Written by: Bryan Jolly
Ah, Christmas in Los Angeles. Palm trees lovingly adorned with lights, temperatures dipping below 60 and, of course, the Lakers on ABC. The marketing geniuses that they are over there, you can usually expected to see the Lake Show (a perpetually huge draw) matched up against, for lack of a better term, “the team you want to see them play most.”
In 2000, it was conference rival Portland and Rasheed Wallace. In 2001, it was Iverson’s Sixers in an NBA Finals rematch . In 2002, it was Bibby, C-Webb and the Kings. In 2003 everyone was talking about the Yao/Shaq match up, so naturally, they played the Rockets.
Then Shaq left. Supposedly driven out of town by Kobe. The feud between the two former teammates becomes a ubiquitous news story. It’s all we hear about the entire summer. ESPN drills it into our consciousness. And with that, the puppeteers at ABC decided that the “team we wanted to see them play most” was whichever team had Shaq on it.
Since the departure of O’Neal in 2004, his team has faced the Lakers on Christmas day five times. In fact, with the exception of 2008 when the Lakers played the defending champion Celtics, Shaq’s team has faced the Lakers every Christmas since leaving the Lakers.
The 2000s haven’t exactly been kind to the Lakers’ Christmas Day Efforts. Of the four previously mentioned Christmas Day games, the Lakers only managed to beat the Rockets in 2003. But when Shaq left, he seemed to suck the last of the air out of the proverbial holiday balloon. The next three seasons in a row, the Heat beat the Lakers on Christmas day. Let’s take a quick look: