After a brief stint with the Seattle SuperSonics, Horace was reunited with past coach Phil Jackson in 2000 on the Shaq and Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers. Entering his thirteenth season in the NBA, Horace started every game as a power forward, and led the team in rebounds and blocked shots. The Lakers breezed through the first three rounds of playoffs with three sweeps before losing just one game of the Finals to the Philadelphia Sixers. In addition to becoming NBA Champions, the 2001 Lakers were declared “the winningest postseason team in history” with a playoffs record of 15-1. After earning his fourth Championship, Horace returned to both the Magic and the Lakers before retiring in 2004.
Back with Jackson
Horace reentered the market as a free agent, and was picked up by his past Chicago Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2000-2001 season. The Lakers were returning from a Championship win in 2000 and featured a padded roster, including Shaquille O’Neal, with whom Horace played with on the Orlando Magic, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher. The potential for this team was incredible, spearheaded by the coach who led the Bulls to two three-peats and the players who knew that fans had great expectations for them as a team. With Horace’s first move to California, he explains: “that team had the world at their fingertips. We had the best guard-center combo in the league, we were unstoppable. We could taste the ring at the end of the season, and we worked real hard to get there.”
Coach Jackson described the Lakers’ reality as “Kind of a gladiator’s life – here today, gone tomorrow.”
In the 55th season for the Lakers, the team ended regulation with a record of 56-26, beating the Seattle Supersonics by one game for the Pacific region title. Los Angeles entered the Western Conference as second seed, following just behind the San Antonio Spurs. During the season a young Kobe Bryant and experienced Shaquille O’Neal proved to work well in concert with Horace’s strong defense, as he proved to be a vital part of the team’s secure force in the league. He started all 77 games of the regular season and lead the team in rebounds, 7.1 per game, and blocked shots, with an average of 0.8.
The City of AngelsHorace is reunited with past coach Phil Jackson and his infamous Triangle offense in Los Angeles to join the reigning NBA Champion Lakers in 2000.
Although confident in their ability and hungry for a title, the Lakers made history in a way even they could not have predicted. “We knew we were going to do well- we had all the right ingredients. We knew something would happen postseason, championship or not” Horace claims, in reference to the Finals. During the first round of playoffs, the Lakers took on the Portland Trail Blazers, who in the year prior drew out their series to seven games. This year, the Lakers swept them in just three games with an average 14 point margin. Next LA took on the Sacramento Kings, who pushed LA to five games in the season before. This year the Lakers took them in four games, moving onto facing the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Tim Duncan led the crusade against Los Angeles, but ultimately fell flat in just four games as well. San Antonio was pounded by Horace and the Lakers, with an average of 22 points securing their wins over the Spurs.
“You get down five in the Finals against the Lakers and everybody’s got their brooms out. That drives us.”
Entering the playoffs with a perfect 11-0 postseason record, the Lakers would face their biggest challenge yet with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers saw their upcoming challenge as combat, and coach Phil Jackson even compiled scenes from Gladiator to play in between scouting tapes. Coach Jackson described their reality as “kind of a gladiator’s life– here today, gone tomorrow.” Despite an ongoing power struggle between Kobe and Shaq, this message shone through their work ethic and team building as the Lakers entered their last round of playoffs with the fervor and tenacity necessary for a cinched season.
Led by powerhouse Allen Iverson in his fifth season in the NBA and on the 76ers, Philadelphia was coming in as the first seed in the Eastern Conference with the same record as the Lakers, 56-26. The pressure was on for the Lakers to continue making history, and the crowd made it clear they were in the mood for another sweep. Game 1 was played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and featured an initial lead for the Lakers. Allen Iverson claimed, “You get down five in the Finals against the Lakers and everybody’s got their brooms out. That drives us.” The 76er’s came back from a 12 point deficit in the first quarter to be up by 15 in the third quarter, eventually tying the game 94-94 after a missed buzzer beater by Philadelphia player Eric Snow. The game went into overtime, where Iverson’s performance led the 76er’s to a 107-101 victory over Grant and the Lakers. The 11 game playoff sweep was now over, much to Philadelphia’s Coach Larry Brown’s delight, claiming “We’re one up. The sweep isn’t going to happen and we just have to do whatever we can to stay in it.”
“Yeah, the streak was great, and now it’s time to get back to business about playing ball here in this series. I’m kind of relieved it’s over in some ways.”
On the other side of the court, Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson responds, “Yeah, the streak was great, and now it’s time to get back to business about playing ball here in this series. I’m kind of relieved it’s over in some ways.” Grant echoed the same belief, claiming “Don’t get me wrong, we would have loved to take Philly in four in 2001. But it came time to focus on our game, playing together- not just keeping our record clean.”
Creating Another Streak
Inspired by the loss, Lakers were encouraged by Shaq to “create another streak,” beginning in Game 2. Lakers gained a lead early on, and maintained it throughout the entire game. One of the most essential plays came when O’Neal passed to Derek Fisher for his ninth assist. With just 2:08 seconds left, Fisher converted the pass to a three point shot that gave the Lakers a comfortable cushion to close out the game at 98-89. Sixers coach Brown claimed the “biggest play of the game was when he kicked it out to Fisher.Shaq is a tremendous passer. He has made some unbelievable plays.” In addition to this legendary shot, Shaq put up 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocked shots, nearing a quadruple double despite sitting out during the fourth quarter with five fouls. Kobe also came back from a 7-for-22 shooting record in Game 1 by going 11-for-23 in Game 2, as well as 8-for-8 from the line.
I Can See Clearly NowHorace changed the color and style of his goggles for every team he was a part of, proudly wearing yellow rimmed frames for the duration of his time in LA.
Allen Iverson was held at 23 points during Game 2, greatly due to Fisher’s incredible defense. As the game grew to a close the players grew increasingly competitive, meaning Kobe got an ear full of trash talk from Iverson. He responded respectfully by saying “with Allen, he’s doing whatever he can to inspire his team and fire them up. But I really don’t care.” Regardless of what happened behind the scenes, with increased pressure going into two games in Philadelphia with a tied 1-1 record, Game 3 would prove to be crucial for the 2001 Finals series. Grant reiterated the importance of the following two games on the road, remembering “we played well on the road. We can focus on the road, and that’s just what we need to do.”
Advancing to Game 3, the Lakers felt an increased fervor to gain their record back and take the series to the end. Kobe famously proclaimed that the Lakers were headed to Philadelphia, his hometown, for Games 3 and 4 to “cut their hearts out.” This was a quality Horace has maintained that Bryant possesses, claiming both he and Michael Jordan will “shake your hand, but while they’re shaking your hand, they’re thinking about– for lack of a better phrase– cutting your throat out there on the basketball court.”
A Competitive Edge
Playing Game 3 in Philadelphia for the first time in the series presented its own challenges for the Lakers, particularly Bryant. Coach Phil Jackson asserts that Kobe “still considers this a place that he has friends… I’m sure it has special meaning for him.” This soft approach to Game 3 is juxtaposed with the opinion Bryant broadcast to the world by claiming “I don’t care what your problem is, I don’t care how big your heart is. We just want to come and beat you no matter how competitive you are.” Game 3 progressed in Philadelphia, resulting in yet another win for the Lakers. O’Neal famously drew his sixth foul for backing over Sixers player Dikembe Mutombo with 2:21 left, to which Shaq claims “I didn’t think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like that. It’s a shame the referees buy into that. I wish he’d stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down. It’s just a shame, and you can quote me on that. And underline it three times.”
A.I. and the SixersThe Lakers took down the Philadelphia 76ers in five memorable games, ending with 15-1 during the postseason, becoming as the best team in playoff history.
“I don’t care what your problem is, I don’t care how big your heart is. We just want to come and beat you no matter how competitive you are.”Kobe Bryant
The final score ended was 96-91, meaning the Lakers were ahead in the series 2-1 going into Game 4.
Game 4 proved to be yet another incarnation of the competitive nature players shared, with Shaq claiming “We still haven’t put together a great game like we did in the first three series, but we’re doing enough to win. And that’s what it’s all about – winning.” The Lakers had their eyes on the prize, and with the 100-86 victory over the Sixers, just one more game stood in the way of an NBA Championship. Going into Game 5 Horace claimed that the Championship, and his fourth ring, “we were so close we could taste it.” With potentially the last game of the series being played in Philadelphia, Kobe commented on the incredible amount of heckling going on throughout away games by claiming he and his teammates “just block it out. Our motto is it’s just a whole lot of noise.”
Los Angeles played to the caliber they had become known for during Game 5- emerging victorious with a score of 108-96. The 2001 Lakers became officially declared the “the winningest postseason team in history,” finishing with a playoffs record of 15-1. Shaq confidently stated, “I told y’all I was going to come back with a vengeance.” The team had a right to be cocky, for they were the first team to be undefeated on the road during the playoffs, winning 23 of their last 24 games. Coach Phil Jackson was floored, shaking his head and uttering, “This is surreal.” Horace and his teammates were given their trophy away from the center court, due to the immense opposition from the crowd. Horace added a fourth ring to his collection, and in his words, he now had, “One for every finger.”
The 2001 Lakers became officially declared the “the winningest postseason team in history.”
After earning a Championship with the Lakers, Horace decided to return to the Orlando Magic for the 2001-2002 season. Upon signing with the Magic in July, Grant underwent left knee surgery in September and struggled to recover from the injury. After playing in just 5 games with Orlando, he left the team due to a conflict with Coach Doc Rivers, who respectfully claimed “Horace has had a great run. His body just won’t let him do the things he used to”.
Every Last DropHorace rounded out his final season with the Lakers, formally retiring after his seventeenth season in the NBA at the age of 39.
Far from Over
Initially declaring retirement, Horace decided to end his career with the NBA by playing his seventeenth season with the Los Angeles Lakers and familiar head Coach Phil Jackson. Featuring a padded roster including past teammate Shaquille O’Neal, ten year veteran Kobe Bryant, 14-time All Star in his final year Karl Malone, nine time All-Star Gary Payton, Derek Fisher in his eighth year with the Lakers, Rick Fox in his last of 23 seasons, the team seemed unstoppable. Horace was out for the playoffs due to injury, but still held faith in the league of Champions on the Lakers. Grant described playing with such a cast as “playing with Cher, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Elton John – we had a whole lot of egos”. Despite making it all the way to the Finals against the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers fell short of another championship in five games.
He formally ended his career as a Clemson Legend, four-time NBA champion, four-time All NBA Defensive Team member, All-Star, and an extremely well respected player with a fantastic reputation among the league after 17 seasons on four different teams from coast to coast.