The Lakers have been one of the most successful and most dominant teams in NBA history and have had the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain on their teams. But perhaps the best period of their existence came during their dynasty that ran from the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s. Here in this article I will look at this time period for the Lakers, why it can be considered and dynasty and how the team was so dominant.
This era of dominance began for the Lakers on the night of the 1996 NBA Draft. While Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, the 17 year old prospect was traded to the Lakers in that offseason for Vlade Divac. That same offseason, the Lakers brought in free agent center and one of the most dominant players in the league, Shaquille O’Neal. They also brought in other role players (that would eventually prove important in playoff runs) such as Derek Fisher and Robert Horry. The team finished at 56-26 that year, which was their best record in over half a decade, even though they fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz.
The next year, they did even better as they finished 61-21, but again, were taken out in the playoffs at the hands of the Utah Jazz. But before the 1999-2000 season, the team made a splash as they brought in former Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, to head coach their team. Jackson brought in some good role players and everything started to click for the Lakers at this point.
The following season, the Lakers went an amazing 67-15, led by Shaq and Kobe Bryant. The team dominated in the playoffs en route to winning their first NBA title since 1988. The following year (2000-2001) the team won 11 less games in the regular season, but had the best playoff run of any team in NBA history. The team went 15-1 in the playoffs, with the only game loss coming in game one of the NBA finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, led by league MVP Allen Iverson. The following year, they would win another NBA title, their third in a row, solidifying them as a true dynasty.
While the team was led by Shaquille O’Neal (who won each of the three Finals MVPs in each of their three title wins), Kobe Bryant emerged as a true star in the league during this time and became one of the premier scorers in NBA history. With a one two punch like Kobe Bryant an Shaq, the team was nearly unstoppable during this period. And while the two played well on the court together, they did not always have the best relationship in the locker room.
With the current state of the Lakers (being one of the worst teams in the league the past two seasons) Lakers fans are wishing they could go back a decade and a half and relive what just may be the best time to be a Lakers fan ever.