The Small Moments Are the Best to Remember

Same Laker stars, same championship, same parade, two years in a row, and you might think it would get old.

You would be advised to think again.

Some memories from a magical two-month journey to the intersection of 15 and 1.

Shaquille O'Neal is leaving Staples Center after an early-round playoff victory, clutching his young son tight to his chest, patting the boy's head.

"Teaching him to Hack-a-Shaq," he crows.

O'Neal is sitting in front of an NBA Finals media crowd, grinning at the court reporter who is typing his words for later transcription.

He has not had much experience with court reporters. Like any kid, he is fascinated.

"Bublabublabublabubla," he says to the serious-looking woman with a wink. "Now how you gonna spell that? Bublabublabublabubla."

Kobe Bryant walks in front of about 100 reporters ringing the Philadelphia Spectrum court before a practice. He is wearing loose-laced shoes, baggy sweat pants and a T-shirt.

While his teammates are finishing interviews, he begins shooting 20-foot jump shots. And swishing them. Shot after shot after shot.

Soon many of the reporters have stopped interviewing the others and are watching Kobe.

Soon, Kobe is smiling.

Robert Horry is sitting in the locker room in San Antonio, being asked why he performs so much better in the playoffs than in the regular season.

"It's the temperature," he says.

The temperature? But this isn't playground basketball. The games are held indoors. What's the big deal about the temperature?

"When you share an arena with a hockey team, the floor is always cold in the winter," Horry explains. "That makes my legs cold, and I don't shoot well with cold legs."

Horry then explains why he struggled in the second half of the playoff opener against Sacramento, scoring only two points in 10 minutes.

After that game, the floor at Staples Center was quickly converted for an evening Stanley Cup playoff game.

"It was the air conditioning," Horry says. "They started cooling the building down before our game ended. I could feel it. Couldn't you? My legs got cold again."

Mark Madsen is walking around the Philadelphia First Union Center floor while the team is finishing pre-practice stretching on the floor.

Throughout the playoffs people have wondered, exactly what role does the rookie play? Madsen leans down and helps lift his teammates to their feet, working clockwise, one by one.

That role.

Wonder if anybody could have guessed the identity of the player who led the Lakers in playoff steals and free-throw percentage, finished second in assists and third in rebounding.

Rick Fox, just a pretty face?

Norm Pattiz, the radio mogul anointed by O'Neal as the team's biggest fan, is sitting in his usual courtside seat four chairs down from Phil Jackson.

You know Norm. Bushy white hair, wire-rimmed glasses, rolled-up program in his hand, a rich guy who cheers louder than most rich guys.

It's the final moments of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and Allen Iverson walks past, and Pattiz just can't help himself.

"It's over," Pattiz says. "You're done."

Iverson barks, Bryant hears the discussion and starts yapping at Iverson and, well, you know the rest.

The interplay between the two stars becomes national news. It also sparks the Lakers into showing up for Game 3 with the sort of gritty attack that the 76ers cannot handle.

Pattiz, who with his wife, Mary, is doused with champagne in the Laker locker room after the clinching victory, already has one championship ring. Here's guessing O'Neal will spring for another.

Midway through Game 5 of the Finals, a statistic appears on the TV screen that says more than the game behind it.

Derek Fisher's playoff numbers this season are generally better than Glen Rice's playoff numbers last season.

Afterward, Fisher shows it's about more than numbers as he runs off the court to find and hug Iverson.

Then he returns to carefully usher his mother and brother into the Laker locker room, where they stare wide-eyed at the party.

In the first quarter of the first playoff game against Portland, Horace Grant forgets to wear his trademark glasses and throws up a terrible shot.

"It's those damn goggles!" shouts Jackson.

Grant grabs a pair from behind the bench, fastens them to his nose, and proceeds to score 12 first-quarter points to begin a Laker roll that never stopped.


Well, after scoring those 12 points in that first quarter of the first game, Grant averages 1.3 points in each of the remaining 63 quarters of the playoffs.

Iverson is ushered to the interview room after the clinching Game 5, where he sadly awaits the completion of O'Neal's session. But then Bryant shows up.

It is determined that Bryant will go first.

Iverson walks away and does not talk to the media that night.

Ron Harper stands beside the Laker bench before each playoff game, so the two starting guards must walk past him to get to the court.

He grabs and hugs each guard, usually Fisher first, then Bryant, with Kobe gently pounding his fists on Harper's back as if he is a touchstone.

Harper plays in only six of the 16 playoff games, makes only five baskets, but was anybody keeping track?

Tyronn Lue hears the chants and feels he is finally being accepted as a Laker. But he doesn't know it for sure until, before Game 2 of the Finals, he drives to the airport to pick up his Kansas City high school coach.

Lue parks in a no-parking zone and runs inside.

When he emerges, a policeman is waiting to give him a ticket.

When he sees it's Lue, the policeman instead asks for an autograph.

Brian Shaw, after taking a one-day trip from Philadelphia to Oakland to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, returns just in time to nod off in the locker room before Game 4.

O'Neal awakens him by slapping his shoes and announcing that the team needs him.

Shaw enters the game late in the first quarter. He is on the court for all of 34 seconds before he hits O'Neal with a pass that leads to a running jump shot.

In his first three minutes, he has two assists and a steal.

Counting Rick Fox's trip from Sacramento to New York last season, that makes two babies born during two consecutive playoffs to two exhausted Lakers who then excelled.

"I guess somebody on the team has to start working on that for next year," Fox says.

A Philadelphia newspaper runs a photo of Phil Jackson and an unidentified woman in the back seat of a car heading for dinner.

The woman is clearly Jeanie Buss. But the caption strangely makes sense.

What does it matter anymore that he is dating the boss' daughter?

What do any of the quirks in his lifestyle or coaching style matter anymore?

Jackson has proven to be the best $6 million a year that Jerry Buss has ever spent.

He may not only be the best coach in NBA history, but he may actually be as good as he thinks he is.

Unlike last season, when the final buzzer sounds on this championship, Kobe and Shaq do not make a big deal of hugging on the court. In fact, Kobe skips one way and Shaq stalks the other way.

And you wonder, does that really matter anymore either?

Bill Plaschke can be reached at

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