The Los Angeles Lakers are the most dominant team of all time, but their dominance has been met with criticism. With a near-perfect record, the Lakers have only made it to one NBA Finals in their history. This is because they haven’t won a championship since 1972.
For eight seasons, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers. During that period, the duo reached the NBA finals four times, twice in the conference finals, and won three consecutive NBA titles. One of the most significant dynasties in NBA history is the Shaq and Kobe Lakers.
However, one particular on-court memory from the duo’s time in Los Angeles stands out above all others. The most lasting visual picture of that squad is Bryant’s lob to O’Neal, which the Diesel threw down with one hand before turning and sprinting back up the court, both arms up with a what-just-happened expression on his face.
Out of the lob, the O’Neal-Bryant dynasty arose.
During an NBA game, former Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal sit on the bench. | MIKE FIALA/AFP via Getty Images
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had yet to reach the NBA finals. At the time, the Lakers’ dynasty was only a pipe dream. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the Portland Trail Blazers 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, but the Lakers subsequently lost two consecutive to force a Game 7 in the series.
With 10:28 remaining in the game, Portland had a 15-point lead. Despite being the most dominating team in the NBA at the time, O’Neal, Bryant, and the Lakers were on the verge of blowing a 3-1 lead and falling short of the finals.
Instead, LA came back with big fourth-quarter performances from two future Hall of Famers. The Black Mamba had 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and four blocks in the contest. The Big Aristotle had been silent for the most of the night, but he scored nine points in the last quarter, including two lobs.
According to O’Neal, the play preserved the team’s future:
“I know I would have been made the scapegoat if we hadn’t won that game, and I would have been fired straight immediately. I was terrified that if we didn’t finish it, it would be the end. The Kobe vs. Shaq animosity will resurface. I’ve simply disappointed everyone.”
Shaquille O’Neal on the Lakers’ chances of winning Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in 2000.
The lob was the icing on the cake for LA’s comeback.
With less than a minute left, the Lakers had clawed their way back to an 83-79 lead against Portland. Bryant began the possession at the top of the key and finished the game — and series — by lofting the ball up to O’Neal for the clincher and a ticket to the duo’s first finals.
‘Hey, I’m wide open at the rim,’ I kept telling Kob. ‘I gotcha,’ he said. ‘I gotcha,’ says the narrator.
“I wasn’t even looking for the ball because I was thinking to myself, “OK, Kobe’s going to shoot in the fourth quarter.” Just get it to Kobe and out of the way. So he grabbed it, crossed Scottie Pippen up, and (Brian) Grant walked away, and I just raised my hand. I nearly didn’t leap because I didn’t believe he’d throw it, but when he did, I said, “Oh s***, this isn’t a shot.”
“That was the turning point in our dynasty. That marked the start of the Laker three-peat.”
O’Neal on the play that propelled the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2000.
One of the most important plays in NBA history is the Bryant-O’Neal lob.
The play didn’t only bring the team back from the brink. It helped the future Hall of Famers reach their first NBA finals together. A few weeks later, they defeated the Indiana Pacers 4-2 and the rest is history.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Shaquille O’Neal said it best, and in a manner that only Shaq Daddy could:
“That cemented our status as the most enigmatic, divisive, and dominating one-two punch ever devised.”
Basketball-Reference provided all statistics.
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