After taking a 3-1 lead in the 2000 Western Conference Finals over the Portland Trail Blazers, it looked like the Los Angeles Lakers were a lock to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in nine years.
Instead, they dropped the next two games, setting up a nerve-racking Game 7 at Staples Center.
In the first half of that contest, Los Angeles had trouble getting the ball down low to Shaquille O’Neal against the Blazers’ determined defense, and it fell behind by 16 late in the third quarter.
To that point, Kobe Bryant had done his job to keep the Lakers in the contest with 16 points, but when they needed him the most, he turned it up.
He wasn’t yet known as a clutch performer, but that day, he would prove that he was exactly that.
In the fourth quarter, he had nine points, including a key jumper with 1:09 left to put the Lakers up by four, as well as his famous alley-oop pass to O’Neal seconds later to secure an 89-84 victory.
Los Angeles had a habit of folding under pressure every year in the playoffs, but in the fourth quarter of this contest, it flipped the script. It did so largely behind Bryant, who finished with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
He also did quite the job defensively, as he blocked four shots in the game.
It all sent the Lakers to the finals where they buried the Indiana Pacers in six contests to wrap up their first world championship in a dozen years, and their first of five with Bryant.