Lakers: Former NBA Guard Says Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal Were Too Much To Stop
The 2002 NBA Finals were the third consecutive and final NBA championship featuring the 'greatest 1-2 punch' ever in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. After three straight NBA Finals appearances, this iteration of the Lakers had probably the most 'equal' output from Bryant and O'Neal. O'Neal averaged 27 PPG that year to Bryant's 25, and Bryant's big game acumen at that point was fully cemented.
Kerry Kittles was on the 2002 New Jersey Nets that were swept by those Lakers. Kerry Kittles recently spoke to Brandon "Scoop B" Robinson of Bally Sports. In that interview, Kittles, a Pennsylvania great, went to college at Villanova and knew Bryant better than most. He had seen Bryant play before he was an NBA late-game monster. Kittles said he knew immediately that Bryant was headed for greatness.
Unfortunately for Kittles and the Nets, Bryant was obviously not the only hall-of-famer they had to contend with. O'Neal dominated the Nets en-route to yet another NBA Finals MVP award. Kittles said the Lakers were just too much.
“We weren’t nervous. I would say that we were just overpowered. They just had too much talent. That’s just the bottom line. I mean, they overpowered us up front with Shaq. He was a handful. We had NO answers for him and then you have Kobe on the perimeter and he was also another dominant player; but that Laker team to be honest with you, had the PERFECT supporting cast of those two superstars and that’s what made them even more dangerous. When you have two of the top talents in the whole league on the same team and then the supporting cast really compliments what they need and then you have a Hall of Fame coach… we had no chance.”
That 2002 Nets team was a good team. They posted a 52-30 record and had four players who almost all averaged 14 points per game. Jason Kidd lead the team in assists and as the floor general, whereas Kittles was clearly the defensive and three-point shooting specialist. The Nets roster however had absolutely nobody who could contend with Shaq. Kittles played a few more seasons in the NBA before hanging it up. Bryant and O'Neal's jerseys are hanging in Staples Center.