When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Shaquille O Neal from the Orlando Magic in 1996 with a staggering seven-year $120 million deal, many contemporary stars and talking heads questioned the logistics of the move. However, the pairing of a young Kobe Bryant and Shaq in his prime soon shut down all the noise around the league.
The unprecedented Shaq deal started paying its dividends in the 2000 NBA Finals as the Lakers eyed their first championship in 12 years against the Indiana Pacers. Former Pacers forward Jalen Rose recently recalled his first-hand experience of the Finals series during a podcast appearance.
NBA player turned analyst, Jalen Rose is, unfortunately, mostly remembered by NBA fans today for conceding 81 points (the second-highest individual score in league history) against Kobe Bryant in 2006.
The game from 17 years ago, which has been touted as Kobe s most iconic game, has always haunted Rose in a way because of his association with it as an antagonist. However, that has t deterred the veteran NBA commentator from recounting the stories of Kobe Bryant s dominance on the court, along with his 7-1 running mate.
Jalen Rose recalls Shaquille O Neal and Kobe Bryant s dominance in the 2000 Finals
During a recent appearance on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast, Jalen Rose unpacked his memories of the 2000 NBA Finals, playing against the dynamic duo of Shaq and Kobe. Rose described how the series was a solo show for prime Shaquille O Neal, who averaged 38 points and 16.7 rebounds in the Finals to seal the Finals MVP trophy. The 50-year-old ESPN analyst also mentioned Kobe Bryant s rise as the future leader of the Lakers dynasty. During the conversation, Rose said:
Shaq a monster. It was different then because, in Orlando, it was the younger, more athletic Shaq. And then later in his career, people got to see the powerful, right in front of the rim Shaq. He was like Wilt[Chamberlain] against us. He was like 40 and 20, and he s making his free throws. But another great thing man is Kobe s coming out party.
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Shaq put up all-time numbers in all the Finals campaigns of the Lakers three-peat, bagging the Finals MVP on all three occasions and cementing his legacy as one of the greatest centers ever. During the 2000 Finals, Shaq attempted a record 39 free throws in a single game, which indicates his absolute dominance in the contest. The Finals win that year would also prepare Kobe to assume his role as the Laker’s centerpiece in the coming years.
Shaq became the unanimous Finals MVP in 2000
Shaq was declared the unanimous Finals MVP of the 2000 NBA Finals after the Lakers edged out the Pacers in six games. The Big Diesel s numbers were shocking-but knowing his potential in the paint, they surprised nobody.
Shaq would go on to dominate the Finals for the next two seasons as well in a similar fashion, while Kobe would assume the role of a reliable running mate. However, despite his utter dominance on basketball s biggest stage, the Lakers would trade Shaq to the Miami Heat in 2004 following his public feud with Kobe Bryant. Arguably the greatest NBA duo ever, the two legends would eventually resolve their differences in the coming years.