AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersWith a dominant Shaquille O’Neal and an unstoppable Kobe Bryant, the Lakers ran through Portland by a margin of 14.6 points in what was then a best-of-5 three-game sweep; 9.25 points against Sacramento in the second round and destroyed the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs by an average 22.25 points.“It felt easy while we were doing it,” said Brian Shaw, a guard on those teams and now an assistant coach on Luke Walton’s Lakers staff. “I don’t think we were really ever threatened in any of the first three rounds.”It was only in Game 1 of the Finals against Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, who scored 48 points and stepped over Tyronn Lue en route to victory, that the Lakers were tripped up, losing, 107-101, in overtime.The Lakers stared at their feet as they shuffled off the Staples Center court that night. Bryant walked briskly past his teammates into the locker room.“When we lost that first game it sent a shudder through the entire team and through all of L.A.,” said Mark Madsen, a Lakers rookie in 2000-01. “But then to go on and win decisively after that, in Philadelphia, it made it special.” When it came to dominant postseason teams, the 2001 Lakers were without peer in NBA history.Then these Golden State Warriors came along, assembling one of the most fearsome and star-studded lineups ever assembled and breezed to an NBA-record 12-0 start in the playoffs.With Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, observers are only left to wonder: Could the Warriors, facing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third straight year, become the first team to go undefeated to win a title?Sixteen years ago, the Lakers were the team that came the closest. Ron Harper, a veteran on that team, remembers someone saying after Game 1 that the Finals were shaping up to be a good series.“I said, ‘No it’s not going to be. We’re going to win the next four games,’” Harper said. “I knew they won the first game. The only thing they did is make us upset.”The Lakers finished the postseason 15-1, the best winning percentage in NBA history.Will the Warriors challenge that mark? After sweeping Portland, Utah and the Spurs, they became just the third team in league history to enter the Finals undefeated in the playoffs, joining the ’01 and 1989 Lakers.Cleveland, coached by Lue, missed joining that club by a hair, losing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals to Boston and brings a 12-1 mark into the Finals.“As much as Golden State is being talked about,” Shaw said, “Cleveland is still the defending champions.”The Warriors have lost once dating to March 14 and are beating teams in the playoffs by a healthy average of 16.3 points.“They force you to play a perfect game and that was just the thing that we did too,” said Devean George, who played on three Lakers championship teams from 2000-02 and played for the Warriors in 2009-10. “We forced teams to really – like really – play perfect and really not make too many turnovers because if you gave us extra opportunities then it was going to be a bad night.”Sixteen years ago, the Lakers hit their stride in the final month of the season, winning the last eight games of the regular season.“Everything was hitting on all cylinders,” Shaw said, “and I think it was the combination of the players got into a rhythm, the coaching staff, everything we did, that’s kind of what you always hope for and we had that.”Said Madsen: “We got to the playoffs we knew other teams’ offenses better than they did. That was how much tape we watched, that was the preparation level. It was an impressive thing.”As significant as the Lakers’ streak was, members of the 2001 team all repeated that the most important thing was hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the series with the Sixers, rather than what their postseason record was.“Whether Golden State goes 16-0 if they win it, or 16-3, the ultimate goal is to win the championship,” Shaw said.Harper agreed that regular-season accomplishments or reaching the Finals undefeated only has meaning if a title follows.“When Golden State was 73-9 (last year), they had a great year, but they didn’t win the NBA championship,” said Harper, who won five titles as a player, including three with Michael Jordan’s Bulls. “That’s like when New England went 18-0 and then they lost the Super Bowl. Who cares? You lost the Super Bowl. That’s what you play for.”Cleveland won 53 games in the regular season, while Golden State scorched the league to a 67-15 mark, boasting the league’s top-ranked offense and No. 2 defense.In the playoffs, however, Cleveland has been nearly as dominant as Golden State through the first three rounds and seemingly little separates the two sides that have traded championships the last two years.Harper, an Ohio native who was drafted by the Cavs in 1986, said, “It’s not going to be a sweep. That will not happen.”There should be, after more than a month of romps, some competition.“I don’t want to see what has been going on, I want last-second shots, nail-biters, a minute left, the game is tied, that’s what I want to see,” George said. “I don’t want to see a sweep or 20-point blowouts.”Those are only fun for the players on the team running the table. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersFor the first time, there was a definitive window into how LeBron, who has detailed in so many ways how he wished “to be like Mike” growing up in poverty in Akron, Ohio, has watched the documentary series and how old memories of Jordan have resurfaced. On Monday on “WRTS: After Party,” a show produced by his media company Uninterrupted, he dove into how he viewed Jordan as “Black Jesus,” a man who seemed like a god who lived in his television until he met him at 16 years old, watching him and Antoine Walker talk trash in a gym together. He imagined how his Redeem Team would fare against the classic 1992 Dream Team. At one point, he envisioned himself playing alongside Jordan in place of Scottie Pippen, saying it “would have been a whole ‘nother level.”But the other side – the more nuanced, more complicated one – came out, too. After ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote that James liked to imagine Jordan as a teammate rather than an adversary, LeBron tried to scrub the record. It’s not surprising that James, whose critics assail him for forming the Heatles in Miami in 2010 rather than following Jordan’s one-franchise path (oh, how quickly we forget those Wizard seasons), would be sensitive about people saying he’d rather join his Airness than challenge him. For as much as LeBron is willing to reminisce about how he idolized Jordan, this is still a competition: He doesn’t wish to live exclusively in Michael’s shadow.It’s a complicated relationship. James has said many times that Jordan was one of his most powerful male role models in his single-parent household as a child. He’s called Jordan his “inspiration,” and on the podcast, he detailed how devastating it was when Jordan retired the first time, leaving a 9-year-old James in tears.But by many accounts, the two men are not close. Perhaps meeting our idols is never quite what we hope. Jordan’s emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant in February, in once sense, underscores that he has a far less intimate relationship with James. Beyond competing legacies on the court, they also are somewhat competitors off it, given that the Jordan Brand is its own offshoot of Nike. James has aspirations of one day owning an NBA team as Jordan does. This is not to say LeBron doesn’t appreciate Jordan, or give him credit. On the show, LeBron and business associate Maverick Carter acknowledged there would be no LeBron without Michael. They noted that without Jordan’s relationship with Nike, LeBron wouldn’t have reaped his marketing platform. Without the Dream Team, basketball probably wouldn’t have launched LeBron into the global stardom he enjoys today.But there is some behind-the-scenes manuevering and posturing that feels a little frosty. ESPN reported that Jordan agreed to the documentary on the day James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were parading through Cleveland after the 2016 Finals. Perhaps this is coincidence.It’s also worth remembering that LeBron, though he often shies from comparing himself to Jordan in public forums, has self-declared as the best player of all time. Even though Jordan is famously reclusive and barely appears for public events anymore, that surely got back to his ears. It’s interesting how recency bias can help debates like this one ebb and flow: Jordan unleashing a 10-part series with ESPN, over which he had a great deal of control, has injected a fresh perspective on his legacy (albeit with maybe a little airbrushing over the bullying of his own teammates).The fact that the documentary comes in the vacuum of the NBA hiatus means Jordan has given himself a platform to celebrate his career while James’ own has stalled for forces beyond his control. James has come around slowly to engaging “The Last Dance” on social media. On the debut weekend, James didn’t post about the show on his Twitter or Instagram page – which seemed odd since he himself suggested back in March he hoped ESPN would release earlier than originally planned. He did manage to tweet about “The Wall,” a game show produced by one of his media companies.As the weeks went on, LeBron warmed up: posting about the emotion when he watched Jordan win his first title, then recalling how he cried when Jordan first retired. And by the end, he was engaged enough to film a 48-minute show around “The Last Dance,” and was pretty game to talk a lot about his childlike awe for the man he viewed as a real-life superhero.That doesn’t change the fact that two competitive men are surely being protective of their legacies, hoping to stake their individual claims as the greatest. There was one particular goosebumps moment of James’ reaction to show he reflected on how Jordan retired at the top of his game in 1998.“He’s nowhere near being on his last legs,” James said with wide eyes. “This (expletive) can still go. He’s still the best player in the world. And I’m watching that in ‘98 at 14 years of age, and I’m like, ‘Wow, Mike’s still the best player in the world at 35 years old.’”LeBron, age 35, is now forced away from the game while some still believe he’s the best player in the world. And after five weeks of watching Michael at his greatest, that has to sting.— Kyle GoonThese links are still open for businessAn opening for pro sports in California? – Gov. Gavin Newsom seemed to make some encouraging suggestions about pro sports in June (albeit without fans).Facilities open – The Lakers and Clippers have both tentatively opened facilities for individual workouts.No substances involved in helicopter crash – An autopsy report shows no signs of drugs or alcohol in the pilot who flew Kobe and Gigi Bryant in the fatal crash.The full ‘Last Dance’ reaction from LeBron – If you’re interested in viewing the 48-minute show, tune in to see what LeBron had to say about Michael.Dwight Howard dealing with grief – The mother of one of his children died during the quarantine, offering tough perspective for Howard and his family.Mamba out – The Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks is changing its name, removing “Mamba” from the title.Follow our COVID-19 news coverage – The latest on local cases and procedures to limit the pandemic. Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday, May 19 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Michael vs. LeBron? Let’s not kick the dead horse.Perhaps the most popular, most heated and most exhausted debate in basketball is getting microwaved again by “The Last Dance,” which finished airing on ESPN on Sunday with episodes nine and ten. But rather than trodding upon ground that’s already well covered, I find myself wondering:What must it be like for LeBron to have watched this documentary in an extraordinary moment like this?