NBA

Shaquille O’Neal Had a Monster Game for the Lakers 20 Years Ago on His Birthday

In his 20-year NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal put up some monster numbers both offensively and defensively. The 7-foot-1, 325-pound center dominated the paint and led the NBA in field-goal percentage for 10 seasons. The Diesel shot better than 58 percent from the floor and averaged 23.7 points per game in his Hall of Fame career. O’Neal played in a total of 1,207 games in the NBA, but his most productive individual performance came 20 years ago on his 28th birthday when he was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lakers vs. Clippers, March 6, 2000

The meeting of these two Los Angeles teams didn’t have nearly the hype then as it does today. The Lakers, featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, entered the game looking for their 50th win of the season (49-11), while the lowly Clippers were 12-47.

Joining Shaq and Kobe in the starting lineup were veterans Ron Harper, Glen Rice, and A.C. Green. The Lakers were also very deep on the bench with Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, among others. The Lakers went on to capture the NBA title that season, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1.

On the other hand, the Clippers were struggling. Lamar Odom and Maurice Taylor highlighted their starting lineup. Rounding out the top five were former No. 1 draft bust Michael Olowokandi, Eric Piatkowski, and Tyrone Nesby.

Clippers get off to hot start, but Shaq has double-double at half

It was the Clippers who got off to the quick start as Maurice Taylor and Lamar Odom combined for 18 of their team’s 29 points. The Clippers held a surprising 29-24 lead after the first quarter. Shaquille O’Neal had 10 points for the Lakers, but a slow start by Kobe Bryant (5 points) saw the Lakers trail by five after the first 12 minutes.

Bryant’s struggles continued into the second quarter as he scored just four points, but O’Neal was starting to heat up. 

O’Neal played all but 35 seconds in that second quarter and made six of nine shots from the floor while going 4-for-8 from the free-throw line to finish with 16 points. Derek Anderson’s nine points paced the Clippers in that second quarter, but the Lakers outscored the Clippers 32-26 in the quarter and took a 56-55 lead into the break.

At halftime, O’Neal already had himself a double-double and he was just heating up. Shaq had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor and 8-of-16 from the free-throw line. He was followed by Bryant’s nine points. Bryant only played 14 minutes in the half after picking up three personal fouls.

Shaq’s dominant finish

Only three Lakers scored in the third quarter, but Shaq poured in 16 points and hauled down five more rebounds as the Lakers slowly began to pull away. O’Neal made seven of nine of his field-goal attempts and went 2-for-3 from the line as the Purple & Gold built a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Glen Rice had 11 points in the quarter, while Bryant added nine. Derek Anderson paced the Clips with nine.

Shaq took total complete control in the fourth quarter, nearly putting together a double-double in 9:27 as he scored 19 points and collected seven rebounds. O’Neal had 19 of the Lakers’ 31 fourth-quarter points as they went on to win 123-103. In that fourth quarter, O’Neal went 8-for-12 from the floor and made all three of his free-throw attempts. Shaq finished the game with a career-high 61 points, 23 rebounds and made 69 percent of his shots from the floor

“We tried to do everything conceivable to stop him and slow him down,” said Clippers interim coach Jim Todd. “He just had it going and it was tough going against Goliath. He obviously wanted to make a point. . . . I hoped he would stop at 50.

“We tried to play him straight up for a minute or so and then we tried to double [team] him. . . . The position he was getting, we couldn’t do anything. We would have liked to double him, the plan was to do that.”