6 Memorable Matchups Between the Lakers and Kings
The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings reached epic proportions in the early 2000s. Fans watched with bated breath as these two juggernauts battled it out, with the playoff series coming down to the wire. Though the Kings ultimately never got past the Lakers en route to an elusive championship, those matchups cemented Sacramento as a formidable foe.
6 Memorable Matchups Between the Lakers and Kings
Let's relive some of the most unforgettable games between these Western Conference adversaries.
Kobe's Jaw-Dropping Alley-Oop (2000 Western Conference Finals)
The Lakers-Kings rivalry kicked into high gear during the 2000 playoffs. Though the Lakers breezed through the first two rounds, Sacramento provided stiffer competition in the conference finals.
In Game 1, Kobe Bryant pulled off one of the most spectacular plays in playoff history. With the Lakers trailing in the fourth quarter, Bryant drove baseline and elevated for a soaring reverse slam. But rather than finish it himself, he alley-ooped the ball to Shaquille O'Neal, who hammered it home to the roar of the Staples Center crowd.
"I don't think I've ever seen an alley-oop where one guy went so high that he had to put it down, and the other guy jumped even higher to finish it," said NBC commentator Bill Walton.
The Lakers captured Game 1 en route to the series victory, but Kobe's mind-blowing assist left an indelible imprint.
Bibby's Buzzer Beater (2002 Western Conference Finals)
In 2002, the Kings had a home-court advantage over the Lakers in a conference finals rematch. Early in the series, Sacramento drew first blood on their home floor.
Game 2 came down to the final possession with the score tied. When Kings point guard Mike Bibby caught an inbounds pass with time winding down, he didn't hesitate. Bibby rose up and nailed a fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded, sending Arco Arena into pandemonium.
"Big-time players make big-time shots, and it doesn't get any bigger than that," said Bibby.
The Kings had multiple chances to close out the series but could never capitalize. Still, Bibby's clutch shot gave Sacramento hope of dethroning the champions.
Four Hall of Famers Foul Out (2002 Western Conference Finals)
Foul trouble plagued both teams in Game 6 of the 2002 West Finals. The Kings fought to stay alive, while the Lakers looked to advance to another NBA Finals.
In an anomaly, four future Hall of Famers - Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, and Vlade Divac - all fouled out before the end of regulation.
"I don't remember the last time I've seen that," Lakers coach Phil Jackson remarked.
With its stars relegated to the bench, Los Angeles managed to eke out a victory behind Robert Horry's game-winning three-pointer. The Lakers escaped the series by the slimmest of margins.
Bibby Bloodies Kobe's Nose (2002 Western Conference Semifinals)
Before matching up in the 2002 West Finals, the Lakers and Kings first battled in the second round. Tempers boiled over in Game 5 after Mike Bibby elbowed Kobe Bryant in the face.
Bryant crashed to the hardwood with blood gushing from his nose, while Bibby was assessed a flagrant foul. Kobe stayed in the game with cotton stuffed up his nostrils, refusing to let the injury sideline him.
"It was just a hard foul," Bryant said after the game. "It was playoff basketball. I just had to get my mind refocused."
The Lakers closed out Sacramento in seven games, but Bibby's cheap shot fueled the burgeoning rivalry.
Christie's Chokehold on Kobe (2000 Western Conference Semifinals)
Before becoming conference finals foes in 2000, the Lakers and Kings met in the second round. Games between the teams featured consistent physical play.
Late in Game 7, Kobe Bryant drove to the basket and got tangled up with defensive specialist Doug Christie. As Bryant tried to wrest himself free, Christie put him in a headlock and wrenched him to the floor.
Players and coaches from both sides ran onto the court as tempers threatened to boil over. Christie received a flagrant foul but avoided ejection.
"Everyone was just trying to separate each other to ensure no fights," said Lakers center A.C. Green.
The Lakers marched on after surviving the slugfest series against Sacramento.
Horry Hip Checks Bibby (2002 Western Conference Finals)
During the Lakers' title runs, Robert Horry cemented his reputation as a clutch playoff performer. But the veteran forward also pulled some dirty tricks out of his bag.
Late in Game 5 of the 2002 West Finals, Horry blatantly hip-checked Mike Bibby with the Lakers trailing. Bibby careened wildly out of bounds while Horry stood over him, taunting. The questionable play happened right before Bibby's bench, infuriating the Kings.
"It was a questionable move on Horry's part, no question," said Sacramento forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Horry claimed innocence, but his actions demonstrated how desperately the Lakers wanted to extinguish the Kings.
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The early 2000s Lakers-Kings rivalry produced some timeless moments and physical play. Hall of Fame tandems going toe-to-toe, game-winning buzzer beaters, bloody injuries, and championship aspirations on the line - this matchup had everything.
For the Kings franchise, finally conquering their heated California rivals and making the NBA Finals would have represented the culmination of their best seasons in Sacramento. Though they ultimately fell short, those classic playoff battles remain unforgettable.