The Lakers also had a well-rounded supporting cast of Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, Samaki Walker and Derek Fisher.
The Lakers faced the then-New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals. Led by Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn and Kenyon Martin, the Nets had a great regular season and NBA Playoffs but the Lakers were just too much for the Nets and New Jersey was swept in four games.
“Oh it was a wake-up call just to see a well-played team playing together,” Kenyon Martin once told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
At 6’9, Martin literally covered everybody on the court defensively. “Shaq was dominant that series,” recalled Martin.
“We got to be out there and play on that level.”
Kobe Bryant was also more than a handful and he had an iconic dunk on Nets center Todd MacCulloch during that series.
Speaking of MacCulloch, NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal appeared on this week’s episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Shaquille O’Neal discussed those Finals with the Nets with me.
Check out the dialogue below:
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: This is true. I’ve learned that from the King of Intellectual Property: Shaquille O’Neal…[laughing] – talking all things basketball… you to me, when I look at your NBA Finals runs, I thought the one against the Pacers in ’99 was very, supremely, underrated. What was your favorite NBA Finals moment, period?
Shaquille O’Neal: That was my first one, right? The Pacers? Because after making it to the Finals in ’94 and getting embarrassed by Hakeem Olajuwon, I said to myself, ‘if I ever go back, I gotta put on a performance so dominant that it won’t be a question who the champ is…’ and then, I had another thing motivating me. Rik Smits used kill me when I was younger. So I know he’s way older. He came in the game – oh yeah Shaq’s a dog. He’s the same ol’ Shaq, giving out elbows to the face and in your mouth and in your nose… I’m coming to take this trophy by any means necessary. So there was something that I had to prove and set an example and something that had to be done because, if we don’t win that first one, they’ll probably break us up and it’ll be a lot more negative stuff to talk about.
Brandon ‘Scoop B Robinson: Naw, I think you’re right and when I look at that series against the Sixers…I think that was the most entertaining. The one against the Nets –
Shaquille O’Neal: It was boring –
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: I didn’t say that! [laughs]
Shaquille O’Neal: It was boring because, what was that center’s name – Todd McCollough. Todd McCollough playing me? Stop it. You know what’s crazy? I actually got mad when we were playing in Jersey. You think Todd McCollough is going to stop me at the crib in Jersey in front of my grandma and grandpa?….Sheeeeeit! No. Stop it.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Yeah. The Nets tried to rebuild and brought in Dikembe Mutombo. You guys have had your battles in the 2001 NBA Finals. Help me understand something. Allen Iverson. Pound for pound one of the best little men ever to do it. Pound for pound, the best up there. One of the best – if not the best to do it –
Shaquille O’Neal: It’s hard to put him as one of the best – Listen, you can name your top 20 best. Anybody can name their top 20 and it’s a list that you probably can’t get mad at, he should be here, but when it comes to top 20 names A.I.’s name will be in there. And depending how they categorize it. The #1 hardest little man goes to A.I. period. The greatest guy never to win a championship? A.I. Toughest little guard ever? A.I. Toughest to guard? A.I…I try not to say that the number player