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NBA CHAMPS | Bill Plaschke

Three-Peat Is Filled With Remarkable Moments

June 15, 2002|Bill Plaschke

It wasn't the statistics that made your stomach jump.

It wasn't the scores that made your throat tighten.

It wasn't the records or matchups or strategies that kept you on the edge of sanity for three springs.

It was the moments.

Long after these Lakers become old-timers like the Showtimers, what we'll remember most are the moments.

One man's top 10 moments of the three-peat, in reverse order of importance. (Like the Lakers, we're going to try to keep you in suspense until the end.):

10. THE NO-LOOK

It was the fourth game of the 2001 Western Conference finals against San Antonio.

It was the second quarter.

It was entertaining and intimidating and perfect.

Shaquille O'Neal grabbed a rebound, dribbled past the midcourt line, then suddenly flipped a no-look pass to Kobe Bryant on his right.

Bryant passed the ball back.

O'Neal dunked it.

Like Michael Jordan, only bigger.

The players howled, the Staples Center roared, the Spurs were swept.

This near-perfect postseason body of work had been given a face.

9. THE SURPRISE LOOK

It was the third game of the 2000 Western Conference finals in Portland.

The series was tied, the score was tied, 29.9 seconds remained, when an old man appeared.

Ron Harper, standing alone, on the left side, 19 feet from the rim.

Bryant threw it to him. Harper threw it into the basket. The Lakers survived a game that could have ended all this before it started.

"I knew where to find Harper," Bryant said later. "He'd been telling me about it all game long."

8. THE AWAKENING

It was the second game of the second round of the 2000 playoffs against Phoenix.

Still weary from a first-round push by Sacramento, the Lakers had played terribly against the Suns and were just moments from losing home-court advantage.

They trailed by one. Less than 10 seconds remained. They were out of rhythm. They couldn't win this as a team.

Somebody had to do it one on one.

Was anybody surprised when Bryant raised his hand?

He dribbled downcourt to the foul line and calmly nailed a 14-footer over Jason Kidd's outstretched arms with 2.6 seconds remaining for the victory.

"I just had a flashback to when I was a kid," Bryant said.

A flashback? At the time, he was 21.

7. THE KNOCKOUT

It was the third game of the 2001 NBA Finals in Philadelphia.

Derek Fisher and O'Neal had fouled out. The Lakers led by one point. There were 47.1 seconds remaining.

The series was even. This was where the 76ers would make their title run.

This was where Robert Horry said, um, well, maybe not now, you know?

He took a pass, blinked himself alert, and threw down a three-pointer to clinch the game and perhaps win a championship.

The moment seemed to stun even him, as he turned to the once-roaring crowd and pumped his fist at their silence.

6. THE MESSAGE

It was the third game of the first round of the 2002 playoffs in Portland.

There were 10 seconds remaining, the Lakers trailed by a basket, Bryant had the ball, and guess what? He didn't shoot.

He dribbled into double coverage and passed it to Horry in the right corner, just beyond the three-point line.

With 2.1 seconds remaining, you know what Horry did.

His game-winning three-pointer, completing a three-game sweep, dictated the following memo to the rest of the NBA:

If you are going to beat the Lakers, you are going to have to beat all of them.

5. THE MAGIC

It was the fourth game of the second round of the 2002 playoffs against San Antonio.

With about 10 seconds remaining and the score tied, Fisher had just thrown up a bad shot that would give the Spurs the ball and a chance to win and equal the series.

Then out of nowhere, he appeared.

Who else?

With his left hand, Bryant grabbed a rebound. With his right hand, he returned the ball to the basket.

With both hands, he clapped in scowling finality as the ball went through the net.

"If that's not amazing," said Samaki Walker, "then there is no amazing."

4. THE ACROBAT

It was the fourth game of the 2000 Finals at Indiana.

It was overtime, O'Neal had fouled out, Bryant was nursing a badly sprained ankle that had sidelined him the previous game, and the Lakers led by one with about six seconds remaining.

Oh, and Brian Shaw had just missed an easy shot.

Time for a "Hoosiers" reenactment?

Not when Bryant was still around to shout, "Cut!"

Bryant followed Shaw to the basket, grabbing the rebound from the stunned Pacers and, in the same motion, threw in a follow-shot with two hands over his head.

Lakers lead by three, Lakers win.

"Ain't nothing wrong with that man's ankle," said Pacer Sam Perkins. "I've been trying to tell you that."

3. THE SWIMMER

It was the seventh game of the 2002 Western Conference finals in Sacramento.

There were 46.3 seconds left in regulation, the score was tied, and you probably will never see this on any highlight film.

But a shot was missed, the ball bounced toward the baseline, and Vlade Divac dived for it ... but Bryant dived under him.

It was as if he were doing the breaststroke on the hardwood, furiously paddling toward a championship.

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