By Ron Griffitts
In June 2001, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (56-26) coached by Phil Jackson with chief executive Mitch Kupchak met the Philadelphia 76ers (56-25) coached by Larry Brown with chief executive Billy King.
Few people have spent more time in college and professional basketball or in more positions than Larry Brown. In the college ranks he spent three years as a player at North Carolina and eleven as a coach at Kansas, where he won an NCAAA title, UCLA and Southern Methodist.
He spent six years as a player in the ABA and then 30 years as a coach in the ABA and NBA for a total of 50 years in college and professional basketball.
The Lakers returned most of the players from the preceding year’s team led by Shaquille O’Neal (28.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg), Kobe Bryant (28.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.9 rpg), Derek Fisher (11.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and added Horace Grant who had played for Jackson with the Bulls (7.7 rpg).
Philadelphia was led by Allen Iverson, the league MVP and scoring leader (31.3 ppg, 4.6 apg), Theo Ratliff (12.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), Eric Snow (7.4 apg) and Dikembe Mutombo (11.7 ppg, 12.4 rpg).
Game one was in the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the game was tied 94-94 after regulation. The 76ers behind Allen Iverson’s 48 points (seven in overtime) pulled out a 107-101 win to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Dikembe Mutombo pulled down 16 rebounds for Philadelphia while Shaquille O’Neal had 44 points/20 rebounds for LA. Kobe Bryant had an off night with only 7 of 22 from the field for 15 points.
Kobe Bryant responded with an 11 for 23 from the field and 31 points in game two to lead the Lakers to a 98-89 win to even the series at a game each. Shaq contributed 28 points and 20 rebounds while Allen Iverson was only 10 of 29 from the field for 23 points.
For game three, the teams shifted to the First Union Center in Philadelphia. In another tightly contested match, Kobe Bryant played all 48 minutes of the game, scoring 32 points while Shaquille O’Neal added 30 points and 12 rebounds for a 96-91 LA victory.
Allen Iverson who played 47 minutes and 57 seconds of the game scored 35 points and Dikembe Mutombo had 23 points and both players had 12 rebounds each. The Lakers lead 2-1 in the series.
Game four still in Philadelphia was closely contested like each game in the series. The Lakers won another away contest 100-86 behind Shaquille O’Neal 34
points/ 14 rebounds and Kobe Bryant 19 points/9 assists/ 10 rebounds while Allen Iverson contributed 34 points and Dikembe Mutombo had 19 points/9 rebounds for the 76ers.
Game five was similar to the previous four as again Shaquille O’Neal 29 points/13 rebounds and Kobe Bryant 26 points/ 12 rebounds with Rick Fox’s 20 points led the Lakers to a 108-96 win in the game and the series, giving Phil Jackson his eighth NBA title in 11 years.
Allen Iverson had 35 points and Tyrone Hill pulled down 13 rebounds but the Sixers could not counter the scoring combination of Shaq and Kobe Bryant.
Shaq again got the series MVP and the Lakers returned the following year while the 76ers have not been back to the finals since 2001.
Statistics for this article were from basketball-reference.com.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.