Thursday, June 4, marked the 20-year anniversary of Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. The game is fondly remembered by Lakers fans because of the 15-point comeback they made in the fourth quarter, but also because of how the comeback was capped off: a monster slam dunk by Shaquille O’Neal made possible by a lob from Kobe Bryant.
Bob Costas’ “Bryant ... to Shaq!” over the thunderous Staples Center crowd is one of the most iconic game calls in NBA history, and O’Neal celebration is just as iconic.
O’Neal talked about that play in an interview with Howard Beck for Bleacher Report Mag, and how it laid the foundation for one of the NBA’s all-time great dynasties:
It wasn’t the greatest pass. A little high, a little too far to the right. But it’s a deeply poignant moment in Lakers lore—and carries even greater weight now, five months after Bryant’s death.
“The defining moment of our dominant run,” O’Neal says.
O’Neal reiterated that point in a video for Bleacher Report:
That was the beginning of our dominant run. And that solidified us being the most enigmatic, most controversial, most dominant one-two punch ever created.
Bryant, the second part of that two-man punch, wasn’t able to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of his legendary lob, as he died in January. Before Bryant’s death, he talked about the dunk on Spectrum SportsNet LA:
The lob to Shaq was really special, and I think it was very symbolic in our relationship, and how far our relationship had come that year, for he and I to have that connection at that moment in time. So I threw it to him. I threw it to him, and he went and got it, and the rest is history.
Bryant may no longer be with us, but his iconic moments, his five championships and his competitive spirit will live through his fans forever. One day, he’ll have a statue outside of Staples Center like O’Neal, too.