After winning back-to-back championships in 2000 and 2001, the Lakers of the early 2000s sought to make history by becoming the fourth different team to “three-peat” in NBA history. Under the leadership of legendary head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers had grown not only as a team, but as a family.
Jackson refined Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s approach to the game of basketball, helping them become better players on the court, as well as leaders off of it. Winning a third consecutive title would be arguably the greatest challenge Kobe and Shaq would embark upon as a duo. So when the 2002 NBA Playoffs began, they approached every game as if it were their last.
The 2002 Lakers advanced through the first two rounds with ease. After sweeping the notorious Portland Trail Blazers in round one and defeating the San Antonio Spurs in five games in round two, naturally the Lakers began to question their competition. Was this truly the challenge that awaited them? If so, the road wouldn’t be as difficult as they envisioned.
While those complacent thoughts would seem natural for the Lakers at that point and time, the Sacramento Kings would provide a rude awakening to the utter reality that they had to earn that title. As a result of the amazing coaching of Rick Adelman, and the MVP caliber play of power-forward Chris Webber, the Kings would take the Lakers to their breaking point during the Western Conference Finals in 2002.
Through the first three games, the Kings had taken a 2-1 advantage on the Lakers, and going into Game 4, the Lakers knew that their season and three-peat hopes were virtually on the line if they didn’t get a victory. So naturally any person would think that the Lakers would come out and play some of their best basketball of the season in order to even the series up right? Well that was not the case.
The Kings came out on fire in Game 4, taking a 40-20 lead after the end of the first quarter. The road to a victory would be an uphill battle for the Lakers, but it was an obstacle they would have to embrace if their desired another NBA title. They would slowly grind and chip their way back into the game, ultimately allowing themselves one chance to tie or win on the final possession of the game.
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On that possession, after multiple failed attempts to score a basket, the ball just happened to end up in the hands of Robert Horry, a well-known clutch shooter in NBA history. Horry’s game-winning three would cement himself into Laker lore, and naturally inspire he and his teammates to finish the task at hand in defeating the Sacramento Kings, as well as winning their third consecutive title.
Another great moment and another great story in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.
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