As the Lakers struggle to play up to expectations, many around the NBA community can't help but look back to better times. When it comes to the Purple and Gold, few stretches of their history can compare to the Shaq and Kobe era of the early 2000s.
Together, the duo formed one of the most powerful tandems in league history. Shaq's interior dominance coupled with Kobe's perimeter brilliance made for an absolutely seamless pairing.
When talking about their time together, it's often that fans debate on which player was most important to the team's overall success. While a solid case can be made for either, no consensus has been reached.
According to the former Lakers big man himself, however, he was the key to unlocking L.A.'s true potential. He made the statement when talking about Anthony Davis and his role on the modern-day Lakers.
“They [the current Lakers squad] just haven’t had the ability to turn on. Then the key is Mr. AD. For example, when we were winning, I was the key. If I don’t play well, I don’t dominate, we don’t win. And I don’t want people to think I’m taking shots, I’m never taking shots. Kobe was the man, we all know that. But the Diesel don’t play well, we don’t have a shot.”
It's important not to overlook just how dominant Shaq was at the time. By the time the Lakers made their first Finals appearance in 2000, O'Neal was at the height of his powers, coming off an MVP campaign in which he averaged 29.7 points (his career-high), 13.6 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game on 57% shooting.
Kobe was obviously very important to the formula as well, but he was still very young at the time.
Truth be told, O'Neal might not be wrong at all. While Kobe would go on to establish himself as the greatest player in franchise history, it was Shaq who led the charge during the three-peat, and his dominance helped open things up for everybody else on the floor.