17 years ago, Shaquille O’Neal met up with Kobe Bryant for a heated Christmas game (video)

Shaquille O'Neal

On December 25, 2004, the pivot returned to Los Angeles in the colors of the Heat to meet and challenge his former teammate, now enemy. The two monsters were up to the event, refereed by the young Dwyane Wade.


In recent NBA history, few regular-season games have been as anticipated and dissected. We can cite the return of Michael Jordan in March 1995 or arguably the Heat’s first « Big Three » game, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh traveling to Boston in October 2010, but the examples are not so numerous.

Among these games with such a special flavor, there is the Christmas 2004 game between the Lakers and the Heat. The context is boiling since Shaquille O’Neal left Los Angeles the previous summer, after a deep and media conflict with Kobe Bryant. Sent to Miami, the pivot brought the Heat back to the top while the back struggles to make a very weak Los Angeles team exist.

Shaquille O’Neal even turns up the heat a few days before the game, with a warning for Kobe Bryant, should he penetrate against him: « When you send a Corvette into a brick wall, we all know how it ends. » Atmosphere…

As a fierce competitor, and after a rather cold reunion before the break, the Californian back decides to attack the Shaq. But the pivot wins this first duel. On the second, Kobe Bryant will be more clever and will put a small shot at 3 meters. Enough to warm up before three shots in a row. The public is hot, the  » Black Mamba  » incandescent.

The power of Shaq and an excellent Dwyane Wade allow Miami to return in the game. A tight game where Kobe Bryant sticks 42 points at 12/30 shooting, but especially manages to take out Shaquille O’Neal, causing his sixth foul in the last quarter. The three-time champion with the Lakers ends his reunion with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but on the bench. So it was up to Dwyane Wade to carry his team. He has two first game balls, at 94 everywhere, then again at the buzzer, but it is missed.

Well assisted by Eddie Jones, a former Laker, the Heat’s backcourt takes control of the overtime against a Lamar Odom, former Heat, who will be the only player of his team to score in overtime. Dwyane Wade makes a series of right and left-handed baskets and defends on the winning shot attempted by Kobe Bryant. It was a miss, and the Heat won after overtime 102-104.

« I knew his shot wasn’t going in. It was fate, » said Shaquille O’Neal after the game, just to conclude this evening.


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