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50 Years of Lakers Memories – The Greatest Game Ever

2010 July 30

• dEDGE Post Scriptum •

Perhaps more surprising than the 13-point deficit that the Los Angeles Lakers faced in the final quarter of play, was the relative ease in which the Portland Trailblazers had managed to manhandle them. Brian Shaw’s otherwise meaningless, desperation 3-pointer at the end the third period would eventually loom very large in a deciding 4th quarter. But just prior to that shot, it was a relapse into another, all-too-familiar, post-Showtime disappointment. Plant yourself in my shoes, I grew up during

Kobe drives on Jermaine O'Neal and Detlef Schrempf in Game 7 of the 1999-2000 Western Conference Finals. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Kobe drives on Jermaine O'Neal and Detlef Schrempf during the 1999-2000 Western Conference Finals. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Jerry and Wilt, fell in love with Magic and Showtime, and had just endured the longest dry spell of my adult Lakers life. Magic Johnson’s abrupt retirement; years of rumored comebacks only to be disappointed again, tearing it all down and rebuilding on the run while trying to maintain my faith in Jerry West; getting another HOF center in Shaquille O’Neal only to fall short year after year; finally assembling a worthy supporting cast and coaching staff that ultimately led to this – on the verge of a trip to the NBA Finals after over a decade had passed since the last championship banner was raised, only to be faltering in a Game 7 when it mattered most.

Scottie Pippen was unable to slow down the younger, more talented Kobe Bryant. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Scottie Pippen was unable to slow down the younger, more talented Kobe Bryant. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Not again. This can’t be happening. Why did we let Anthony Peeler go? Steve Smith, yes, that Steve Smith, had just powered the Blazers to a scorching 21-4 run that propelled them to a seemingly insurmountable 71-55 lead at the end of three quarters of play. Even more impressive was that the Blazers had come back from a 3-1 series hole to even up the 2000 Western Conference Finals at 3-3. Shaw’s lucky 3-pointer provided little solace to Laker fans as Portland increased their lead as play resumed in the 4th quarter. Portland was retooled precisely for this type of battle, full of savvy and playoff tested veterans. Scottie Pippen, fresh off his run of championships with the Chicago Bulls was the centerpiece of a team that also featured Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant, Arvidis Sabonis, Damon Stoudamire, Smith, Detlef Schrempf, Bonzi Wells, Greg Anthony and Jermaine O’Neal. The Lakers had just completed a 67-15 record capped by O’Neal’s MVP regular season, had marched through the playoffs with a tough 3-2 win over the Sacramento Kings and a 4-1 dismantling of the Phoenix Suns. Portland needed just 12-minutes of average basketball to complete their miraculous journey back from the dead, but instead hit the proverbial wall and have not recovered since.

Put away the champagne and break out the bottled water Portland, cuz that’s all you’ll be drinking on your way home.”   – Chick Hearn

Although he struggled offensively, Rick Fox provided a huge defensive lift in the 4th quarter. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Although he struggled offensively, Rick Fox provided a huge defensive lift in the 4th quarter. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Bonzi Wells’ pair of free throws would push the Portland lead to 75-60 as nervous Laker fans looked ashen in disbelief. A red-hot Rasheed Wallace had torched the Lakers for 30-points, while Steve Smith added 18-points with ten of those coming in the lopsided 3rd quarter. But a funny thing happened just as things looked dire for the Lakers. The Blazers stopped playing and started celebrating. Oh, it wasn’t Lebron-like with dance moves and poses, but you could see the sly smiles and the confident grins growing on our Northwestern foes. And just as the Blazers started to ease up, the Lakers started to make a couple of shots. Then a couple more. Next thing you knew, it was a game again and the momentum had swung full circle in favor of the home team. Now Portland was panicking. Instead of the slashing, attacking offense that had given them the lead, they resorted to ill-advised, contested outside shots. Even the calls started to go in favor of the surging Lakers when Smith drove for a layup only to be denied into the ground. An irate Mike Dunleavy had just seen his veteran team blow up right before his very eyes. Critics had said that they weren’t enough basketballs to go around for this much talent on one team. And in the equivalent of a lucky, off balance, banked-in 3-pointer, it was all gone.

Robert Horry contributed 12-points to go along with 7 rebounds. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Robert Horry contributed 12-points to go along with 7 rebounds. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

This dramatic, come from behind victory had finally pushed the Lakers over the top. Brushing aside Indiana in the Finals was a cakewalk as the Lakers would subsequently hone their killer instincts in the Conference Finals each year. Portland was built for a title run, but those would never transpire. In fact, some would claim that the Blazers have yet to recover from that loss ten seasons ago. The signature play from that Game 7 remains the elusive Kobe Bryant sidestepping away from Scottie Pippen and lofting up a teardrop shot, which in turn becomes a pinpoint lob pass to a cutting Shaquille O’Neal, who slams the ball into the basket with such ferocity that the basket stanchions continue to shudder to this day. Portland would call time-out but they could have called the game right there, because it was over. We knew it, Chick knew it, and the Portland Blazers surely knew it as well. “Put away the champagne and break out the bottled water Portland, cuz that’s all you’ll be drinking on your way home.”

The 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

The 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Brian Shaw would contribute two additional 3-pointers in the 4th quarter for a total of 11-points on 4-6 shooting. Robert Horry would provide 12-points, 7 rebounds, and one important blocked shot. Rick Fox could not find the range that night, but he provided stellar defense down the stretch and added 3 assists in 12-minutes of action. Ron Harper added 9-points, Glen Rice provided 11-points, and Shaq amassed 18-points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. But it was the play of Kobe Bryant (25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocked shots) who buoyed the Lakers until help arrived late in the game. Kobe owned Pippen and there was nothing the acerbic 6-time champion could do to slow down the fleet-footed, afro bearing phenom. The Blazers would mount another challenge the following season, but by that time, the Lakers were in complete control of the league en route to their first 3Peat. Whereas most of the players from that game have slipped away into the annuls of the game, only Kobe remains as active and effective today as he was then.

Think about it, that was over ten years ago. Jack Nicholson was dating Lara Flynn Boyle and Kobe wasn’t even married to Miss Vanessa Laine just yet. Pamela Anderson was still smokin’ hot and Chris Rock was still somewhat funny. And the Los Angeles Lakers were just beginning to learn how to cope with the intricacies that accompany fame and stardom. These difficulties would eventually destroy and tear the team apart, even though on the court they appeared nonexistent to the casual observer. With two alpha dogs barking for their fare share, Los Angeles was deemed too small for these two giants to coincide peacefully together. The meltdown would occur years down the road with an unprecedented amount of drama taking place prior to the dismantling of this team. But for one season, and one pivotal Game 7 in particular, it was the greatest game ever featuring the NBA’s best 1-2 punch the league had ever seen.

8 Responses
  1. STEVE-O permalink*
    September 20, 2010

    Fox Sports West re-played this game the other night. It brought chills watching the Lakers mount their comeback as Portland wilted under the pressure. Some notable highlights of that telecast:

    AC Green’s green beanie baby sitting on his head
    Mike Dunleavy, Jr. sitting behind the Blazers bench
    Bill Bertka sitting behind the Lakers bench
    Sheed choking at the free throw line
    The non-call on Steve Smith’s drive to the basket
    Horry hitting just enough free throws
    Scottie “punk-ass” Pippen trying to be a leader

  2. Ocho_to_24 permalink
    August 1, 2010

    We finally saw what kind of player Shaq could be when he was motivated and in shape. He was a monster that year. Unfortunately, each season after that, he grew larger and larger, much like his ego. The soap opera was only just beginning…

  3. stucktrader permalink
    August 1, 2010

    This team could have been even more dominant… Alas Kobe’s talent was instrumental to the hopefully 1st 3-peat. They could have easily gotten 2 more together… if not for Shaqs big mouth. But then, would Pau even be in L.A. had they not traded Shaq when they did?

    Hopefully, Kobe & Bynum will be healthy… if so… Miami will have to wait their turn for another year… Hopefully, they won’t even get their turn…

  4. WillistonCoyote permalink
    August 1, 2010

    Wow! A.C. Green was still on the team?

    • STEVE-O permalink*
      August 1, 2010

      AC Green came back for one last hurrah with the Lakers before retiring. He would prove to be a valuable veteran presence much like Horace Grant would be the following season.

  5. MisterChris permalink
    July 30, 2010

    Travis Knight and John Salley were a pair of useless bookends, kind of like a Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney duet.

  6. Purple_Reign permalink
    July 30, 2010

    B-Shaw was so clutch in that game. He brought a calmness to the court while Kobe was unable to penetrate and Portland clogged into the middle to limit Shaq. Veterans like him, Rick Fox and Robert Horry were the consummate professionals, forsaking their individual glory for the good of the team. Greatest team victory ever.

  7. Lake_Show permalink
    July 30, 2010

    The 1-2 punch was at it’s peak and the lob from Kobe to Shaq was emblematic of their quest to win their first championship together. Unfortunately, this would come to an abrupt end a few seasons later. How many of you out there vilified Kobe for chasing Shaq away? And where might I ask exactly is Shaq today?

    Instead of yelling vulgarities at the owner, he should have spent his time getting his fat ass in shape.

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