The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, had simply dominated the 2001 NBA Playoffs. Having swept the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs, they found themselves next set to face the East’s No. 1 seed, Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers, led by Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, had largely disappointed in the playoffs, needing two Game 7s to reach the NBA Finals. Everything set itself up for more dominance from the Lakers, who held home-court advantage when the series began June 6, 2001.
Everything seemed to be going as planned in Game 1 as they got off to an early 21-9 lead. The Lakers faithful had already written off the lowly 76ers and were preparing for a clean sweep. Going in to the series, many felt as if Philadelphia had no chance.
The Lakers had arguably one of the greatest teams of all-time led by one of the greatest duos in NBA history. But, Iverson took over.
The 76ers mounted a huge comeback, led by Iverson’s 30 second-half points. The Lakers did absolutely everything they could, with Shaquille O’Neal putting up a massive 44-point, 20-rebound, 5-assist night.
Iverson took it to another level in overtime, outscoring the Lakers, 13-7. The 76ers silenced the sweep talk and Iverson cemented his legacy in the city of Philadelphia. Moreover, it marked only the second time in history that opposing players scored at least 40 points in the same NBA Finals game.
The loss stood as the Lakers’ only blemish to winning a second consecutive title. Despite his monstrous performance, O’Neal to this day puts the blame of the loss squarely on his shoulders.
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