Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal formed one of the greatest duos in NBA history. Though they had played together since 1996 and won a title in 2000, it was in 2001 when Kobe really took the leap, giving the Los Angeles Lakers two bonafide superstars.
The 2001 Lakers are mostly remembered for their amazing 15-1 playoff run, the best playoff record of all-time. The run came as a bit of a surprise because the regular season was a struggle for them, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some excellent nights along the way.
One of those nights came on February 16 when Kobe and Shaq combined for 63 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 99-94 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Lakers were coming off a bad loss to their eventual Finals opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers, where Allen Iverson dropped 40 points on them. Needless to say the Lakers were ready to make a statement in the next game.
Bryant had his second career triple-double finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. O’Neal was even more dominant and finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.
Bryant shot 8-of-17 from the field but finished 9-of-10 from the free throw line. His most important score came with a minute left when he drove to the basket and scored a layup to extend the Lakers lead to seven.
Performances like this where Bryant and O’Neal played really well made the Lakers a tough team to beat. Their play together helped the Lakers win three championships at the beginning of the 2000’s.
Lakers fans were lucky to have the opportunity to see two of the greatest players to ever play the game. Even though Bryant and O’Neal struggled to get along at times, they put their differences aside for the betterment of the team.
Both of their legacies will live on forever in Los Angeles because of the amount of success they brought to the city.