Lakers News: L.A. Battled Some Familiar Faces En Route To Its Three-Peat

L.A. did battle with some familiar faces en route to its three-peat.

During the seventh episode of Hulu’s addictive documentary series “Legacy: The True Story Of The L.A. Lakers,” the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers met a few key familiar faces from the Magic Johnson era of the Lakers while trying to win their third consecutive championship in 2002. This time, though, those Lakers were working for the opposition.

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During the 2002 playoffs, the Lakers came up against the top-seeded Sacramento Kings in a hotly contested a seven-game Western Conference Finals series. Jumping at center against Shaquille O’Neal was none other than Vlade Divac, who had started at center alongside Johnson during the team’s ill-fated five-game 1991 Finals loss to the Chicago Bulls, coached by future Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Divac had blossomed into an All-Star with Sacramento during the prior 2000-01 season. In this particular series, an eventual Kings defeat, the 7’1″ big man averaged 14.4 points, 10 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks a night.

“Shaq was one of the toughest opponents that I played against,” Divac says in modern interview footage. “When he [catches] the ball in the low post, he’s unstoppable.” Divac enjoyed some of his best years in the NBA during his Sacramento run, from 1999-2004. He returned to L.A. for his final season in the league in 2004-05.

Next up, in the 2002 NBA Finals, the Lakers would do battle against another team sporting a former Showtime Laker. This time, it was New Jersey Nets head coach Byron Scott, the former starting shooting guard on three title-winning Lakers teams in the ’80s. L.A. would go on to sweep Scott’s Nets.

“We’re playing against a team that was a monster, and I think that we all knew that,” Scott says now.

“See I had those mixed emotions,” Scott reflects on losing to the Lakers in four games. “[Because] I was like, ‘Damn.’ But I was also like, ‘Yes.’ It’s my organization. [I felt] satisfaction to watch this particular team get back to the top again and do it for three straight years, something that we wanted to do [in 1989].” Scott, who had served as a reserve and a mentor to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal during the duo’s first season together, 1996-97, coached the Nets from 2000-2004.

A third ex-Laker weighs in at this point in the documentary, though his team did not play L.A. in the playoffs. “Once a dynasty expires, like we did, it’s just [a question of] how long is it gonna take for Jerry [whether he means Buss or West is unclear] to build another dynasty? And it wasn’t until almost ten years, Phil Jackson showed up and won three in a row,” former Lakers head coach Pat Riley, then coaching the Miami Heat, reflects during the documentary. “But all things that are great one day come to an end.” Miami missed the playoffs that year, finishing the season with a 36-46 record. Landing in the lottery, the Heat would go on to select future All-Star small forward Caron Butler with the 10th pick out of Connecticut in the 2002 daft.

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