Our eighth entry takes us back a bit farther — Dec. 25, 2004. After a Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons in June 2004, Shaquille O’Neal requested a trade. Shaq’s feud with Kobe Bryant had reached a boiling point that year. During a preseason game, O’Neal even yelled at Jerry Buss “Now you gonna pay me?”
The Lakers traded Shaq to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant. And the NBA scheduled the two teams to play each other on Christmas Day. Before the game, Shaq discussed meeting his former teammate, comparing himself to a brick wall and Bryant to a Corvette.
The two didn’t even make eye contact with each other before tip-off. And on the first possession of the game, Shaq blocked his former teammate. But Bryant knocked down three early 3-pointers, and the Lakers jumped out to a 17-9 start. He finished the game with 42 points. (And remember, the Heat would finish the season with 59 wins, while the Lakers ended it 34-48.)
The Heat took a one-point lead going into the second quarter, but the Lakers proved to be a formidable opponent. A put-back dunk from Shaq with 2:57 left tied the game at 94, but about 30 seconds later, Shaq again met Bryant. Instead of blocking his shot, Shaq committed his sixth foul of the game, fouling out.
The game went into overtime after Wade missed a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer. Shaq, who finished the game with 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds, would need to watch it all from the bench.
Wade put the Heat up five with 2:08 left in the overtime period. But Lamar Odom came back down and hit a 3 to cut the deficit to two. And on Miami’s last offensive possession, they couldn’t even get a shot up — a 24-second violation. The Lakers had one last chance to win it, down two with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Eddie Jones — who played with Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles in the late ‘90s — and Wade both challenged Kobe’s final attempt from beyond the arc. It missed, and the Heat won their 11th straight game. The Lakers fell to 14-12 on the season.
During the court-side interview, Shaq said, “I knew it wasn’t gonna go in” about that last shot.
Although this game was billed as “Shaq vs. Kobe,” it was also the national introduction for Wade, who was only in his second NBA season. And Wade proved himself to be a worthy co-star to Shaq, going for 29 points and 10 assists.