June is NBA Finals month, so it should not be surprising that several notable champions hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy on this day.
Kobe’s Lakers Win At Last
Los Angeles 4, Orlando 1
The Lakers won their first title in seven years, dispelling the notion that Kobe Bryant could not lead a title team without Shaq. With the win, Laker Coach Phil Jackson won his 10th championship and surpassed legendary Red Auerbach.
The Last Finals Sweep
San Antonio 4, Cleveland 0
LeBron James managed the hercularian feat of carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals, but the San Antonio Spurs took it from there. The Spurs clinched the title in Cleveland in Game 4 after staging a 12-3 rally in the final minutes. Frenchman Tony Parker was named Finals MVP on Bastille Day.
Jordan’s Last Shot
Chicago 4, Utah 2
In an epic finale to an epic career (we’ll forget about playing for the Wizards), Michael Jordan sealed the Bulls’ second three-peat with a Game 6 jump shot etched into all basketball fans memory. What is too often overlooked is Jordan’s steal of Karl Malone that set it up.
Heart of a Champion
Houston 4, Orlando 0
Shaquille O’Neal, making his first NBA Finals appearance, was expected to lead the Orlando Magic in a sweep over the defending champion Houston Rockets. Instead, it was the Rockets whose swept becoming the first team in NBA history to win the championship as a sixth seed. In addition, they became the first championship team in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason and without having home-court advantage in any of the four playoff rounds.
In their moment of triumph, long-time Rocket player and coach Rudy Tomjanovich told the hometown fans:
We had nonbelievers all along the way, and I have one thing to say to those nonbelievers: Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion!