Even towards the end of Shaquille O’Neal‘s tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, they were still unbelievably dominant on the court together despite the feud.
By their 2002 NBA Finals appearance against the New Jersey Nets, they had the formula for how to win perfected.
Despite a difficult Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers swept their first round opponent and took out the San Antonio Spurs in five games. And somehow, their 2002 NBA Finals matchup against the Nets was likely the easiest one of their whole playoff run.
When discussing that Finals, O’Neal called the series against the Nets ‘boring’ due to the weak matchup he had at the center position, according to Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson of Heavy.com:
It was boring because, what was that center’s name – Todd McCollough. Todd McCollough playing me? Stop it. You know what’s crazy? I actually got mad when we were playing in Jersey. You think Todd McCollough is going to stop me at the crib in Jersey in front of my grandma and grandpa?….Sheeeeeit! No. Stop it.
While normally it would be seen as disrespectful to talk about another NBA center in this way, O’Neal absolutely had the right to do so. The Lakers swept the Nets 4-0 and won each game by an average of 9.3 points.
O’Neal was once again an unstoppable force, averaging 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game in his third straight season playing all the way through June. When those types of numbers are put up on a game-to-game basis, it’s completely justified to call the matchup boring.
The Lakers cruised en route to their third consecutive championship and what would be their last of the O’Neal-Bryant era. The Lakers would make the Finals two seasons later in 2004 but would be completely outmatched by the Detroit Pistons and officially ending O’Neal’s tenure.