Everyone has those moments that burn into their memories forever.
The day you marry the love of your life, the first moment you look into the eyes of your child or even your first time having sex.
Since I have not experienced any of these things — I know you’re reading this mom! — those major moments for me revolve around the Los Angeles Lakers. Moments that I could hear one sentence about and immediately remember when I was when it happened.
I was born in 1991, so my love affair with the Lakers started in the late 90s when I could actually understand what was going on during an NBA game.
So, without further ado, here are my top five most memorable Laker moments:
5) Big Shot Bob’s dagger 3 against the Sacramento Kings
In 2002, the Lakers matched up with their long-time rivals, the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference finals. This was a dream matchup in an era where it seemed like the NBA finals should just be played with Western Conference teams.
It was also the third playoff matchup between the Lakers and Kings in three seasons. This is how they went:
1999-2000 season: Lakers beat the Kings 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs.
2000-2001 season: Lakers sweep the Kings 4-0 in the second round of the playoffs.
2001-2002 season: Lakers beat the Kings in the Western Conference finals, 4-3.
It was a heated rivalry that included fights, overtime games, and a lot of smack talk through the media.
In game four, the Lakers were down in the series 2-1 and looked like they were about to lose a third game. After clawing back from a 20 point deficit in the first quarter, everything came down to one play.
Down by two, 8.6 seconds left on the clock.
Kobe shoots… misses.
Shaq gets the rebound and shoots… misses.
Vlade Divac slaps the ball away from the hoop, straight into the hands of Robert Horry behind the three point line… boom.
I remember watching this game at my grandparents’ house with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We screamed so loud that my mom yelled at us for almost giving her dad a heart attack.
4) Kobe Bryant’s game winner against the Phoenix Suns
In 2006, the lowly Los Angeles Lakers faced one of the biggest offensive juggernauts in NBA history, the Phoenix Suns. A team that was led by the MVP Steve Nash and the creator of one of the fastest offensive schemes, head coach Mike D’Antoni.
This was the Lakers’ first playoff appearance since Shaquille O’Neal left them for the Miami Heat. With a ragtag roster of D-League level talent like Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, Kobe Bryant carried the team to the seventh seed and a playoff appearance.
The Lakers took a 2-1 lead and played game four at home in the Staples Center. After a long, hard-fought game, the Lakers were down by two with 7.9 seconds to go. And to make matters worse, the Suns had possession.
And then, some Laker magic happened:
The newspaper clipping from the next day still hangs up in my bedroom and even though the Lakers lost the next three games and the series to the Suns afterwards, I will always remember Kobe’s drive to the right elbow. A shot I have practiced hundreds of times after watching this game.
3) The trade for Pau Gasol
After Shaq was traded from the Lakers in 2004, the Lakers were pretty terrible. Outside of Lamar Odom, there was no real talent on the team to help out Kobe Bryant.
And even though he was the best player in the world at that time, one man can only do so much.
In three seasons, the Lakers missed the playoffs once and lost in the first round of the playoffs twice. To be honest, it was a miracle to make the playoffs in the first place during the immediate post-Shaq era.
I had really gotten into the Lakers during their three-peat dynasty, so having this bad of a team was a foreign concept to me. Season after season of horrible play had me wondering if the Lakers would ever be great again.
And then in happened.
In February of 2008, the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, who was one of the best big men in the game at the time.
I remember calling my dad the second I heard about the trade and saying, “this is it. We’re back!”
I knew then and there that he was the missing piece for the Lakers. And in a few short months, the Lakers were back in the championships against the long time rival Boston Celtics.
Although the Lakers lost that series, the Pau Gasol trade will be the most meaningful Lakers trade I will probably ever witness.
2) The Doug Christie vs. Rick Fox fight
For three seasons, the Lakers and Kings had one of the most volatile rivalries in the history of the NBA.
After multiple playoff matchups, hostility between the two teams reached a tipping point.
During a pre-season game — which is an exhibition match that means NOTHING — Doug Christie and Rick Fox got into one of the biggest NBA fist fights I have ever witnessed.
Rick Fox threw elbows and pushed Christie in the face and Christie answered back with an uppercut that you would be more likely to see in a Rocky movie.
After the two men were separated, the fight still wasn’t over. Rick Fox ran through the home team tunnel to confront Doug Christie in the visitors tunnel.
And all hell broke lose.
Heres a video of what happened, but the main highlight for a 9-year-old Pasha was Shaq slapping Vlade Divac and standing up to the entire Kings squad.
I wish more Lakers joined in, but when you have Shaq on your side, there isn’t much need for extra help.
1) The Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals
This will forever be the sweetest moment in my life.
Sorry future wife and sorry future children.
In the 2008 finals, the Celtics destroyed the Lakers and my entire world.
From that day on, my desire for vengeance was more than Indigo Montoya’s for the death of his father. It was all I could think about. And when the Celtics couldn’t make it in 2009 due to injuries, I had to wait one more season.
But finally, that moment came in 2010.
After six hard-fought battle, the series was tied at 3-3 and the basketball Gods blessed us all with a game 7.
Unfortunately, I booked a flight to Seattle for that day — before the series even began. I’m a pretty nervous flier, and the prospect of being in the air for the first quarter of game seven had my heart beating a mile a minute throughout the entire flight.
My sister picked me up from Sea-Tac Airport, I asked her to drive as fast as she could to the closest place that was playing the game. That place ended up being a Macaroni Grill and we made it right before halftime.
I was 19 at the time and the only TVs in the restaurant were by the bar. No matter now much I begged, the bartender would not let me sit inside of the bar area.
So 19-year-old Pasha stood for the entire second half of game seven. Right outside of the designated bar area and not giving a damn about the stink eye the bartender was giving me.
With each made shot, I screamed and with each missed shot, I cursed to the heavens. And by some miracle, I was never kicked out.
By the fourth quarter, the Lakers were down by four in a relatively low scoring game.
I remember getting on my knees and praying to God when Sasha Vujacic was shooting two free throws. I made a promise that if he made moth shots, I would never make fun of him again. He did and I kept my word.
I remember screaming, “NOOOOOOO” when Metta World Peace shot a three and then “YEEEEEESSSS” when it went in. A shot that practically sealed the victory.
I remember giving my sister the biggest hug I have ever given in my life when the Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79.
And to this day, THAT was the greatest day of my life.