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Column: The 20 top sports moments in Staples Center’s 20-year history

The Lakers overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010.
The Lakers overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Staples Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Thursday. The home of the Lakers, Kings, Clippers and Sparks opened Oct. 17, 1999 with a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Springsteen famously christened the building with four shows but never returned again after complaining about the arena’s acoustics. Staples Center, however, has done just fine without “The Boss” and has served as the stage for some of Los Angeles’ biggest moments over the past two decades.

The arena unveiled it’s top 20 moments to commemorate its birthday and it featured many non-sports events such as Grammy Awards performances, memorial services for Michael Jackson and Nipsey Hussle, Taylor Swift getting a banner after a record 16th sellout and WrestleMania. The list, which was voted on by fans, left out some significant sports events so here’s a more focused list of the top 20 sports moments in Staples Center history.

20. The Clippers win a playoff series, the franchise’s first in 30 years, beating the Denver Nuggets in the first round (May 1, 2006)

For the first time since they were the Buffalo Braves in 1976, the Clippers won a playoff series. They nearly played the Lakers in the arena’s first “Hallway Series” in the next round but the Lakers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers and Clippers have yet to play each other in the postseason.

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19. Kobe Bryant outscores the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters. (Dec. 20, 2005)

Bryant’s 81-point game gets all the attention but he almost scored that much one month earlier when he single-handedly outscored a Mavericks team that advanced to the NBA Finals that season. Bryant played just 33 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter with the Lakers up 95-61.

18. Blake Griffin dunks over a car to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. (Feb. 19, 2011)

Griffin dunking over a Kia as Baron Davis fed him the ball through a sunroof was one of the greatest moments in Clippers history up to that point.

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17. Travis Pastrana completes first-ever double back flip at X Games. (Aug. 3, 2006)

Pastrana’s groundbreaking double back flip was the highlight of the Summer X Games’ run in Los Angeles from 2003 to 2013.

16. 2013 League of Legends World Championship (Oct. 4, 2013)

Selling out Staples Center within an hour was a turning point in the multi-billion-dollar world of esports.

15. “Sports-ageddon” (May 17-20, 2012)

During a 72-hour stretch Staples Center hosted six playoff games: two each by the Kings, Lakers and Clippers. As if that weren’t enough the Tour of California featuring 120 cyclists concluded in front of Staples Center.

Jamal Crawford celebrates Clippers’ win
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford celebrates immediately after the team’s 111-109 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

14. The Clippers defeat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the first round of the 2015 NBA playoffs. (May 2, 2015)

The high-water mark of the Clippers’ “Lob City” era was Chris Paul’s winner to knock off the defending champion Spurs.

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13. The Clippers defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. (May 3, 2014)

Amidst the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling’s racist comments, which led him being permanently banned and selling the team, the Clippers defeated the Warriors in a dramatic Game 7.

12. Shane Mosley defeats Oscar De La Hoya via split decision. (June 17, 2000)

De La Hoya has a statue outside of Staples Center but lost his one and only fight at the arena.

Top moments from Lisa Leslie’s WNBA career.

11. Lisa Leslie becomes the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. (July 30, 2002)

Leslie missed a dunk attempt in the first WNBA game in 1997 but five years later she would complete the first dunk against the Miami Sol on her way to leading the Sparks to back-to-back titles.

10. The Sparks defeat the New York Liberty to win 2002 WNBA championship. (Aug. 31, 2002)

L.A. was the center of the basketball universe in 2001 and 2002 as the Lakers and Sparks won their respective championships.

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9. The Sparks defeat the Charlotte Sting in to win the 2001 WNBA championship. (Sept. 1, 2001)

After falling to the Houston Comets in the conference finals the previous two season, the Sparks won their first championship with a two-game sweep of Charlotte.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant is mobbed by teammates after scoring 60 points in the final game of his career, a 101-96 victory against the Utah Jazz.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant is mobbed by teammates after scoring 60 points in the final game of his career, a 101-96 victory against the Utah Jazz.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

8. Kobe Bryant scores 60 points against the Utah Jazz in the final game of his career. (April 13, 2016)

Bryant finished his 20-year career in spectacular fashion as he became the oldest player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a game.

7. Kobe Bryant scores 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. (Jan. 22, 2006)

Only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game tops what Bryant has called the “masterpiece” performance of his career.

6. The Lakers defeat the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference finals. (May 26, 2002)

Robert Horry’s improbable buzzer-beater off a tip from Vlade Divac not only defeated the Kings but saved the Lakers’ championship hopes as they went on to win their third straight title.

5. The Lakers defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals. (June 4, 2000)

Bryant’s lob to O’Neal to cap the Lakers’ 15-point fourth quarter comeback against Portland and send them to the NBA Finals is one of the greatest moments in Lakers history.

Kings players celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in 2014 as Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist looks on.
Kings players celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in 2014 as Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist looks on.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

4.The Kings defeat the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. (June 13, 2014)

The Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years and became the first team to win three Game 7s on the road in the process.

3. The Kings defeat the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. (June 11, 2012)

The Kings won their first Stanley Cup and became the first eighth seed in North American professional sports history to win a championship and the only team to win the Stanley Cup after defeating the conference’s first, second and third seeds in sequence.

2. The Lakers defeat the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the 2000 NBA Finals. (June 19, 2000)

After falling short the previous three seasons at the Forum, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won their first of three straight championships together in Staples Center’s first year. It was the Lakers’ first championship since 1988 and the first of five the Lakers have won in their new home.

Kobe Bryant celebrates
Kobe Bryant celebrates after the Lakers’ victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

1. The Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. (June 17, 2010)

Lakers. Celtics. Game 7. What more could you ask for? It wasn’t Kobe Bryant’s best game but whenever he gets his statue outside Staples Center, the image of Bryant standing on the scorer’s table with both hands outstretched after the game should be immortalized.


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