When Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal teamed up in Los Angeles, the Lakers played some tough teams at the beginning of the 21st century.
Which team was the best, though?
The 1999-00 Portland Trail Blazers, at least according to Shaq.
In an oral history of The Lob, Shaq told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck that the Trail Blazers were the best team the Lakers faced during their title runs, due to their depth and fearlessness.
They were the toughest team and they were the only team that wasn't scared of us. - Shaquille O'Neal
His Lakers teammate, and 7-time NBA Champion, Robert Horry agreed with O'Neal.
"It's probably the best team I've ever faced playing basketball, period," Horry told Bleacher Report.
That Trail Blazers team was insanely deep having five players that were currently or will be All-Stars: Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith, Detlef Schrempf, and Jermaine O'Neal. Not to mention, Brian Grant, Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, and Arvydas Sabonis.
The 7'3", 280-pound Russian center was the league's best hope of slowing down Shaq while Grant and Wallace could space the floor forcing the Lakers center out of the paint on defense. As for dealing with Kobe, the Blazers had wing defenders such as Pippin, Smith, and Wells.
That team was close to bringing back a second championship to Rip City, too. But you already know the story of that heartbreaking Game 7 in Staples Center, ending with the lob from Kobe to Shaq. The Lakers came back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the Western Conference and ultimately the NBA Finals, beginning a dynasty.
Meanwhile, the Blazers wouldn't even win a playoff series for another fourteen seasons. If they close out that series, Steve Smith claims that the Blazers, not the Lakers, are the ones that three-peat.
We run off a three-peat. I think for sure, because Jermaine O'Neal was a youngster that will probably overtake Sabonis as the starting center. We all saw him being a future All-Star. - Steve Smith
Not blowing a 15 point lead may have been the difference between multiple titles and none for Portland.
Be sure to check out the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.
Shaquille O'Neal names Trail Blazers the toughest team the Lakers faced originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest