The Los Angeles Lakers were responsible for five of the 10 NBA championships during the last decade (2000-2010). No one can argue against the fact that the Lakers are not only one of the most successful professional teams in sports history, but an integral part of the allure and prestige of the NBA. The Finals especially, are more interesting and attractive when the Lakers are one of the final two teams fighting for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
There have been many successful teams and eras in Lakers history. One could easily pick any of the “Showtime” teams to represent as the best Laker team in franchise history. The majority of fans, analysts, and critics name the 1971-72 Lakers squad, led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, as the hands down all-time best Laker team. That was the year when the Lakers set the record for most consecutive wins with 33, setting up the Lakers to capture their first title in Los Angeles.
While the 1971-72 team cannot be touched in my opinion, the 2000-01 Lakers come close. The Lakers entered the 2000-01 season as defending champions. The overwhelming combination of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant seemed to be blooming. Their domination of the West and the rest of the league made the Shaq-Kobe duo one of the best in NBA history. The expectations and excitement that took place during the “Showtime Era” once again surrounded Los Angeles.
Many will argue the fact that the 2000-01 Lakers did not have the degree of success that the Lakers from the previous year had during the regular season. In fact, that statement would be correct as the Lakers ended up with the number two seed in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs, achieving a 56-26 record. However, what made this team one of the best is due to their dominant performance in the playoffs.
The Lakers met the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2001 NBA Playoffs, where they swept the Blazers in three games. They won each of these three games by double digits. In the second round, the Lakers were matched with their division rivals, the Sacramento Kings. Despite tough games during the regular season between these two rivals, the Lakers swept the Kings in four games. This set-up a Western Conference series between the number one seed, the San Antonio Spurs. Once again the Lakers easily swept the Spurs in four games.
The 2000-01 Lakers entered the 2001 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers with a 11-0 playoff record. They became the second team in NBA history to achieve that 11-0 record in the postseason, with the 1988-89 Lakers being the first. The 76ers brought the Lakers back to reality by shocking them in an overtime win at Staples Center in Game 1. However, this ignited the fire in the Lakers and they easily took the next four games (three in Philadelphia) to capture the 2001 NBA championship.
The 2000-01 Lakers had one of the best performances and records in the postseason in NBA history. Their playoff dominance combined with their regular season success made this Lakers squad one of the the best in Laker and NBA history. The 2000-01 season marked the prime time of the dynasty of the early 2000s and the prime of the Shaq-Kobe era.