No. 4: Kobe + Shaq vs. Rasheed + Stoudamire — Christmas 2000
Six months after one of the great collapses in NBA history, the league schedule makers granted the Portland Trail Blazers a shot at redemption in front of a national audience.
On Christmas Day in 2000, the Blazers were slated for a date with the defending-champion Lakers, and as expected, it turned out to be another memorable battle.
The Trail Blazers gutted out a 109-104 victory, largely on the backs of a controversial bang-bang call at the end of the game, when Bryant blew by Steve Smith and attacked the lane, but was whistled for a charging foul instead of the blocking foul that would’ve given him a chance to tie the game.
That sequence prompted an ironic quote from Phil Jackson that almost made him sound a bit like a Portland Trail Blazers coach.
"“I had to collect myself because of what I might say about the refereeing,” Jackson said. “It really ruined a very nice game that was being played. As a consequence, the game turned into a mired, ugly, clock-stopping, free-throw shooting effort.”"
In any case, the highlight of the game came in the memorable duel with Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire going toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Consider their numbers for just a second.
Wallace — 33 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 12-of-20 from the field
Stoudamire — 27 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 8-of-15 from the field
Bryant — 29 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 9-of-20 from the field
O’Neal — 32 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 13-of-20 from the field
The highlight of the game, as one might expect, came in the fourth quarter. Damon Stoudamire proved mighty when it mattered most, with 13 points in the final frame, even taking Bryant in isolation with a quick, wicked crossover and stop-and-go move that iced the game.
It proved to be one of the last truly great battles in this rivalry, where everyone was at or around the top of their game.
The two later met in an unceremonious Western Conference First Round, but at the time of Christmas Day 2000, the rivalry remained on the uptick.