INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday's untimely death of retired NBA superstar Kobie Bryant had basketball fans remembering Bryant's many epic performances over his 20 year NBA career.
For Pacer fans, game four of the 2000 NBA Finals ranks at the top of the list.
These were the Pacers of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Jalen Rose, Mark Jackson and Dale Davis. The team won a franchise record 56 regular-season games, then defeated Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the archrival Knicks in the playoffs.
Now, playing their first season in Conseco Fieldhouse and with Larry Bird as coach, Indiana would face the Lakers in the NBA Finals—the only time the Pacers have been to the championships as a member of the NBA.
Los Angeles was loaded, with Shaquille O'Neal, 21-year-old Kobe Bryant and Glen Rice leading the way.
Games one and two of the best-of-seven series were played in Los Angeles and the Lakers won both, but Bryant suffered an ankle sprain early in the second game and did not return.
The series then shifted to Indianapolis, with the Pacers needing a win. They got one in game three as Los Angeles played without Bryant.
If the Pacers could win game four, the series would be tied. Bryant was back for this game and it went to overtime. O'Neal fouled out in the extra period with 36 points and 21 rebounds. Bryant and his teammates were left to fend for themselves.
Bryant would not be denied. He hit three clutch shots in overtime, scoring eight of his 28 points in the extra period. The Lakers won it 120-118 and took a 3-1 lead in the series.
Back in Los Angeles, the Pacers won game five and put up a good fight in the sixth game, only to see the Lakers win and take the series—the first of three straight NBA titles for Los Angeles.
After 2000, Bryant would play 16 more years. He would appear in a total of 220 playoff games. But for Pacer fans, none will be remembered more than game four of the 2000 finals and the overtime period when Bryant took charge.