While the Los Angeles Lakers 2001-02 season was marred with controversy, it still was a wild success. After two straight championships, the Lakers knew they simply needed to get to the postseason to win it all. They did just that, getting the three seed despite a growing rift between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
The Lakers barely broke a sweat in the first two rounds, going 7-1 to set up a Western Conference Finals battle with the Sacramento Kings. The Kings were one of the best teams in the NBA all season, and were one of the first true challengers for Bryant and O’Neal.
This series was an instant classic, going seven games and including one of the greatest moments in franchise history. It came in the form of a Game 4 buzzer beater by Robert Horry to tie the series 2-2. L.A. needed wins in Games 6 and 7, and delivered in a big way to get to the Finals once again.
The 2002 Western Conference Finals remains a highly contested issue due to the controversy surrounding Tim Donaghy and the officiating crew. However, there’s nothing to suggest that the outcome of the series was altered significantly.
The Finals were merely a formality after the Lakers defeated the Kings, as the New Jersey Nets won a far weaker East. The Lakers won in four games and secured their third consecutive championship — a three-peat — and their 14th overall. Now they sat just one behind the Boston Celtics for most all-time with 15.
NBA regular season statistics
NBA regular season schedule and results
NBA playoffs statistics
NBA playoffs schedule and results