O’Neal named Finals MVP again
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ? Shaq got his three-peat, too.
Shaquille O’Neal, cementing his reputation as one of the most dominating players ever, won his third straight NBA Finals MVP award Wednesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers completed a sweep of the New Jersey Nets.
Michael Jordan (1991-93, 1996-98) is the only other player to win three straight Finals MVPs since the award was first presented in 1969. Hakeem Olajuwon (1994-95) is the only other player to win the award in consecutive years.
Just as O’Neal did in the last two finals, he thoroughly controlled the inside, only this time he did so despite a painful arthritic right big toe.
And he did it not far from his birthplace of Newark.
“He has all his family here, this is where he was born and raised,” teammate Brian Shaw said. “I think that’s the greatest present he could give to his family.”
O’Neal acknowledged how difficult the season was and credited coach Phil Jackson and his mother and father for staying on him.
“We’re a great team that went through a lot of tough times,” O’Neal said. “Phil gave us a plan when he came here, he promised if we stuck with the plan, we would win. I didn’t have any championships when he got here and now I have three.”
O’Neal, who had 34 points and 10 rebounds in the Lakers’ series-closing 113-107 victory over the Nets, averaged 36.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in the four games.
O’Neal’s 145 points established a record for a four-game finals, surpassing Olajuwon’s 131 points in 1995, when the Houston Rockets swept O’Neal and the Orlando Magic.
Earlier this week, O’Neal called that one of the lowest points of his life.
O’Neal also set four-game finals records with his 68 free throw attempts and 45 conversions a 66.2 percentage.
O’Neal averaged 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds in leading the Lakers past Indiana in six games in the 2000 Finals, and 33.0 points and 15.6 rebounds last year as Los Angeles beat Philadelphia in five games.
The Lakers became the fifth team to win as many as three straight championships, and with the 30-year-old O’Neal and 23-year-old Kobe Bryant under contract for four and three seasons, respectively, they figure as favorites for years to come.