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Shaq O'Neal Explains How He Knew The Lakers Would Beat The Kings In 2002

Shaq O'Neal Explains How He Knew The Lakers Would Beat The Kings In 2002

Back in 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers were trying to win their third consecutive NBA champion. Led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were the rulers of the league and they weren't planning to give up that status so easily. There were plenty of teams, especially in the West, trying to dethrone them. Their path, at least to the Western Conference Finals, was easy; they didn't have any problems getting rid of the Trail Blazers and Spurs in the first and second rounds of the postseason, but things changed in the WCF.

They had to face the Sacramento Kings full of great players that were looking to play in the Finals and win a championship for the first time. That series was memorable, for good and bad reasons. The Kings were set to win it in six games but the Lakers won a game full of controversial decisions, forcing the 7th one, which they would win to advance to the Finals against the New Jersey Nets.

A lot has happened since that moment, but one of the Lakers players, Shaquille O'Neal, still remembers how things developed. Before Game 7, Shaq knew the Lakers were going to win during the intonation of the national anthem when he saw his opponents to the eyes and realized they were done.

"I don't know if you noticed that with me, but during the performance of the national anthem, I always try to make eye contact with my opponents. So during the intonation of the anthem, I caught Vlade's eyes and Vlade does this (lowers his head). After that, I looked towards Stojakovic. He also looked down. That's when I realized we were going to win," O'Neal told ESPN.

The Lakers won that last game 112-106, at the Kings' court, returning from a 3-2 deficit. They would go to the Finals and swept the New Jersey Nets to become the last team to three-peat in the NBA.