The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, fought their way through a tough Western Conference. They went through an elimination game against the Sacramento Kings in the first round and also needed a Game 7 to get through the Portland Trail Blazers in the conference finals. In the end, the Lakers found themselves in an NBA Finals matchup against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
O’Neal was having a dominant postseason, but it was most obvious in Game 1 of each series. In the Western Conference playoffs, his Game 1 statistics were nothing short of historic, scoring 46, 37, and 41 points respectively.
On June 7, 2000, it was no different for O’Neal in Game 1 against the Pacers. He scored 43 points and grabbed 19 rebounds en route to a 104-87 victory. Even more impressive, the team’s second-highest scorer after O’Neal was Bryant with 14 points.
This game also went down in the history books as O’Neal finished one shy of the NBA Finals record for most made field goals in a game with 21. He joined Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Jerry West, and Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to make 21 shots in a Finals game.
O’Neal continued this ridiculous level of play throughout the series. In six games, he averaged 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds as he led the Lakers to their first championship since 1987, defeating the Pacers 4-2.
Without significant help from many of his teammates, O’Neal also won the 2000 Finals MVP award. He ended the series with 41 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks, cementing his status as the league’s most dominant player. The Lakers would go on to win two more championships led by O’Neal and Bryant.
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