Led by Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers won their second straight title with a 108-96 victory in Game Five of the NBA Finals, completing the greatest postseason run in league history.
"A dream come true," O'Neal said. "I always knew we could do it, especially after the first one last year. I just knew that if we did what we were supposed to do that we could get it done."
"Team Shaq" has gone back-to-back, claiming its 13th championship. The Lakers did it by going 15-1, with the lone loss coming in overtime against the 76ers in the opener of this series.
That ended a 19-game winning streak, but O'Neal quickly restored order, powering the Lakers to four straight wins as he claimed his second straight NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.
"The first championship was just to get the monkey off my back," O'Neal said. "The ones that I get from now on will just be to stamp my name in history -- as far as for myself, as far as for whatever team I'm on."
"It was an unbelievable run for us in the playoffs," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who won his eighth championship, one shy of the legendary Red Auerbach. "Their concentration was incredible during this period."
O'Neal collected 29 points and 13 rebounds in the clincher. He manhandled Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo, averaging 33 points, 15.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in the series.
"His defense is really, I think, one of the keys for us winning," Jackson said. "He was a presence inside, both offensively and defensively."
O'Neal's impact was undeniable. Not only was he an unstoppable post presence, his teammates made a record 36-of-75 3-pointers playing off him.
"I've never seen a player better in my life," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "I mean that."
"I'm drunk," O'Neal said as he entered the interview room. "A lotta champagne."
It was a lot of O'Neal, but it wasn't all him. It only seemed that way. Philadelphia native Kobe Bryant, -- heavily booed in his hometown throughout the series -- silenced this city with something less than brotherly love.
Bryant had 26 points and 12 rebounds, shaking off a poor first half. He averaged 24.6 points and was outstanding in each of LA's four wins, perfectly complementing O'Neal -- which was not always the case during the season.
"It's a thing in the past," Bryant said. "We'll do our best to try to keep a team effort, keep a community. Hopefully, we won't have to go through what we went through this year, and I don't think we will."
The Lakers did not exactly bury the 76ers. Following the script of the entire series, they allowed a huge lead to dwindle in the fourth quarter before two 3-pointers by Derek Fisher served as dual daggers to the heart the Sixers displayed to the very end.
NBA MVP Allen Iverson scored 37 points despite suffering another injury, this one to his ribs. He averaged 35.6 points in his first Finals and allowed a basketball-crazed city to believe it could topple Tinseltown.
"Allen told me he thought he cracked some ribs," Brown said. "They X-rayed it, I don't know, they didn't find that. It's what that kid's about. He had a phenomenal year.
"And I think being in this environment on this stage, people really recognize what an unbelievable competitor he is and what a great player."
Iverson's competitive spirit got the best of him. He walked off the court as the buzzer sounded, refusing to shake hands. He also blew off the postgame media session when he saw he had to wait for Bryant.
But the "Little Guy" and a big heart were nowhere near enough for the Sixers, who struggled on offense and saw their dogged defense decimated by a dynasty.
"They got our attention during the course of this series," said Jackson.
Injury-infiltrated Philadelphia fought hard in every game, but playing uphill took its toll and the Sixers were pushed back by the 7-2, 330-pound O'Neal, a mountain of a man and the NBA's king of the hill.
"It may not seem like I'm happy on my face," O'Neal said in the interview room. "I'm also greedy and I'm not done."
"Shaq has got more in him," Jackson said. "I expect him to have more than two championships before he's finished with this game."
Rick Fox scored 20 points for the Lakers and Fisher added 18, all on 3-pointers. LA made 12-of-17 from the arc, devastating the double-teams the Sixers ran at O'Neal.
"They came out and proved to the world that they were a defending champion," Mutombo said.
Bryant scored seven quick points early in the final period to give the Lakers a 92-74 lead. But the Sixers would not allow any early celebration, putting together another of their patented pushes.
Hill's jumper made it 93-84 with 5:24 to play but Fisher drilled a 3-pointer. Mutombo fouled out with 3:41 left, but Philadelphia kept coming as Hill's three-point play cut the deficit to 100-92 with 1:51 to go.
Snow's free throw got it a point closer, but Fisher made another from the arc to seal it with 51 seconds left. Brown pulled his weary warriors off the floor to a standing ovation that lasted until the final horn as tears welled in Iverson's eyes.
Right before tip-off, the video scoreboard showed a hilarious cartoon that depicted O'Neal as a building-crushing monster before Iverson emerged as "Underdog" to save the day.
That got the crowd going and Snow's return to the starting lineup sparked the Sixers to their first opening-quarter lead of the series, 27-24. Mutombo held O'Neal relatively in check, Snow ran the offense and Iverson scored 11 points.
Iverson also collected three fouls, going hard to the floor after a collision with Bryant with 42 seconds to go. He began the second quarter on the bench with an ice pack on his right side and spent the early part of the period trying to stretch it out while missing three straight shots.
Meanwhile, O'Neal and the Lakers found some rhythm. Robert Horry made his seventh straight 3-pointer to pull LA into a 29-29 tie and O'Neal scored eight points in less than three minutes, including a short jumper that gave the Lakers the lead for good at 36-34 with 7:57 remaining.
O'Neal dropped in an alley-oop pass from Fox and Bryant sank a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 49-40 with 3:43 left before Iverson found his stroke again. He scored six quick points to get the Sixers back in it.
The Lakers led 52-48 at halftime behind 17 points by O'Neal and six 3-pointers. Iverson scored 19 points.
Bryant, who shot 2-of-10 in the first half, got untracked as the Lakers widened the gap in a foul-filled third quarter. He scored eight points and set a tone by going to the basket and attacking the offensive boards.
O'Neal and Matt Geiger had a staredown and received technical fouls. Bryant heard the "Kobe (stinks)" chants once again, but a 3-pointer by Fisher silenced the crowd and gave LA a 78-66 advantage with 2:24 to play. The Lakers led 83-68 entering the final period.