Work in Sports
Lakers' Locker Room
Sweat and toil finally pay off for L.A.
Posted: Tuesday June 20, 2000 03:32 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
LOS ANGELES -- Euphoria. Relief. Jubilation.
And nearly enough champagne to fill the Pacific Ocean.
They were all on display in the packed home locker room at the Staples Center late Monday night as the Lakers celebrated the NBA championship.
"We're No. 1!" Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, his hair matted with bubbly, exclaimed as he threw his arms around teammate Ron Harper. "We're world champs."
"Let's go for two!" Harper replied with a smile and a puff on a victory cigar that looked about as big as one of Shaq's oversized sneakers.
In the aftermath of their hard-fought 116-111 comeback victory over the Pacers in Game 6, which gave L.A. its first title since 1988, the Lakers turned their locker room into a Hollywood bash.
They hugged. They laughed. They even cracked jokes at one another.
At one point, Lakers forward Robert Horry silenced the room by punching a hole in the plastic lining covering the players' locker stalls. With great fanfare, he then ripped the lining off the wood locker stalls.
"Hey psycho!" Lakers forward John Salley hollered. "Anger management for Robert Horry again!"
It was that kind of night for the Lakers. After nine months of sweat and toil -- and six games against a hard-nosed Pacers team that refused to quit -- L.A. could finally relax.
"This is the best feeling in the world," forward Glen Rice said. "It's what everybody dreams about."
Showing the killer instinct that had eluded them in previous playoff series against Sacramento, Phoenix, Portland -- and in Game 5 against Indiana -- the Lakers blitzed the Pacers in Game 6 with a 13-2 run early in the fourth quarter to take a 99-92 lead, then held them off down the stretch to seal the triumph.
And it wasn't all just Shaq and Kobe, either.
Rice scored 16 points, including all three of his attempts from downtown. Horry added eight points, including two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, as well as four rebounds and four assists. Rick Fox had seven points, and the pure satisfaction of burying a key fourth-quarter 3- pointer right in the mug of his chief antagonist in the series, Pacers guard Reggie Miller.
Harper, meanwhile, came up with one of the game's biggest defensive plays. With the Lakers leading 105-103 and about 4:30 left to play, he slipped around Pacers forward Austin Croshere and picked off Miller's pass into the post. Shaq then swished a short baseline hook over Dale Davis to put L.A. ahead by four.
"We found a way to play a lot of players, and a lot of players contributed," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Before the season, few experts predicted that the Lakers would win this year's NBA crown. After all, Jackson was taking over a team that had been swept out of the playoffs each of the past two years and had two superstars in O'Neal and Bryant with seemingly conflicting agendas.
But Jackson got the Lakers to play as a team, and the result was a champagne celebration they will never forget.
"I'm happy for Phil. I'm happy for my teammates. I'm happy for the city," said Shaq, who cried tears of joy after the game. "It's just a great moment."