Revisiting the Rivalry on The Kings’ Last Night in Sacramento

It began in 2000, when the 8th seeded Kings took the top seeded Lakers to a five-game series in the first round.  No one thought they could push the Lakers to the limit, but still the Lakers prevailed. In 2001 the Kings were able to advance to the west semifinals where they met the Lakers once again. Sacramento was said to have an insurmountable home court advantage, but the Lakers easily beat them, sweeping the series 4-0.

Defeated and deflated, their championship hopes in shambles, the Kings’ players admitted they didn’t have enough heart to overcome the Lakers. With an additional chip on their shoulders to match the first one the Lakers chiseled the year prior and the promise of their superstar Chris Webber signing an extension, the Kings were poised to churn out their best regular season outcome to-date. The Kings would finish the 2001-02’ season with a record of 61-21, winning all but five games at home. They won the Pacific Division title by posting a better record than the two-time defending champion Lakers and raised the banner up in Arco Arena rafters. The Kings watched proudly as they hoisted the banner, but the reality was the Lakers could wallpaper the ceiling at Staples with all the division titles they’d won over the years.

The Lakers and Kings were on a collision course to the Western Conference Finals, a seven-game series that most considered the equivalent to the Finals that year. Peja Stojakovic got hurt, Kobe Bryant got food-poisoning from a bay area hotel. Games one and three went to the Lakers, games two and four to the Kings. Mike Bibby hit a game winner and Robert Horry followed by hitting a game winner to send the game back to Arco Arena for a pivotal game seven. The series lived up to the hype, it morphed what otherwise would’ve been a ridiculously dominant three-peat run for the Lakers into an all-out brawl from start to finish and it was the series David Stern had been praying for on his knees since Michael Jordan bowed out in 1998.

In short, it was epic.

That was just the on-court action. There was a whole other series of verbal jabs going on off-court between games to the tune of the Kings complaining that the referees decided a few games in favor of the Lakers and Phil Jackson referring to Sacramento as an “old cow town.” It didn’t just end once the Lakers were victorious after game seven. Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac called the Lakers undeserving champions while Shaquille O’Neal called the Kings the “Sacramento Queens,” and declared Los Angeles as the new capital of California during the Lakers’ championship parade.

Next: A fight broke out on the court, the Kings were never a threat to the Lakers again
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