Which game, in particular, comes to mind when you think of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson? It has to be the 2001 NBA Finals when the Philadelphia 76ers took a game 1 against the Lakers. Although the Lakers took home the trophy, it is a memory every Sixer fan will remember for decades to come. Recently, Allen Iverson reminisced on what it was like playing against the two legends.
The pressure of playing against Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
On All The Smoke podcast by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Allen Iverson recollected what it felt like to be playing against the best players to have ever walked the court. He started off by saying, “I don’t know how you have a great series if the guy you’re guarding was averaging 30-18”. Hinting towards Shaq he explained, “Well, Shaq had his way with damn there everybody! Especially in 2001”.
Barnes reiterated that the Lakers were undefeated at that time during the Playoffs until the Sixers took Game 1 of the Finals. “They were just rolling,” responded Iverson. “And it was just too much Shaq in his prime and then you got Kobe in his prime. Damn man!” Barnes reacted with a scoff and exclaimed. “Scary!”. Allen continued, “And then all you gotta have is other guys out there playing defense. And then all you’ve got to do is make plays for Shaq. You get millions of dollars to hit at Shaq.”
Iverson narrated the different strategies the players would try, but nothing worked. “How are you going to beat them? Kobe getting all the attention, Shaq getting all the attention. You can’t double Shaq, and if you don’t double him, that’s a bucket. You gotta double Kobe because if you don’t, that’s a bucket and it might be three or two.”
The relationship between AI and Kobe
Allen Iverson, as dominating as he was during his prime, the only thing he failed to achieve was a ring. The credit for the same goes to Lakers and their then duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. AI has always held Kobe in high regard and continues to honor him in interviews, podcasts and public appearances. The two competitive players had huge respect for each other and we would have loved to see the two interacting post their retirement.