1999-2000 SEASON IN REVIEW
Lakers Shaq-le NBA
Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal was a new man in 1999-2000.
With all this in his favor, Shaq set out to make the NBA his league. He succeeded.
"He's the most dominating player in our league," Pacers coach Larry Bird said after O'Neal and the Lakers clinched the championship with a 116-111 victory over Indiana in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
"He's powerful, strong, able to get the ball in the hole," Bird said. "He's improved immensely, starting to make shots further from the basket. He's just so dominating that they have an opportunity here to do something great for a number of years."
It's worth noting that Bird said "they have an opportunity," meaning that the Lakers aren't a one-man show. All-Star guard Kobe Bryant made great strides in his fourth season, posting career-highs in scoring (22.5 ppg), rebounds (6.3 rpg), assists (4.9 apg), steals (1.61 spg) and shooting percentage (.468). He also earned a spot on the All-Defensive First Team.
Bryant proved himself as a clutch player, evident in his game-winning jumper with 2.6 seconds left in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Phoenix. Then there was Game 4 of the NBA Finals, when he scored eight of his 28 points in overtime, including a game-winning reverse tip.
"He's developed his legendary status at the age of 21," teammate Rick Fox said after the 120-118 victory.
But O'Neal was the force nobody wanted to reckon with. He led the league in scoring (29.7 ppg) and field goal percentage (.574). He was second in rebounds (13.6 rpg), third in blocks (3.03 bpg) and fourth in minutes (40 mpg). On March 6, his 28th birthday, Shaq celebrated with 61 points against the Clippers. He also led the Lakers on winning streaks of 19, 16 and 11 games.
He shared All-Star MVP honors with Tim Duncan and was a runaway choice for Finals MVP. Shaq nearly became the first unanimous MVP of the regular season, receiving 120 of a possible 121 first-place votes.
He stepped up his performance in the playoffs, averaging 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds. But his numbers were most gaudy in the Finals, where he averaged 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds and shot .611 from the field.
In the Lakers locker room after Game 6 of the Finals, O'Neal summed up his season. "Now that we got one (title)," he said, "we just have to work on two, three, four, five. It's everything I thought it would be."
Other notes from the season:
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