This time, Goliath had no problem with David in 2000-01.

Beginning with a win over Utah on April 3 and ending with a Game 5 victory over the big-hearted Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals on June 15, the Los Angeles Lakers marched to their second consecutive NBA title.

And it was as close to perfect as any other team had been in history of the NBA, as the Lakers went an unprecedented 15-1 in the playoffs. This, after winning their final eight regular season games.

With Kobe Bryant at his side, Shaquille O'Neal loomed large in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Andrew D. Bernstein
NBAE/Getty Images
"It's just part of a dream come true," Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said. "The last 15, 20 games we became a great team. I'm happy. I'm also greedy. I'm going to try to get leaner and meaner and get another one next year."

Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant, who proved to be a perfect complement to O'Neal dominating presence inside, agreed with the center's sentiments.

"We told y'all last year we were going to do it again," Bryant said. "We did it again. We're going to get another one next year. Back to back to back!"

The Lakers swept their way through the Western Conference en route to the NBA Finals, dispatching rivals Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio.

Then in the NBA Finals, the Lakers met their David, even if it was only for one game.

The Philadelphia 76ers made their first NBA Finals in 18 years after surviving a bruising regular season and two exhausting seven-game playoff series.

In Game 1, playing like he'd been slung from a slingshot, Allen Iverson, the NBA's 2000-01 MVP, scored 48 points to lead the Sixers past the stunned Lakers with a 107-101 overtime win.

"I don't think we shocked ourselves," Sixers forward Tyrone Hill said. "We knew we had a lot of confidence coming in." But the Lakers used the defeat as a springboard to win the next four games by an average of 10 points.

As well as being fitted for a second ring, O'Neal captured his second straight Final MVP after averaging 33 points and 15.8 rebounds in five Finals games.

"The first championship was just to get the monkey off my back," O'Neal said. "Now the ones that I get from now on will just be to try to stamp my name in history, as far as for myself, as far as for whatever team I'm on."

Despite their loss in the Finals, the Sixers made their mark on the season. Four 76ers won post-season awards: Larry Brown was the IBM NBA Red Auerbach Coach of the Year, Aaron McKie was honored with the Sixth Man Award, Dikembe Mutombo, who was acquired in a mid-season trade, was named Defensive Player of the Year and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner, while Iverson was honored as the league MVP.

One year after being named coach of the year, Orlando's Doc Rivers had two players honored with postseason awards. Mike Miller was named Schick Rookie of the Year and swingman Tracy McGrady was the NBA's Most Improved Player.

Two former Georgetown centers found themselves at the crossroads of their careers. The Miami Heat's Alonzo Mourning missed most of the season with a kidney ailment, and then shocked everyone by returning for the final 13 games before the Heat were swept out of the first round by the Charlotte Hornets.

Before the season began, the New York Knicks traded their all-time leading scorer, Patrick Ewing, to the Sonics.

Isiah Thomas returned to the NBA, this time as the coach of the Indiana Pacers, the 1999-2000 Eastern Conference champs. Seven other teams also had new coaches for the 2000-01 season.

In an All-Star thriller, the East topped the West, 111-110 in Washington. Allen Iverson scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as the East erased a 21-point deficit in the final quarter. Seattle's Desmond Mason won the slam dunk competition, while Milwaukee sharpshooter Ray Allen took the three-point shooting title.

General managers were busy at the trading deadline this season, and no trade was more important that the one Philadelphia made with Atlanta. The Hawks sent Dikembe Mutombo to Philly in exchange for Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc and Nazr Mohammed.

Toronto sent Mark Jackson back to New York with Muggsy Bogues in exchange for Chris Childs. The Raptors weren't done dealing, however, as they acquired Jerome Williams and Eric Montross for Corliss Williamson and Tyrone Corbin.