Following an underwhelming decade in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Lakers were poised to ring in the 2000s in style with the emergence of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s premier duo.
O’Neal had already been one of the most dominant forces in the league prior to his arrival in Los Angeles. Despite that, however, the Lakers still struggled to construct a championship roster to surround him early on.
Fortunately, that soon changed with Bryant’s rise to superstardom alongside O’Neal and it resulted in the Lakers becoming just the second team in modern NBA history to secure a three-peat.
Although there were plenty of signs that showed they were primed for something special, it officially started to come to fruition against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, O’Neal recalled the lob he received from Bryant to ice the game as the defining moment of their dynasty:
The defining moment of our dominant run,” O’Neal says.
Rick Fox doubled down on O’Neal’s comments that the lob gave the Lakers all the momentum they needed to enjoy one of the greatest championship runs ever:
“In that moment, man, we broke through,” says Rick Fox, a key teammate during the dynastic run. “That lob, we broke through a ceiling, man. And Kobe to Shaq?! For the lob?!”
The comments made by the two former teammates are certainly understandable given the circumstances of how the moment came about. The Trail Blazers had been in control for most of the game and secured a 71-58 lead after three quarters.
The Lakers managed to end the game on a 29-9 run that was capped by a lob from Bryant to O’Neal to give the Lakers a six-point lead with just over 40 seconds left.
The play was representative of the efforts it took from these two all-time individuals in order to turn the Lakers into the NBA’s new superpower. It would ultimately serve as the catalyst that saw the Lakers ring off three consecutive championships during four trips to the NBA Finals in a span of five years.