Los Angeles Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were a force to be reckoned with in the early 00s. They won a three-peat through 2000-2002. Despite their dominance, there were teams that posed a real threat to the Purple and Gold.
Shaq and Robert Horry, who were members of the three-peat Lakers, remembered the times when they were dominating the league. When asked about the toughest opponents they faced, both had the same response. It was the Portland Trail Blazers.
The most memorable series between the two teams in that era was in 2000 when the Lakers took on the Blazers in Western Conference Finals. The series went down to the wire with Los Angeles prevailing 4-3.
The Blazers, though combustible, were talented and ridiculously deep, with five current or future All-Stars—Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith, Detlef Schrempf and Jermaine O’Neal—plus potent offensive players like Damon Stoudamire and Bonzi Wells.
It was arguably the strongest team the Lakers faced in their three-peat—and one of the best ever to miss the Finals.
“It’s probably the best team I’ve ever faced playing basketball, period,” says Robert Horry, who won seven championships in his 16-year career, including three with the Lakers.
“They were the toughest team,” Shaq says, “and they were the only team that wasn’t scared of us.”
Remember Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Blazers: