2002 WCF Game 1: 23 year old Kobe relentlessly wears down Kings defense, again, (playoff career 38ppg avg vs Kings heading into this series). The Shaq and Kobe Lakers won 67 regular season games and their first championship together 2 years before in 2000. They almost didn't, needing 5 games to beat the Kings in the 1st round (best of 5) and 7 games to beat the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. In the 2001 playoffs the following year, Shaq reached the absolute zenith of his dominance. Kobe, who had already been named to the NBA All-Defensive 1st Team in 2000, took on increased responsibilities for scoring and point creation. The Lakers went 15-1 (still the 2nd best postseason record ever) en route to their 2nd straight championship. For the '01-'02 season, zone defense finally became legalized. This made it much easier for teams to defend Shaq and to a lesser extent guards like Iverson and Kobe that could get to the rim at will. Also added was the defensive 3-seconds violation. But none of this crap ever seems to matter for the all-time greats, who always adapt. Cue Kobe's continued ascendance. Earlier in this '01-'02 season, he scored a then career high 56pts - in only 3 quarters - with Shaq out injured. Bill Walton rhetorically asked after Kobe's last shot in this edit "Is there anybody in the game today who does things like this?" The Lakers took Game 1, won the series in 7, then swept the Nets in The Finals, after which Kobe Bryant, at age 23, became the youngest player ever to win 3 championships.
Kobe: 30pts (12-26) 6reb 5ast 2blk 2stl
Shaq: 26pts (11-21) 9reb 2stl 4blk