4. 2000 Western Conference Finals Game 7: Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Before the glory of the Shaquille O’Neal era threepeat and then Kobe Bryant’s two titles post-threepeat, there’s generally one game that you can look back on as the one that sparked it all. And for the 2000s Lakers, it was Game 7 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
After taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Blazers won Games 5 and 6 to force a decisive Game 7. With momentum all on Portland’s side, it was beginning to look like another Lakers’ collapse. Down 15 to start the fourth quarter, it was do-or-die for the Lakers and a supposed dynasty.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal answered the call. The dynamic duo combined to score 18 points in the fourth quarter (outscoring the Blazers on their own) and erased the fourth-quarter deficit to win 89-84. The game was punctuated by one of the most iconic scenes in recent Lakers history in which Kobe sent up an alley-oop that was emphatically finished off by Shaq to give the Lakers a six-point lead with 40 seconds left in the game.
The Lakers successfully punched their ticket to the NBA Finals, their first appearance since 1991. And it was just the start of something magical for the franchise.