This time period was bitter-sweet for Kobe and Co. The feud between Kobe and Shaq was in its most intense stages and made very public to the media. However, for the most part the Lakers were still able to go about business as usual completing a three-peat (00,01,02) making Kobe the youngest player in NBA history to have 3 championship rings.
Kobe was giving us flashes of what he was truly capable of while feeling restricted by superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal. When Phil Jackson gave Kobe that greenlight though, he was an unstoppable force.
Take some time to take a look back at Kobe during his last few years sporting the afro…
3) 2001 Western Conference Finals vs. San Antonio Spurs, Game 1, Alamodome
Kobe was the dominate force in the 2001 Western Conference Finals, holding the position of leading scorer in every game except the deciding Game 4. Averaging 33.2 points per game for the series, Kobe put up big numbers game after game to carry the Lakers over the Spurs in a four-game sweep. Shaquille O’Neal went as far as to say that Kobe was “the best player in the league–by far.”
The most important game might have come in the opener when Kobe dropped 45 points to go along with 10 boards and 3 assists. He set the tone for the series (couldn’t avoid the cliché) en route to a remarkable 7-0 sweep of the Western Conference playoffs that ended in a 15-1 NBA playoff record and a back-to-back NBA Championship.
2) 2002 NBA All Star Game, Wachovia Center
Kobe returned home to Philadelphia and put on a show for a crowd who constantly booed him every time he touched the ball. Despite the crowd, Kobe was on a whole other level. Kobe played like a star amongst stars in the game that arguably changed his life.
From the jump, it was clear Kobe wanted to be named MVP. Everyone else wanted to put on a show for the crowd and enjoy the exhibition. Kobe had his sights on that trophy. After an amazing 21-point comeback by the Eastern Conference in the 2001 All Star Game, Kobe made sure there would be no lead changes late in this game.
Oh yeah, then he later went on to receive 2nd team All-Defensive honors and his first selection for 1st Team All-NBA honors while finishing fifth in the MVP voting.
Kobe’s final stat line: 31 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 12-25 FG, 7-7 FT
1) 2004 NBA Finals vs. Detroit Pistons, Game 2, Staples Center
Kobe lives for moments like this.
Down 3 with only seconds remaining on the biggest stage in basketball. Only Kobe would have had the guts to take a shot like that. And only Kobe would have actually made it.
In Game 2 of the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Kobe took it upon himself to make sure his Lakers were not going out without a fight. One shot changed the rest of Kobe’s entire career. That one shot solidified Kobe as one of the greats. That one shot was possibly all it took to convince management that they should keep Kobe and trade Shaq. Kobe hasn’t looked back since.
2002 Western Conference Finals vs. Sacramento Kings
I think the video does all the explanation.
January 7, 2003 vs. Seattle Supersonics, Staples Center
Kobe set an NBA record that night by sinking 12 threes in a game against the Seattle Supersonics in 2003 en route to a 45-point performance. The previous record was held by former Orlando Magic sharpshooter Dennis Scott (11). This performance followed by a string of scoring outbursts earned Kobe the title of January Western Conference Player of the Month.
As a player, Kobe just started to have more confidence as the season went on. He finished out the 2002-2003 season putting up career high numbers in points per game (30.0), assists per game (5.9), rebounds per game (6.9), and steals per game (2.2).
He received another selection to the 2003 All Star Game and his second selection to the All-Defensive 1st Team and All-NBA 1st Team.
Kobe’s final stat line: 45 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 16-28 FG, 12-18 3pt FG, 1-1 FT