When Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal Dominated the NBA During Their Championship Run in 2001

Published 09/06/2021, 2:30 PM EDT
–Lakers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant celebrate after defeating the 76ers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Philadelphia Wednesday June 13, 2001. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s beef is one of the most iconic in the history of any sport. However, their rivalry never hindered their chemistry on the court, and the two of them were en route to defend their first NBA Championship in 2001, that too against the Philadelphia 76ers and their superstar Allen Iverson. How did this dominant season turn into their second straight NBA title, is a journey worth reminiscing.

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How the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers fared in the playoffs

This dynamic duos opponent had established himself as one of the best point guards in the game. Popularly known as “The Answer”, Allen Iverson’s crossovers and jump shots had made their way into fans’ hearts. And his run to the NBA Finals became although more special because of the limited support he had for the rest of his teammates.

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The Los Angeles Lakers, on the other hand, had already become title favorites, with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal‘s duo becoming the best the league had ever seen. But before these two teams entered the court for their ultimate battle, they had experienced two different roads.

In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers first had to get past the Indiana Pacers in the first round, whom they defeated 3-1. However, their other two rounds turned into vigorous seven-game series, first against the Toronto Raptors and then the Milwaukee Bucks.

In the Western Conference side of things, the Lakers had swept each and every team. From the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings to the San Antonio Spurs. They created history as no other team had such a high winning percentage in the playoffs. It wasn’t until 2017 that the Golden State Warriors broke this incredible record.

Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson (L) celebrates with players Kobe Bryant (R) and Shaquille O’Neal (C) after game four of the NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets at Continental Airlines Arena 12 June 2002 in East Rutherford, NJ. The Lakers won their third consecutive title by a score of 113-107 to sweep the best-of-seven series 4-0. Jackson has now won nine NBA Championships as a head coach. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s face-off with Allen Iverson

When the two teams finally met in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, it turned out to be the thriller everyone had hoped for. Shaq ended the night with a whopping 44 points and 20 rebounds, but Allen Iverson one-upped him. He had 48 points, taking the game into overtime, and triumphed over this deadly duo.

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This game also witnessed one of his most iconic shots, where his crossover against Tyronn Lue was an ankle breaker and then dropped the bucket. He was then seen stepping over the Lakers’ bench.

Unfortunately, the rest of the series was a cakewalk for the purple and gold. Only Game 3 went a bit head to head, but Shaq and Kobe’s dominance helped them win four straight games and reclaiming their crown.

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Shaq was able to bag another Finals MVP award, and the two won another NBA championship next season. If it wasn’t for their rivalry, they probably could have won more, changing the Lakers’ legacy for good. But all good things come to an end, and so did this. Although Kobe ended up winning two more rings afterward, nothing compared to this incredible run he had with his “frenemy” Shaq.

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Yashima Bhatia

1467 articles

Yashima Bhatia is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports who specialises in providing nuanced predictions and updates for matches. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Yashima's love for playing the game came up at a young age, when the excitement of the games coupled with the intensity of the Playoffs had her hooked.

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