Yesterday, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame elected ten new members. Let’s take a look at perhaps the three biggest NBA names on this list and their connections with California – actually just Los Angeles; but let’s face it, the universe revolves around Hollywood and the Lakers…
Well this one is pretty obvious. Shaq spent eight seasons with the Lakers, averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds, & 2.5 blocks per game over that stretch. Those eight seasons resulted in 7 All-Star games, 1 league MVP award (8 top ten finishes), 3 World Championships, and 1 broken marriage with Kobe Bryant.
We all know that AI had an incredible career and put up some remarkable stats; but no season stands out more than the 2000-2001 campaign. The Answer not only took his Sixers team to the Finals, but took home the league MVP in the process becoming the shortest player in league history to do so. And it’s what he did in Game 1 of those Finals that will always stand out to me.
The defending champion Lakers were a force that couldn’t be stopped, sweeping their way through the first three rounds of the 2001 Playoffs. Talk in the media and on the streets suggested that it was inevitable that they would go through the Playoffs without a single blemish on their record. Then Allen Iverson happened; the league MVP exploded in Game 1 in Los Angeles for 48 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 DAGGER. The Sixers wouldn’t win another game and the Lakers would take home their second title in as many years, but at least Iverson left everyone with this lasting image.
In 2002, the Houston Rockets selected Yao first overall and the Ming Dynasty officially started. Never had there been so much international hype around one player; the league basically added China’s 1.3 billion citizens as fans as soon as he entered the league. Yao came out of the gates pretty strong, but everybody was just waiting to see what he’d do the first time he got to face up against Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers. That opportunity came January 18, 2003 in Houston. Yao blocked the Diesel’s first three shots of the game sending the crowd into a frenzy. And while Shaq ended up with 31 points and 13 rebounds, it was Yao’s dunk with 10 seconds left in Overtime that clinched the victory for him and the Rockets.