Lakers Countdown: At #8…

J.M. Poulard —  August 3, 2012

In case you missed it, the FB&G team voted to rank the 11 Lakers title teams since moving to Los Angeles from worst to first. So far, the countdown has seen us take a look at the 2002 Lakers (11th), the 2009 Lakers (10th) and the 2010 Lakers (ninth). Clocking in at the eighth spot…

The 1999-00 Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1996 to join a Los Angeles Lakers team that he felt appreciated him more considering his dominance on the basketball court as well as his charismatic personality off it. Granted, it helped that the Lakers were able to offer the Diesel more money than any other team in the league but the big man had his heart set on joining the team after talking it out with then general manager Jerry West.

In that same offseason, the franchise acquired Kobe Bryant via the draft and hoped to pair him up with O’Neal to form a great dynamic duo.

The first few seasons for both players were met with mixed results. Shaq performed up to expectations while Bryant struggled at times to understand his role and fit in within the team structure. But one thing eluded both: team success.

Despite a roster with overwhelming talent, the Lakers always seemed to underachieve in the postseason. And ultimately, the failures were always blamed on two people: the head coach — take your pick between Del Harris and Kurt Rambis — and Shaquille O’Neal.

O’Neal as well as some of his teammates found it extremely difficult to coexist with a young Bryant that seemed to think he knew it all, but with the owner and general manager forcing the head coach to play the young star in the making without him actually earning his playing time, it irked the team’s veterans. The kid was talented, but he was also a lone wolf.

Consequently, some of the Lakers resented Bryant because they felt that he was out for himself as opposed to the team. The only way this could be fixed would be if someone were able to help steer Kobe towards the team and also steer the team towards the future superstar.

And thus, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson with the hope that he would solve it all and get the team to play up to its championship potential.

And boy did he.

The new head coach put in the Triangle Offense and encouraged players to feed their dominant big man but also to find their own rhythm and assert themselves offensively when the situation presented itself for them to do so.

Bryant, to some degree, followed the instructions of his head coach despite the fact that his teammates often failed to recognize this. Nonetheless, the team’s play finally matched its hype and potential.

Jackson was able to get Shaquille O’Neal to play the best basketball of his career and submit his greatest statistical season ever. The Diesel appeared in 79 games and posted figures of 29.7 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game and 3 blocks per game on 57.4 percent field goal shooting.

As a result of the big man’s dominance, combined with the coming together of the rest of the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the regular season. They finished the season with an impressive 67-15 record, sported the fifth best offensive efficiency figure in the league as well as the best defensive efficiency mark in the league and ended the regular season with a plus-8.5 average scoring margin.

Impressive statistics all around and yet, it gets better.

During the 1999-00 season, the Los Angeles Clippers won 15 games, the Chicago Bulls won 17 games and the Golden State Warriors were victorious in 19 contests. During that very same regular season, the Lakers managed three separate double-digit win streaks with two of them rivaling the record of the teams mentioned before.

Indeed, the purple and gold managed a 16-game winning streak from mid-December to mid-January, then went on an impressive run, winning 19 straight games from early February to mid-March. Once their winning streak ended in March with a loss on the road to Washington, Phil Jackson’s team picked things right back up and won another 11 straight.

In terms of regular season output, one could make the argument that the 2000 Lakers could have favorably compared to the 1997 Bulls team (69-13) as well as the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13).

Mind you, this version of the Lakers only finished eighth in our voting of Lakers title teams since the relocation to Los Angeles.

This was by far Phil Jackson’s best Lakers regular season team, but of all his title teams, it may just be its worst playoff performing unit — Chicago Bulls included– to have won a championship.

The 2000 Lakers struggled in the first round against a young Sacramento Kings team and needed the full five games — the first round at the time was a best of five games series — to advance to the second round where they played a little better and dispatched the Phoenix Suns in five games, which set up one of the greatest Western Conference Finals in NBA history.

The Lakers seemed poised to easily dispatch an extremely talented Portland Trail Blazers team after taking a 3-1 series but then watched a squad led by Scottie Pippen’s championship experience come back and force a Game 7 at Staples Center and take a 13-point lead going into the fourth quarter of the game.

With contributions from their role players, the Lakers bounced back to take the lead and even gave fans the signature moment of the Shaq and Kobe era when Bryant crossed over Pippen late in the game and floated a wonderful alley-oop pass to Shaquille O’Neal that brought the house down and propelled the team to the NBA Finals.

A great comeback performance by the eventual champs, but they managed to actually get outscored in the seven-game series by the Blazers.

The Lakers would advance to the title round and dispatch the Indiana Pacers in six games, with Kobe Bryant showing a great flair for the dramatic as he delivered a fantastic performance in Game 4 with Shaquille O’Neal fouling out in overtime. The young guard went on to score the final eight points on a barrage of long 2-point jumpers and a put back basket that helped the Lakers seize a 3-1 stranglehold on the series, which resulted in them eventually winning the title in Game 6 back in Los Angeles.

The 2000 Lakers finished their playoff run with a 15-8 playoff record; with their eight defeats being the second most postseason losses by a Los Angeles Lakers title team. In addition, Shaq and Kobe’s first championship team sported a plus-2.3 average scoring margin, which happens to be the worst out of any of the Lakers teams that won titles after moving to Los Angeles.

Phil Jackson’s first season with the franchise was a success given the terrific regular season as well as the championship parade that capped off the team’s fantastic season. In addition, Shaq and Kobe provided many memorable moments during the spring of 2000 and those will probably be remembered for a fairly long time given their impact as well as their importance.

With that said though, the team’s playoff struggles invariably led to them taking a fairly substantial hit in their ranking when compared to other title teams.

But still…

Kobe to Shaq…

What a moment.

J.M. Poulard

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29 responses to Lakers Countdown: At #8…

  1. All of our championships are great, so they are hard to rank, but clearly a year that broke an 11 year drought deserves to be a little higher. I think the fact that the 4 teams covered so far are all in the Kobe years, shows that the panel is Magically inclined : ) Alternatively there could be Haters in the group, but I will take the high road and say Magically inclined : )

  2. People remember Shaq’s triumphant dunk in game 7 of the Blazer series, but often forget that Shaq had an off game most of that day. Kobe led the team in points (25), rebounds (11), assists (7), blocks (4), and minutes (47), and it’s fair to say that without that performance, the rest of the decade might have gone a lot differently.

    That Portland team was arguably as good as any team the Shaq-Kobe Lakers had to face. Rasheed, Pippen, Sabonis, Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Detlef Schrempf, Bonzi Wells, Brian Grant…that team was stacked and a really tough matchup for LA.

  3. Also, I never get tired of watching Kobe abuse Pippen on those last 2 clinching possessions – first freezing him and sticking the midrange jumper in his face, then sending him flying the wrong way on the crossover en route to setting up Shaq.

  4. Last note: I was at that game 7 and it was easily the most exciting game I have ever attended. The stakes were just so high and the mood swing was so gigantic.

  5. the first dynasty of the Lakeshow in the year 2000…one of the most dominating duo in the history…top shooting guard & dominant center at that time…its fun to watch..

  6. armadura de sombrero August 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    “The first few seasons for both players were met with mixed results. Shaq performed up to expectations while Bryant struggled at times to understand his role and fit in within the team structure” – Bryant was a young player who played limited minutes in his first couple of years. He was considered a project then, not someone who would outright be a major contributor, otherwise he would have been drafted higher than 13. I think he developed quite nicely, and by the time he was featured more, the Lakers won the championship. Shaq however was the 100M-dollar guy who was supposed to lead them to the championship. He came to a very talented team, but the team underperformed during the first few years.

    @Robert – I agree, this countdown definitely favors the Showtime era..maybe the 00-01 time that made the greatest run in the playoffs would at least make the top 5.

  7. I initially had same thoughts about Showtime getting extra points for whatever reason. But when you think about which years are left, it’s tough to put those squads much father down the list. Maybe 1982 could be below this squad, but the rest were pretty damn solid squads.

    Can any voters explain if this as meant to be a ranking of the entire season, or just the playoffs? That answer would sway some votes…

    Also, not be a critic but the Lakers did not acquire Kobe via the draft.

  8. armadura de sombrero August 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    @7 I did not say that the Lakers drafted Kobe. I know he was acquired from Charlotte for Divac. I am saying that he wasn’t as highly regarded around the league coming from HS, at least not as high as the kind of player he turned out to be deserves, otherwise some other team would have drafted him much earlier

  9. Every Laker C’ship squad is #1 in my book. I’ll not get caught up in ranking them. Each achieved the ultimate goal and had an interesting storyline. Gm. 7 vs. Portland in 2000, gm. 7 vs. Boston in 2010, finally beating the Celtics in 1985…. all of these moments are interwoven for me. Great teams in the storied history of Laker basketball.

  10. @#2 jodial…

    Great points…Portland did have some team. There was certainly no shame in being extended to 7 games against those Blazers. In that game 7, I’ll always remember the clutch play of Brian Shaw. He was sensational. The Lakers need that type of bench play on next season’s team to get back to the the trophy.

  11. I have to agree with Robert. In terms of significance this one should be ranked a little higher. You know what separated the Lakers from the Celtics in the post Magic/Bird era? This team.

    While Boston would continue to fade for nearly another decade the Lakers were given new life by sheer power of O’Neal and the audacity of Kobe Bryant. Not only that, Shaq had one of the most dominant seasons in league history that year. This was truly one of the more impressive Laker title runs.

  12. I was really proud of Kobe to not let his ego get in the way of team USA’s first close game down the stretch. He understands it’s LeBron’s team and watched as James took over late to save Team USA.

  13. The post-Bird period was a really challenging part of Celtics history, with tragic losses to Len Bias and Reggie Lewis. Otherwise, they would have stayed competitive.

  14. i can imagine how the ranking goes by…many showtime ships will have the upper hand because of its glamour and glitz…

  15. People forget that Kobe was the first high school guard drafted. At the time it was thought big men were more suited to be drafted and a high school guard was considered to be a big project.

    The other point I would make is that Kobe was shut out by Shaq in the initial years, largely because he wouldn’t defer to his Shaqness. Shaq ran a clique with all the veterans and Kobe was definitely odd man out. While Kobe was always his own man, he didn’t choose to be excluded when he first joined the team; he was placed there because of Shaq’s insecurities (IMO) and need for dominance.

  16. I agree that the 2000 Lakers should be on higher rankings.

    That was when I said to myself: “The kid with the fro is our future!”

  17. For those who still love LO here is an excellent article. It’s funny that people still don’t understand this guy. If any of us (I have) would face the adversity he has, we too would be the face of inconsistency.

    http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2012/08/02/how-do-you-solve-a-player-like-lamar-o-round-table/

  18. Anytime the Lakers beat the Celtics should rank high and this one would have if Kobe had not basically failed in his shooting prowess (he did rebound well). Ron Artest and Derrick Fisher saved this series. It felt more like a survival than a win. If Drew and Trevor had been healthy and we won 2008, that would have ranked high because that team was more likeable and popular. The trade made round the world, Trevor as a throw in a trade, the bench mob et al. That would have been a very special championship. IMO.

  19. Magic Phil: In a parallel universe somewhere: Kobe never shaved his head, he never got any ink done, Colorado never happened, Horry’s shot in Game 5 against the Spurs went in, the Shaq/Buss feud never happened, and Jerry West and Phil are still with the team : )

    I am pretty happy with this universe however : )

  20. After all those years of sweeps with Shaq from 96-99 we finally broke through and halted a Spurs dynasty a few more years. The greatest coach ever PJ, a prime Shaq and a young ace Kobe. Epic series vs Portland coming back from double digit deficit game 7 to win. And Kobe’s coming out party vs Indiana.

    Lamar did have a tough summer which I think contributed to his bad play last year. If he’s in shape he’ll win comeback player of the year.

    This week it’ll be 30 days for most rookies after they signed so they can be traded. Just throwing that out there.

  21. I remember this well. It was when Kobe officially replaced Shaq as my favorite player.

  22. This team was better than the 2000-01 team – they just had to learn how to win together. Despite the 00-01 teams postseason record (which was outstanding), the 99-00 team faced a far tougher postseason test.

    1st Round
    99-00 – Sacramento Kings
    00-01 – Portland Blazers

    Kings were up and comers with Divac/Webber/Peja, and Blazers were beginning their few years of become the Jail-Blazers . . . – no contest.
    (Edge – 99-00)

    2nd Round –
    99-00 – Phoenix Suns
    00-01 – Sacramento Kings

    The Suns were a 56 win team with: (1) Young and entering prime JKidd. (2) Baby Shawn Marion. and (3) a still very good Penny Hardaway
    The Kings were a 57 win team with: Webber, Divac, Christie, White Chocolate Jason Williams, and Bobby Jackson coming off the bench.

    Edge – 00-01.

    3rd Rd – WCF
    99-00 – Trail Blazers
    00-01 – Spurs

    Blazers were a 59 win team with a starting lineup of Rasheed, Steve Smith, Stoudamire, Pippen, and Sabonis with Bonzi Wells, Briant Grant, and a very young J’Oneal coming off the bench.

    The Spurs were a 63 win team that typically started Duncan, David Robinson, Antonio Daniels, and Sean Elliot, with an AGED bench of Terry Porter, Danny Ferry, Avery Johnson, and Steve Kerr as primary contributors.

    Despite Duncan’s overall greatness, the second best player on that Spurs team (statistically) was Derek Anderson. David Robinson, while still a strong defender, was beginning to be on his last legs.

    Edge: Blazers

    NBA Finals

    99-00 – Indiana Pacers
    00-01 – Philadelphia 76ers

    Pacers were a 56 Win team with Reggie, Jalen Rose, Dale Davis, Mark Jackson, Austin Croshere, Travis Best, and a very young Al Harrington

    76ers were a 56 tam win with Iverson (MVP) and Toni Kukoc and a bunch of guys who could play defense but not much offense: Mutombo, Eric Snow, Theo Ratliff, Aaron McKie.

    Edge: Pacers – unless Iverson planned on scoring 70 every game.

    Add to that that Shaq was better in 99-00 (he was motivated and didn’t have the foot injury) and the Lakers still had a contributing Glen Rice and Brian Saw, while the 00-01 Lakers 3rd best player (statistically) was Derek Fisher.

  23. Slight correction Cdog: Kukoc was traded to Atlanta in the Mutombo trade. By the team the Finals rolled around Mutombo was basically the secondary scorer on that Sixers team (which underlines how limited they were).

  24. Kobe and Nash should account for 35 pts

    Bynum and Pau: 35 pts

    I’ll be nice and say Ron 10 pts

    Jamison: 15 pts

    Total 95 pts for our top 6 players

    Who the heck else is going to score for this team? Blake? If our center plays 1st team defense 95 pts may be enough most nights.

  25. Am I the only one who thinks that us pineing for Jodie Meeks may all be in vain because if we won’t finalize Ebanks, why would we sign another player who would reduce the likelihood that we trade for Howard?

  26. because ebanks is willing to wait, meeks isnt.

  27. On twitter:

    Metta World Peace: Can someone text NASA for me. I successfully landed the rover. But where do I go now.. I don’t like this lack of professionalism

    Priceless!

  28. @ armadura de sombrero — I didn’t suggest you had said Kobe was drafted by the Lakers.

    My comment was directed at the post itself, which reads, “the franchise acquired Kobe Bryant via the draft…” which is not correct.