The Los Angeles Lakers have an illustrious history filled with superstars and championship trophies, but that doesn’t mean they are jaded by their success. Each title has its own unique story, a struggle that the team had to endure and ultimately conquer in order to stand at the top of the mountain when the dust settled.
On this day in Lakers history, June 15th, 2001, they did just that, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in order to win their 13th NBA title and second in a row.
The Lakers had been perfect during their playoff run, sweeping their Western Conference foes the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs in what was a truly awe-inspiring run to the Finals.
The Lakers were led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, their unstoppable inside-out tandem that managed to overcome a spirited attempt by the legendary Allen Iverson and shot-swatting Dikembe Mutombo to deny Los Angeles their destiny.
The 76ers even managed to stop the Lakers’ winning streak, stealing Game 1 of the series and robbing Los Angeles of the chance to be the only team to ever get through the NBA playoffs undefeated.
After that, however, the Lakers went back to their winning ways, reeling off four straight victories to finish the season.
In the final game, Bryant and O’Neal led the way with 26 and 29 points, respectively, while Rick Fox netted 20 of his own and Derek Fisher went for 18. Bryant and O’Neal also gobbled up over half of the team’s 47 rebounds, with Bryant snagging 12 and O’Neal 13. O’Neal would ultimately win Finals MVP, his second consecutive time winning the award.
The score was close at halftime with the 76ers trailing 52-48, but a 31-20 third-quarter surge by the Lakers all but put the game and the series out of reach for Philadelphia. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers were on top, 108-96, and the celebration began.
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