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BILL PLASCHKE

Lakers have a history full of miracles

Derek Fisher's shot was great, but it wasn't the greatest.

June 13, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

FROM ORLANDO, FLA. — It was a daring, soaring, amazing shot that landed the Lakers in the lap of history.

It occurred in the final ticks of regulation in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, saving not only the day, but the championship.

Its author will be celebrated forever. Its moment will be replayed in perpetuity.

It was the greatest shot in Lakers history.

But, no, it was not Derek Fisher's three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation Thursday night.

Sorry. Really. We tried.

Still buzzing from Fisher's heave that saved the Lakers in their overtime victory against the Orlando Magic, we set out Friday to explain how it was the greatest single basket in the history of a franchise filled with them.

Nothing could be more dramatic, more surprising, more enduring than a guy who had missed all five previous three-point attempts throwing in a bomb to save his team a probable crown, right?

Wrong. It turns out, picking the greatest Lakers shot is like picking the greatest Malibu sunset. There's been so many of them, the standards are as high as a young Kobe Bryant's hair and as deep as an old Jerry West's hunger.

If we were listing the two greatest shots in one game, then Fisher would win, as his tying three-pointer Thursday was soon followed by a go-ahead three-pointer late in overtime.

But just one shot, one chance, one toss for one giant gold trophy?

The Thursday night heroics of No. 2 rank only No. 2.

The list of greatest shots in Lakers history, in reverse order.

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5 Jerry West's 60-footer and Derek Fisher's point-four.

These are certainly the two most outrageous shots in Lakers history, but because neither led to a championship, they can't be ranked at the top.

"When you have an organization that has won 14 titles, that becomes the standard for everything," said Steve Springer, former Times staffer who has written three books about the Lakers and serves as their unofficial historian. "A shot can't be judged the best unless it can be directly tied to one of those titles."

But, man, those were two cool jacks.

West's seemingly impossible shot, hurriedly launched from beyond midcourt at the Forum in the final second with no timeouts remaining, sent the Lakers and New York Knicks to overtime in Game 3 of the 1970 Finals.

"The man's crazy," the Knicks' Walt Frazier said at the time.

But the moment was crazier, as West sprained his hand, missed all five attempts in overtime, and the Lakers lost the game. Later, Willis Reed scored his heroic four points in Game 7 and the Lakers lost the series.

To this day, Lakers fans are quick to remind that if there were a three-point line back then, West's shot would have been the game-winner and changed history.

Of course, to this day, San Antonio Spurs fans are quick to remind that there is no way a human being can catch a ball and drain a shot in four-tenths of a second.

Fisher's winning toss in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals was amazing in its sheer physical improbability, although it eventually led only to Finals defeat against Detroit.

Some would argue that Michael Cooper's jumper to beat Utah in the final seconds of the 1988 conference semifinals belongs here, especially because it was his only basket of the game and eventually led to a title. But there were seven seconds left when Cooper flung his shot, a lifetime by Lakers standards.

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4 Big Shot Bob's biggest.

I remember standing at my courtside media seat in stunned awe after Robert Horry made his buzzer-beating three-pointer in Game 4 against the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 conference championship.

The series had just been tied. The postseason had just been kept alive. Arguably a championship had just been won.

Horry incredibly hitting from the top of the key? After luckily catching a ball batted out by Vlade Divac? With the red light glowing around the basket?

Around me, Staples Center fans were hugging and screaming and crying.

In front of me, Horry had just stuck his hands behind his back and strutted downcourt in probably the most famous celebration dance in Lakers history.

Besides me, suddenly, there appeared Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of one of my favorite bands.

He slapped his hand on the press table.

"The Eagles never wrote a song this good!" he shouted.

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3 Kobe to Shaq to dynasty.

There was no way they could win. The Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant marriage was officially doomed. The Phil Jackson era was over before it started.

The Lakers trailed by 15 points with 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was over. Then it wasn't, the Lakers inching back as Rasheed Wallace choked on the floor and Mike Dunleavy squirmed on the bench. The Lakers went on a 15-0 run to tie the score, then amazingly took a four-point lead into the final minute.

Yet nobody quite believed it until -- alley-boom! -- O'Neal's right arm soared high above the basket to catch and throw down a dunk on a foul-line pass from Bryant with 41 seconds remaining.

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