In 2002 the Lakers were coming off back-to-back titles but were starting to show cracks. Salary cap issues drained the team of depth, Shaq got fat, and Kobe’s Alpha Dog routine got harder to manage. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings had won the Pacific Division with 61 wins with a fun, creative team led by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic. The result was an unforgettable seven-game Conference Finals series between the two teams, finished off by classic “Big-Shot Rob” Horry jumpshot. Grantland does a typically awesome job of recapturing the moment.
All the Kings’ Men
In the early 90s Shaquille O’Neal blew up like few athletes before or after. First, he was a dynamically athletic seven-footer who dominated the low post at LSU and then with the Orlando Magic. But it was his dynamic personality that allowed him to easily cross into pop culture, where he would make his mark in music, film, and (most profitably) in commercials. After his Rookie-of-the-Year NBA season in ’92-’93 Shaq rounded up a mix of music industry professionals to create Shaq Diesel, the most successful musical release by an American professional athlete. The Undefeated looks back at the phenomenon.
‘Shaq Diesel’ An oral history of professional sports’ only platinum album
The Orlando Magic won the Shaquille O’Neal sweepstakes in 1992, drafting him first overall, and flipped Chris Webber at the draft the next year for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks. Everyone agreed that the Magic were set for a meteoric rise, especially when they were surrounded by quality role players like Dennis Scott, Horace Grant, and Nick Anderson. The impending championship run short-circuited, however, when Shaq bolted for Los Angeles and Penny’s chronic knee troubles slowed his roll. Grantland looks back at the dynasty that never was.
Blue Chips: An oral history of Shaq, Penny, and the Orlando Magic’s lost NBA dynasty.