When arguing with a “Kobe hater,” Laker fans hear many different critiques and reasons why Kobe isn’t the great player who we say he is. The most familiar quote goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway; “Kobe needed Shaq.”
Doesn’t that statement just cringe your soul and get under your skin? The NBA is not an individual sport. This isn’t tennis. An NBA team’s roster is composed of 15 players. Doesn’t everybody need everybody? Didn’t Magic need Kareem and vice versa? Didn’t Jordan need Pippen and vice versa? Didn’t Lebron need Wade and Bosh? Please name me one NBA player that won a championship all by his lonesome.
Yes, Kobe needed Shaq. Just like he needed Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, etc. I’m here to explain why Shaq needed Kobe just like Kobe needed Shaq. Here are 5 examples of why Shaq won the three rings that he did playing along side of Kobe Bryant.
5. 1999-2000 Game 7 of The Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers
This season was the very first championship won of the three-peat. A 21 year old Kobe Bryant saw his minutes increase for the first time in his career and he took full advantage of it. He led the team in assists per game (even though he is widely recognized as a ball hog). He also led the team in steals per game. Kobe was named to the All-NBA Second Team and All-NBA Defensive (the youngest player ever to receive such honors) after this impressive season.
In game 7 of the Western Conference Finals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe scored 25 points, gained 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 blocks. Who can forget the amazing alley-oop pass to Shaq that Kobe threw?
The Lakers led the Trail Blazers 83 to 79 with under a minute left in the game , as 21 year old Kobe Bryant crossed up 6 time NBA Champion and hall of famer, Scottie Pippen, drove down the lane (which caused the defense to swarm to him) and finished off the play with a huge alley oop to Shaq. This clinched the series and sent the Lakers to the NBA Finals.
4. 2000 NBA Finals vs. Indiana Pacers
After that huge performance vs. the Trail Blazers, it was now time to face the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals. This was Reggie Miller’s first time here. It was the biggest opportunity to win what he could only dream of. There was only one problem, Kobe Bryant.
In this series, the Lakers led 2-0 until Kobe suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss game 3, which they lost. Kobe returned in Game 4, which Shaq fouled out of early in the 4th quarter. Because of Shaq’s foul trouble, someone needed to step up and Kobe Bryant did.
In the second half, he scored 22 points and led the team to an OT victory after scoring the winning shot to put the Lakers ahead 120 to 118. He scored 8 points during this over time period, which is an NBA Finals over time record.
Check out the highlights of this game below. During OT, the commentators said, “If he was wearing 23 on his back, you may not even know the difference, except the afro.”
3. The 2000-2001 Playoffs
Kobe saw his minutes dramatically increase in these playoffs and made his mark in the NBA. During the entire post season, Kobe averaged 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. Does that sound like a “role player” who needed someone else to win a championship? I don’t think so.
The Lakers went 16 and 1 for the entire playoffs and most of it had to do with the fantastic play of both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. After a few games against the San Antonio Spurs (which I will get to next), Shaq declared Bryant as the best player in the league.
Here’s game 4 vs. the Sacramento Kings where Kobe scored 48 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
2. The 2000-2001 Western Conference Finals vs. the San Antonio Spurs
Kobe Bryant absolutely demolished the Spurs, during this playoff series. The Spurs obviously put their focus on Shaq, which left Kobe open to take over. In game 1, he scored an amazing 45 points on the road. In game 2, he made amazing plays at the end of the game that showed how clutch he is. Shaq averaged only 23.6 points per game during this series, while Kobe averaged 36.
This series started the Jordan comparisons. Many people were already comparing him to MJ and he was only 21 years old. Shaq said after game 2 that Kobe Bryant was his idol. Jordan said, during this series, that he doesn’t see it as an insult to compare Kobe to him. He had already won a championship and was well on his way to winning another one back to back.
Here is his amazing game 3 vs. the Spurs, where he scored 36 points, gained 9 rebounds and 8 assists, while blowing out the San Antonio Spurs by 39 points.
1. The 2001-2002 NBA Finals
The road to these Finals vs. the New Jersey Nets were much more tough than the previous years, but it was inevitable. It’s hard to win three straight times in any sport. After a grueling 7 game series against the Sacramento Kings, it was now time for the Lakers to try to win their third straight championship.
In the 2002 Finals vs. the Nets, Kobe Bryant averaged 26.8 points, while shooting over 50% from the field. He also added 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists. During this series, Kobe scored over a quarter of the total points for the Lakers. The Lakers easily swept through the Nets making Kobe Bryant the youngest player ever to win three championships at the extremely young age of 23 years old. This cemented the legacy of Kobe Bryant, while there was so much more to come.
Here is Game 3 vs. the Nets in New Jersey. Kobe scored 36 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, gained 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks, while placing the nets in a 3-0 whole.
These are just five examples that show the contributions that Kobe made during this three peat. After this amazing run, Kobe heard nothing but he won’t be able to get it done without Shaq. Well since the Shaq era, the Lakers have been in the NBA Finals 3 times and won twice. Basketball is a team sport. Of course everybody needs everybody, just like Shaq needed Kobe Bryant.