It’s one of the most famous plays in NBA history. Exactly 21 years ago, on June 4th, 2000, the Lakers were playing the Blazers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Up 4 points with 50 seconds to go in the game, Kobe Bryant brought the ball up and had to seal the game. Would he pass the ball and defer to the big guy?
This moment unlocked a three-peat. Everyone knew the Lakers had the deadliest one-two punch in the league, but the problem was we never knew if the left and right hand would work together. Kobe wanted the big moment all his life, and with that alley-oop, he proved to himself and others that a big moment doesn’t have to be a bucket.
But that’s not the only reason why this is probably the most legendary alley-oop in NBA history. Staples Center going wild and Shaq‘s wild celebration created some of the most iconic images of that era. Kobe calm, knowing the job’s not done, and The Big Diesel running back and pointing at the crowd in ecstasy. Last night on Inside the NBA, Ernie asked Shaq who he was pointing to?
“I was pointing at Shareef. He was two years old and I didn’t know he could talk. Before the game he came up to me and said ‘Win the game for me, daddy.‘”Shaquille O’Neal, Inside the NBA
The guys in the studio immediately started laughing and called bulls**t on Shaq’s story. Kenny was the loudest one, as he yelled, “YOU’RE SUCH A LIAR. HE COULDN’T TALK?!?” Shaq started laughing as well and slightly changed his story, saying he said he didn’t know Shareef could talk in full sentences. But he didn’t really change minds in the studio.
Shaq added he was pointing at the suite where his family was, including Shareef, because he promised to win the game for him. A few minutes later, during a different segment, Kenny threw in another fact that made Shaq’s story less convincing.
“I did the math. Shareef was five months old when that game was played.”Kenny Smith, Inside the NBA
Kenny’s math checks out. Shareef O’Neal came into this world on January 11th, 2000. The night his dad slammed an alley-oop from Kobe Bryant, he was 144 days old. Shaq just giggled in the background and moved on. We all embellish a story for dramatic effect, and we all give the entertainer of Shaq’s level a bit more room to spice things up. But last night, he went too far, and the rest of the crew didn’t let him get away with it.
Maybe he did want to win it for his son, but I doubt a five-month-old told him anything else other than a “gaga.”