2000 Season Recap
Shaq Brings Showtime Back to L.A.
Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal finally silenced his critics after the 1999-2000 season. O'Neal carried the Lakers through the regular season, playoffs and NBA Finals and brought home the franchise's 12th NBA championship and first since 1988.
O'Neal and rising star Kobe Bryant were important pieces of the Lakers' puzzle which included a ragged cast of veterans and was pieced together by former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson. Jackson won his seventh NBA title (and first without Michael Jordan) when Los Angeles defeated the Indiana Pacers 4 games to 2 in Larry Bird's final series as a head coach.
Bird and the NBA's most improved player Jalen Rose helped guide the Pacers to the Finals for the first time in franchise history. It was a major accomplishment considering the Pacers had lost in the Eastern Conference Finals four times in the last six years.
Indiana fended off the relentless N.Y. Knicks to reach the Finals while the Lakers had to overcome the up-and-coming Portland Trailblazers, one of the most talented teams in the NBA. Portland won 59 games during the regular season and finished second to Los Angeles in the Pacific Division.
Orlando Magic rookie coach Doc Rivers took coach of the year honors for leading a young, rebuilding team to the brink of a playoff birth.
The NBA family suffered through two tragedies during the 1999-2000 season. Two active players were killed during the regular season in unrelated car accidents. Charlotte Hornets forward/guard Bobby Phills died on Jan. 12 while racing teammate David Wesley after a team shoot-around. And Minnesota swingman Malik Sealy died May 20 after being hit by a drunk driver.
The 1999-2000 season saw young NBA stars like Toronto's Vince Carter and Houston's Steve Francis steal headlines from league veterans. Carter took home slam dunk honors at the NBA All-Star Weekend and appeared to be the fans replacement for Jordan. The final half of the season he helped carry the Raptors into their first NBA postseason.
Speaking of Jodan, his Airness returned to the NBA and became president of the Washington Wizards.