While Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships in the early 2000s, each of their playoff runs required them to face the Sacramento Kings.
In 2000, they played to five games in a heated first-round matchup. At the time, the first round of the NBA Playoffs had not yet been extended to a best-of-seven series. The following year, the Lakers swept the Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The 2001 playoffs saw Los Angeles win their first 15 games before Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers stole Game 1 of the NBA Finals. That was the only loss the Lakers suffered en route to winning a second consecutive championship.
Then in 2002, the Kings supplanted the Lakers atop the standings in the West, thus earning home-court for what was an eventual matchup in the Conference Finals. After losing Games 2 and 3, the Lakers were trailing on their final possession in Game 4.
Bryant and O’Neal each missed point blank, but Vlade Divac batted the ball out to the top of the key, where Robert Horry sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer to even the series. That moment was used by the Kings to make a reference to Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
We needed Thanos 😒 pic.twitter.com/qH3siC5uoI
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) May 3, 2018
At the risk of spoiling the smash-hit movie, the Kings’ fate in the series did not pan out well. They won Game 5 but lost Games 6 and 7, with the final defeat coming on their home floor. The Lakers then went on to win their third straight championship.
The outlook for “Infinity War” appears much more favorable, as the movie is on track to surpass $1 billion at the box office.