Much was made about the Golden State Warriors last season as arguably the greatest team of all time. Maybe inarguably, they had the greatest assembly of talent with not only four All-Stars, but four top 20 players in the league.
Many other teams have a stake as the greatest team of all-time. Teams from each of the Lakers and Celtics in the ’80s could top the list. The 72-win Chicago Bulls certainly have an argument.
As do the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers. While they “only” won 56 games in the regular season, the Lakers turned it on when it was needed. Their 15-1 run through the playoffs was a mark that stood until the Warriors finished 16-1 this season.
However, the Lakers didn’t just kick it overdrive in the playoffs. The team closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak while winning nine of their last 10 games with the lone loss coming to the Knicks in a Sunday afternoon game in which Kobe Bryant played just 11 minutes.
That’s right, the Lakers finished the year 24-2 including the playoffs.
After struggling mightily with the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals in 2000, the Lakers were not interested in long, drawn out series in 2001. They laughed the Blazers off the floor in round one, winning by 13, 18 and 13 points.
In the second round, they made quick work of the Sacramento Kings, sweeping them in four games. Awaiting them in the Western Conference Finals were the San Antonio Spurs, the No. 1 seed in the West and winners of 58 games that season.
Tim Duncan was starting to ascend into star status, averaging 22.2 points and 12.2 rebounds as a 24-year old that season. David Robinson was still hanging on, averaging 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds as a 35-year old in what would be his third-to-last season.
The Spurs themselves came into the series having dropped just two games along the way, one to the Timberwolves in round one and one to the Mavericks in round two. They were not, however, even remotely prepared for Kobe and Shaq.
On the road in game one, TWENTY THREE-YEAR OLD Kobe put up 45 points and 10 rebounds while Shaq had 28 and 11 as the Lakers won by 14. In game two, Kobe hit a clutch three late (scheduled tweet) to give the Lakers a seven-point win and a 2-0 series lead.
Which brings us to game three and the subject of today’s retro diary. Fortunately, the lovely world of YouTube has preserved some of these games and today we’re going to watch game three.
This game was a slaughter. Kobe and Shaq combined for 71 points and the Lakers won by 39 points. Duncan finished 3-for-14 and the Spurs shot 32.1 percent as a team.
So buckle up, grab your favorite beverage and let us reminisce on how fun Kobe and Shaq were.
(Timestamps will be time remaining in each quarter)
Pre-game – Ok hold on before we even get into the game HOLY CRAP THIS GRAPHIC.
Again, let me remind you, this is a 23-year old Kobe Bryant. I will likely repeat that many times. My word, that man gave no shits about your favorite team’s fans.
Also of note, Shaq is averaging 23.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the series and is “mad, angry and upset” for unknown reasons entering the game. I can not think of something more terrifying than a “mad, angry and upset” Shaq lining up across from me.
11:35 – Hahahahahah he hit this and good God the Spurs are so screwed
10:32 – Duncan starts the game 1-for-4 from the free throw line. HE SHOOK.
9:48 – Not sure if Allen Iverson or Shaq
9:27 – Horace Grant picks up his second foul which may be a blessing in disguise as it brings Robert Horry in, the original stretch four.
9:03 – The other unheralded role player of this team is Rick Fox, who recovers in transition to not only challenge but somehow block this shot, retain possession and outlet to Kobe.
Speaking of role players, what does the Lakers’ all-time role player team look like? How many of those players played on this three-peat team? I’d go with
PG – Derek Fisher
SG – Michael Cooper
SF – Rick Fox
PF – Robert Horry
C – Lamar Odom
I don’t care that Odom isn’t a center and won Sixth Man of the Year. This is my list.
7:37 – Bryant finds Fisher for a three which gives me a brief moment to point out how absolutely on fire Fisher was this series. In the four games prior to this, he was 11-for-14 from three. He would go 2-for-5 in game three then do this in game four
6:53 – Holy shit
5:51 – Shaq just absolutely handles Robinson in the post. Yes, it was an old Robinson, but I still contend that at his peak, no one was as physically dominant in NBA history as Shaq was. This was probably that physical peak.
5:05 – Gregg Popovich calls a timeout after Kobe blows by his defender, gets Robinson to commit then lays it off to Shaq, who cuts perfectly to the front of the rim and in front of Duncan for the lay-up. Those two were so in-sync and ran that “play” so much and it never gets old.
4:32 – The Lakers finally miss. Then get the offensive rebound and score. Meanwhile, the Spurs can’t do anything offensively now that Robinson isn’t hitting every shot he takes. Duncan is being locked down by Horry. My superstar would never.
2:40 – Kobe goes to the line after drawing Duncan’s second foul. He’s scored or assisted on seven of the team’s 10 field goals.
0:38 – Kobe knows Antonio Daniels can’t contest his shot and is just running to the elbow as quick as he can to score. This man was so ruthless.
11:26 – Duncan just blew an open dunk. Pack it up, big man. It’s not getting any better.
10:20 – KOBE ASSIST
9:22 – Tim Duncan Update: it got worse
7:35 – “Kobe never passed”
5:40 – Back-to-back threes from Brian Shaw. No word if he was working on a rap for the next huddle.
5:05 – How does Robinson’s ugly-ass jumper keep going in?
4:33 – The beauty of the Lakers’ offense was that they kept going into Shaq and everyone was so damn worried about him and guys cutting off him that Fox just stood under the basket and his defender ran away from him, giving him an easy lay-up.
4:04 – Robinson defending Shaq, summarized in one GIF.
3:33 – It’s 49-42 Lakers, which means the Spurs are going to score 30 more points from this moment forward. I’m so excited to see them fail.
2:00 – Shaq has to sit with three fouls and it’s like the trailer is unhitched from the Lakers and they just start flying around the court.
0:23 – STEVE KERR IS IN THE GAME!
0:05 – MARK MADSEN IS IN THE GAME!
Turns out pop wasn’t always an asshole about in-game interviews. Who knew?
10:17 – Duncan is stripped, Kobe races down the court, backs down Antonio Daniels and gets the and-one. HE’S 23 YEARS OLD GUYS.
8:59 – Duncan hits a field goal. He won’t do that the rest of the game.
7:03 – Robinson is the only reason this game is close. Thirty-five-year-old David Robinson. Man, the Spurs wasted a great game from him.
6:23 – Who do you think you are, Shaq? Kevin Love?
3:55 – Shaq just shook Robinson so hard that I don’t know how his old-ass knees didn’t just go full Greg Oden.
2:57 – Robinson misses two lay-ups. Maybe Shaq did do irreparable damage to his knees.
2:57 – NBC goes to a series of shots of stars in the crowd and hooo boy: Tony Danza, Danny DeVito, Cameron Diaz, Denzel Washington, Ben Stiller, Sugar Ray Leonard, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Hasselhoff and Jack Nicholson. Of those, who is actually a regular attendee in 2017? Denzel? Jack doesn’t even attend that regular anymore.
1:59 – How the hell did Shaq dunk this?
0:44 – Derek Fisher long two! On top of being a Derek Fisher Special, somewhere in the country, Byron Scott unfolded his arms long enough to fist pump after seeing that long two.
0:03 – Tim Duncan Update: It’s getting way, way worse. Kobe just blew by him like he was stuck in cement to beat the buzzer. It’s a 22-point lead.
11:35 – I audibly yelled “Oh my God” when this happened.
10:22 – Good lord Kobe is toying with the Spurs. This is unreal.
9:05 – Tim Duncan Update: Rock bottom
7:43 – Every Spurs possession is one and done. Virtually every Laker possession ends in a basket. This is beautiful.
6:47 – While the announcers talk about how Shaq is limping, he just hit his third-straight basket. There will never be another player like him.
5:48 – YA’LL
5:27 – Shaq checks out, Kobe checks in and hits a contested corner three. The way this team went for the jugular in this game was something to behold. They crushed San Antonio’s soul and ended the series in this game.
4:36 – Kobe converts the alley-oop, meaning he and Shaq have 71 points and the Spurs have 69 (editor’s note: nice). Kobe checks out one minute later with the score the same, which means Kobe and Shaq out-scored the Spurs on the night.
2:19 – Up 36 points, the Lakers force a shot clock violation. This is the definition of soul-crushing defeats.
1:14 – Horry just threw down a reverse dunk alley-oop and the Spurs should have been forced to forfeit Game 4 right then and there.
Final – Lakers 111, Spurs 72.
Shaq calls Kobe the best player on all nine planets. Kobe only smiles when asked to smile by Jim Gray in his post-game interview. He’s definitely not a robot.
We end on this beautiful, glorious photo