Things weren’t always peachy-keen for the Shaq and Kobe duo. The team would struggle early on en route to winning a championship, or two or three. During the 1999-00’ season, when the Lakers signed Phil Jackson, the tides turned and O’Neal finally buckled down and started focusing on winning a championship. Sure, O’Neal benefitted from Bryant showing signs of potential greatness as his game continued to develop, a well-rounded supporting cast and a six-time championship winning coach, but O’Neal was the driving force of this team.
Without Shaq there would be no three-peat.
Try and think back to all the great memories you had during the Lakers’ dominance in the earlier part of the last decade. You’d be pressed to find one that didn’t involve Shaq in some way.
Take the 01’ playoffs for instance. The Lakers were one overtime win away from going a perfect 16-0 in the postseason. In game one of the second round, O’Neal went nuts going 17-of-32 for 44 points, 21 rebounds and 7 blocks in a (get this), three-point win over a 55-win Sacramento Kings team. In game two he registered 43 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in a six-point win over the Shaq-dubbed “Queens.”
Kids, I know what you’re thinking. A 55-win Kings team? It happened. They Kings were even better in 2002 when they were one game away from eliminating the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals—twice. If you have the time, do yourself a favor and watch game 6.
Next: Retiring the jersey isn’t up for debate, how long the Lakers will wait is the question