Shaq / Kobe Lakers win first NBA championship

When Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant both joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 1996, fans assumed multiple championships were imminent and that the only thing left to do was to plan the parade route through downtown LA

Not so fast.

The Lakers were young and immature, and they would have a lot to learn on their journey to glory.

They lost in the second round of the 1997 playoffs in brutal fashion to the Utah Jazz, then got swept by the same Jazz squad the following year.

In 1999, Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs got their chance to torment O’Neal and Bryant by sweeping them in the Western Conference semifinals.

Many were starting to doubt whether the team and its duo had what it took to go all the way.

That summer, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their new head coach, and he single-handedly changed the culture and mindset of the team.

After winning 67 games and outlasting the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

A vintage clutch Bryant performance in Game 4 gave LA a 3-1 series lead, and after it dropped Game 5, it returned home looking to finish the job.

The Pacers were stubborn, and they led Game 6 84-79 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lakers then started a big rally that got them a seven-point lead by the middle of the quarter, although Indiana wasn’t going to quit, as it tied the game with 5:08 left.

But it just didn’t have enough firepower, as the Lakers finally got their rings, 116-111.

O’Neal scored 41 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots, and for averaging 38.0 points on 61.1 percent shooting, 16.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in the Finals, he was named series MVP.

He put together perhaps the greatest individual season in basketball history, and it finally put his team over the top while starting a new dynasty for it.


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