Lakers Nation takes a look back at Shaquille O’Neal’s top five moments in purple and gold. During his time in Los Angeles, O’Neal delivered three consecutive championships and also earned three Finals MVP awards at the beginning of the decade. In his eight-year career with the Lakers, O’Neal averaged 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks.
Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t just a champion, he was quite the entertainer on and off the court. After every big victory against the Sacramento “Queens” and the three championship parades, Lakers fans patiently waited to see what O’Neal would do or say — and he never disappointed.
Perhaps his greatest celebration came after winning back-to-back championships. In front of Staples Center and millions of Lakers fans, Shaq decided to showcase his rapping skills which prompted Mark Madsen to start dancing uncontrollably. Good times.
4. Chris Dudley Shove & Dunk – ’99
In a highly emotional game against the Knicks that featured multiple ejections (thanks to Dennis Rodman), Shaquille O’Neal had the last shot in a 99-91 victory at the Forum.
With six minutes left in the game and the Lakers leading by three points, O’Neal delivered a devastating dunk on Chris Dudley. Shaq wasn’t finished yet as he decided to shove Dudley into the crowd, who unsuccessfully attempted to throw the ball at O’Neal. Both were called for technical fouls.
O’Neal finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds, but his dunk on Dudley was voted and will be remembered as the most disrespectful dunk in NBA History.
3. Near quadruple-double Game 2 2001 NBA Finals
After winning his first championship, Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers weren’t threatened as they swept the Blazers, Kings, and Spurs in route to their second straight Finals appearance.
Heading into Game 1 of the Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, the basketball world expected another sweep but were stunned by league-MVP, Allen Iverson, who had 48 points in a 107-101 victory.
With the Lakers in unfamiliar territory, O’Neal had one of the greatest Finals performance in NBA History with a near quadruple-double in Game 2. He finished the game with 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists, and eight blocks as the Lakers evened the series at one-game apiece.
The Lakers would go on to defeat the 76ers in five games and achieved the best ever NBA postseason record of 15-1. O’Neal averaged 33.0 points, 15.80 rebounds, and 3.40 blocks as he claimed his second consecutive Finals MVP award.
2. 61-point game on birthday
On his 28th birthday, Shaquille O’Neal asked his teammates for the ball and delivered a career-high 61 points against the Clippers. His performance extended the Lakers winning streak to 16 and solidified his first Most Valuable Player award.
With the Lakers struggling in the first half, Shaq took over and shot 24-35 from the field and 13-22 from the free throw line in route to his 61 points. He also grabbed 23 rebounds as the Clippers crowd chanted “MVP, MVP” in a 123-103 blowout. After the game, O’Neal thanked his teammates and coach Phil Jackson for giving him the opportunity to dominate on his birthday.
At the time, it was only the 52nd time in NBA History that a player scored 60 or more points and was the first time since the Spurs’ David Robinson scored 71 points against the same team in 1994.
1. Game 7 2000 Portland Western Conference Finals
After dominating the regular season in route to his first Most Valuable Player award, Shaquille O’Neal and his Lakers were in familiar territory. In previous years, the Lakers were considered championship favorites only to fall short against the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs. In this year’s Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers, Los Angeles lost a 3-1 series lead after two impressive road victories.
On the brink of elimination, O’Neal was doubled and tripled-team as the Blazers were able to build a 15 point lead in Game 7. Unfortunately, the Blazers would soon find out that “Superman” couldn’t be stopped in the fourth quarter and the league MVP would deliver when his team needed him the most.
Considered one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history, the Lakers stormed back as Shaq scored nine points in the fourth quarter but none bigger than his alley-oop dunk from Kobe Bryant.
With 50 seconds left in the game and the Lakers up by four points, Kobe Bryant was able to cross over Scottie Pippen at the top of the key and delivered a lob pass to O’Neal who punched his ticket to the NBA Finals with a thunderous dunk. O’Neal waved his index fingers at the Los Angeles crowd as he ran downcourt to celebrate with his teammates.
O’Neal finished the game with 18 points and nine rebounds and was 8-12 from the free throw line, including two that tied the game at 77 apiece with 2:44 to play. Shaq went on to win his first championship and Finals MVP of his career against the Indiana Pacers in six games.
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