history
The play didn’t just complete a comeback. It led the pair of future Hall of Famers to their first NBA finals appearance together. They beat the Indiana Pacers 4-2 a few weeks later, and the rest is history.
O’Neal put it best, and in a way only Shaq Daddy could, in his interview with Bleacher Report:
“That solidified us as being the most enigmantic, most controversial, most dominant one-two punch ever created.”
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.