The Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s were one of the better teams in NBA history. Led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, as well as head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers won three straight NBA championships and created lots of sweet memories for fans that live on to this day.
But they came within a whisker of failing to win their third straight title. They faced a powerful Sacramento Kings team in the 2002 Western Conference Finals that featured star forward Chris Webber, sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and clutch point guard Mike Bibby.
Down the stretch of Game 7 in Sacramento, Bibby became the most dangerous player in all of basketball. He hit shot after shot to keep the Kings neck and neck with L.A. But the Lakers were able to survive and win the contest in overtime.
That series was considered the true championship series that year, and Sacramento only has itself to blame for losing that seventh game. But Bibby still thinks his crew was better than O’Neal and Bryant’s crew, and he said as much during an appearance on the “Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles” podcast (h/t Lakers Nation).
“It was a championship that we should have got out of that because we go to Game 7 we shoot two for 13 from the three and under 50 percent from the free throw and go into overtime. I know we were a better team that season. Maybe the years before or years after maybe not, but that year we were the best team, I think, in the league all the way around.
“But going there was just fun to play. Playing in front of all the movie stars and the rappers and all that stuff. And just that gym’s so damn quiet anyway you could hear what anybody says to you. And it was just good that they used to get on me ’cause I used to talk a lot of (expletive) when I got out there. But I just hear stuff and just get me going and get me going. I loved playing in L.A., that’s probably one of the best teams I loved playing against because I knew going there it’s gonna be a movie.”
At a time when just about every other team kept the pace as slow as possible, the Kings looked to fast-break at every opportunity and shot the 3-point shot whenever they felt they had a good enough look. They ended up being a pioneer of today’s pace-and-space-oriented NBA.
But unfortunately for them, they always seemed to fold under pressure, especially against the Lakers.
Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire