The three-peat Los Angeles Lakers weren’t made overnight; like every great team in the league, they had to try, fail and learned before becoming a successful squad in the NBA. With Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal as the leaders of the team, the purple and gold made important things in the association but not before failing to get past big teams in prior seasons.
A couple of years before their first title together, the Lakers were actually competing in the playoffs, making some unexpected noise. Jeff Pearlman recalls in his book, “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty,” how a rookie Kobe Bryant tried to take care of things himself and beat the Utah Jazz but a meltdown damaged all his plans and the Lakers’.
During the second round of the 1997 NBA playoffs, the Utah Jazz eliminated the Lakers in five games, which was understandable given the level of both teams. However, the young Kobe went cold in the last five minutes of the game, air balling four times, unable to help his team beat the favorite Jazz of Karl Malone and John Stockton.
After the bad performance, Shaquille O’Neal consoled Kobe, telling him this was just the beginning of his career and what he was going through now was going to help him in the future.
“Look at all these people laughing at you… One day we’re going to get them back. Don’t worry. Someday everybody’s going to be screaming your name. Take this and learn from it.”
Three years later, Kobe and Shaq would propel the Lakers to win one of their first three consecutive NBA Finals. He definitely learned from that moment and Shaq’s comments. Bryant spent 20 years in the NBA, winning five championships and giving the same message to everyone: always give your best and work your hardest to fulfill your dreams.
That’s why he was so successful at everything he tried and remained loyal to his team, even in the worst moments in franchise history.